I self-published an eBook: The Educator as a Maker Educator. It is available through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Educator-as-Maker-ebook/dp/B00LYLQT0Y/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405867667&sr=1-2
The Maker Movement and the accompanying Maker Education are inching their ways in both formal (school) and informal (after school – camp) settings.
Whether it’s a paper airplane or a robot that walks, kids have always wanted to create functional objects with their own two hands. These days, many educators are channeling that natural urge to build with help from the wider maker movement, which has spawned maker faires and dedicated make spaces” in classrooms and media centers around the country. Pam Moran, superintendent of theAlbemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, contends that American classrooms of the past regularly fueled this type of creativity, and now is the time to bring back that spirit of innovation. “I see the maker movement as being a reconnect, both inside schools, as well as in communities, to redevelop the idea that we are creative individuals,” Moran said. “We are analytical problem-solvers, and we are people who, in working with our hands and minds, are able to create and construct. We are makers by nature.” (http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/04/30/the-maker-movement-conquers-the-classroom.aspx#1lvxqXlR6YpCS9DU.99)
Those involved in the maker movement have noted the problems with the type of learning occurring in the formal educational setting:
Formal education has become such a serious business, defined as success at abstract thinking and high-stakes testing, that thereʼs no time and no context for play. If play is what you do outside school, then that is where the real learning will take place and thatʼs where innovation and creativity will be found.
Our kids can be learning more efficiently—and as individuals. We imagine that schools can become places where students learn to identify their own challenges, solve new problems, motivate themselves to complete a project, engage in difficult tasks, work together, inspire others, and give advice and guidance to their peers. (Makerspace Playbook)
The potential of maker education and related STEM, STEAM (science, technology, education, arts, math), and DIY movements to transform education in transformative ways cannot be understated.
The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs. Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests
When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her. But since these things can’t be measured on a standardized test, schools no longer focus on them. As our public educational institutions continue down this grim road, they’ll lose value as places of learning. That may seem like a shame, but to the members of the growing DIY schooling movement, it’s an irresistible opportunity to roll up their sleeves. School for Hackers: The do-it-yourself movement revives learning by doing.
The following interactive video, made with Mozilla Popcorn further describes Maker Education – https://experientiallearning.makes.org/popcorn/1fjc
This ebook is a compilation of blog posts I wrote about Maker Education. They can all be found online but this compilation permits for easy access of all of them online and offline. The eBook includes theoretical ideas and research, some suggestions for implementation, the role of the educator as a maker educator, example units, and some informal research-observations.
I grew up in a family where my grandfathers and father were entrepreneurs – they started and ran their own businesses. My paternal grandfather, as a young man, bought a small vacuum cleaner sales store and later, changed it to selling entertainment electronics. Later, with my father, they moved to a larger space with increased inventory. A smaller store was opened in a a town nearby where I was a sales clerk during my teenage years. Their small business was a financial success as it supported our families with a strong middle class lifestyle for close to fifty years. I rejected this entrepreneurship spirit. Making money never interested me (I am a teacher, for gosh sake).
Fast forward to last year – I had the privilege of visiting Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy (BKBA) in Detroit and spending some time with its superintendent, Blair Evans. Mr. Evans demonstrated the school’s digital fabrication program and explained their permaculture program. I was impressed with these real-life skills building programs, but what resonated with me was what he said about educating the poor Detroit youth. He said that poor communities are very dependent on purchasing goods and services from sources outside of their communities. They lacked the awareness, skills, and where-with-all related to producing services and products for themselves. The goal is for the youth learn some skills, such as growing their own food or producing their own products, to establish some self-sufficiency.
This is reinforced by Steve Mariotti, founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an expert in education for at-risk youth.
As an educator of at-risk youth for over thirty years, I’ve seen only one thing consistently bring children raised in poverty into the middle class: entrepreneurship education. Owner-entrepreneurship education empowers young people to make well-informed decisions about their future, whether they choose to become entrepreneurs or not. Our students discover that, like every individual, they already own five powerful assets: time, talent, attitude, energy and unique knowledge of one’s local market. They learn to use these assets to create businesses and jobs, and build wealth in their communities. I’ve seen apathetic kids whose families have been on welfare for generations get excited about school and their futures. They discover that they can participate in our economy and earn money. They quickly realize that to do so, they must to learn to read, write and do math. (Why Every School in America Should Teach Entrepreneurship)
This had me thinking of lessons I learned growing up in family focused on entrepreneurship. I learned customer service, the ethics being in business (and then ethics, in general), focusing on being the best while not worrying about the other “guy” while you do, and the skills-motivation to go after what I need and want. None of these lessons focuses directly on making money.
Because of my visit to BKBA and reflecting on my family’s business, I moved from an attitude of rejecting entrepreneurship (thinking it was about working for money) in formal education to being an advocate as I realized all of the life skills it can teach and reinforce.
Through entrepreneurship education, young people learn organizational skills, including time management, leadership development and interpersonal skills, all of which are highly transferable skills sought by employers. According to a report by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Corporation, other positive outcomes include:
- improved academic performance, school attendance; and educational attainment
- increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities
- improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills
- job readiness
- enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy), and
- perceived improved health status (http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/entrepreneurship.htm)
Yong Zhao in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, proposes that learner entrepreneurship should be integrated into school curriculum due to the following:
- Massive changes brought about by population growth, technology, and globalization not only demand but also create opportunities for “mass entrepreneurship” and thus require everyone to be globally minded, creative, and entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is no longer limited to starting or owning a business, but is expanded to social entrepreneurship, policy entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship.
- Traditional schooling aims to prepare employees rather than creative entrepreneurs. As a result the more successful traditional schooling is (often measured by test scores in a few subjects), the more it stifles creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit.
- To cultivate creative and entrepreneurial talents is much more than adding an entrepreneurship course or program to the curriculum. It requires a paradigm shift—from employee-oriented education to entrepreneur-oriented education, from prescribing children’s education to supporting their learning, and from reducing human diversity to a few employable skills to enhancing individual talents.
- The elements of entrepreneur-oriented education have been proposed and practiced by various education leaders and institutions for a long time but they have largely remained on the fringe. What we need to do is to move them to the mainstream for all children.
More simple, Blair Evans of BKBA stated, “We’re building people, not just products. We get better outcomes if the kids can engage in useful work. This is much more effective than having them sit on a couch and talk. (Fab Lab: The DIY Factory That Can Make Anyone a Maker)
Raleigh Werberger, a high school history and humanities teacher in Hawaii, got inspired by Zhao’s book. He and his colleagues wanted to develop a ninth grade curriculum that was not only focused on project-based learning, but also wanted to encourage “an authentic, self-starting kind of drive — the sort of thing we see when kids are playing sports, making music, or doing anything that stems from personal passion — in other words, the internal desire to continually improve and to work hard at doing it.”
Students are working in teams to design and construct a small table- or desk-top aquaponics system for the home, and then market their product. In other words, we are blending academics and entrepreneurialism and challenging students to make Hawai’i’s growth more environmentally sustainable.
They are competing to present the best designs – scientifically, educationally and aesthetically – but also the best PR and marketing strategies. On Monday, April 22nd, 2013, they will present their designs and pitches to a team of experts – similar to the ABC show Shark Tank http://mpx9spring.weebly.com/aquaponics-home.html
More remarkably, this project even changed how they used their free time. I saw our students enrolling in online courses in either website or business development. Their social media use took on more significance and had a more authentic stake for them, as students began communicating with web journals and community organizations to expand their online presence and gain “endorsements” for their products. Eventually, their work became polished enough to attract the interest of a few local entrepreneurs who volunteered not only to teach them business skills, but also to host a Shark Tank event and bankroll the winners. While only one team won, the other teams vowed to continue developing their ideas and seek their own independent funding. They had redefined success as not necessarily getting A’s or passing the class, but as refusing to take no for an answer. (Using Entrepreneurship to Transform Student Work)
Finally, there is a current push for bringing Maker Education into the classroom. Making and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. Recently, President Obama to hosted the first-ever White House maker faire where the theme was A Nation of Makers: Empowering America’s Students and Entrepreneurs to Invent the Future.
America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools, with even more being created by the day. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything.
The rise of the Maker Movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States. Nationwide, new tools for democratized production are boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in manufacturing, in the same way that the Internet and cloud computing have lowered the barriers to entry for digital startups, creating the foundation for new products and processes that can help to revitalize American manufacturing. (President Obama to Host First-Ever White House Maker Faire)
Additional Resources for bringing entrepreneurship into the classroom:
- Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom (EITC) Programs
- Entrepreneurship Classroom Activities
- 50 Ideas for Bringing Entrepreneurship Into the Classroom
I’ve written about the Educator as a Maker Educator.
In order to practice and reinforce my maker skills as well as these “mindsets”, I enrolled in the online course, Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning. What attracted me to this course was not only the focus on tinkering and maker education but also that the participants are asked to engage in hands-on activities. Their course introduction follows – worth a view by anyone interested in making and tinkering:
The activity for this week, week 2, we were asked to create circuit_boards (downloadable PDF).
The following materials were recommended
(plus some general others – tape, Stainless steel or copper nails, Philips head screws, Flat head screws, Coated wire, Zip ties, Soldering irons, Solder, Power drill screwdriver, Hammer, Saw, Sand paper, Wire cutter, Wire stripper).
Maker Educator as a Resource Suggester and Provider
I am a teacher educator of mostly public school teachers and am attempting to get in the back into the classroom as a public school gifted educator. This material list would be fine for a maker space in, possibly, a museum or library, but not feasible in terms of costs in a public school classroom with up to 30 students. So I sought other ways to complete this week’s activity with my goal of learning circuit boards but on a budget. A characteristic of a Maker Educator is a resource provider that is feasible given the environment, the facilitators, and the learners.
Maker Educator as Lead (or LED – maker humor) Learner
I already had the LED lights, the 3v battery and the metal brads; went out to purchase the paper clips, electrical tape, and decided to use foam core board instead of a pizza box (I don’t eat pizza); and set out to construct the circuit board as explained by the author of this activity. (FYI – the cost of this project would be less than $3.00 per student – the major costs being the LED lights and the battery).
Quickly, I ran into problems. The paper clips didn’t have the conductivity needed for electrical current and I couldn’t make them “fit” as described in the directions. So that meant I needed to change my ideas and plans.
Maker Educator as Normalizer of Problem Solving and Failure as Iterative
I was failing at creating this circuit board, but understand that “Failure and iteration make everything better. In DIY and Maker culture, failure is expected and part of the fun” (http://www.gradhacker.org/2014/02/07/lessons-from-the-maker-movement). Based on this mindset, I made changes. I used craft wire instead of paper clips. I used a second LED instead of a buzzer (which I did not have), and cut out the sensor (which I also did not have). The result was a circuit board with two working LEDs and a switch to alternate which LED is lit – not pretty, looks quite different than the original but it works – not bad for someone who has never made or played with circuit boards.
Maker Educator as Process Facilitator
I got to experience the processes of creating, assessing, revising throughout this process. It was definitely about about the processes. Once I succeeded and took the pictures, I put the project in a closet as an example for my future students. The satisfaction came from the processes of creating, re-creating, assessing, reassessing, revising, and revising yet again. I have a belief that educators, me included, need to experience these processes personally in order to facilitate, model, and demonstrate them to their students.
Maker Educator as Technology Tutor and Scaffolder of Experiences
I used the directions I found on the Internet as a guide. I didn’t have any experience with creating a circuit board and needed to use some directions or tutorial as a form of scaffolding; to give me a foundation of skills to successfully complete the activity. This reinforces that some form of instruction is often required when introducing learners to new maker activities. The educator can provide direct instruction, video tutorials, or other learners as a means to give learners some basic foundational skills for the activities. Some learners have enough self-direction to seek out the resources on their own, but other learners, without the background experiences or scaffolding, may give up with frustration.
Sidebar: I am a proponent of educators blogging, and have been promoting it even stronger than ever to other educators. This is my attempt to blog not only about my thoughts, resources, and philosophy, as I typically do, but also blog about my processes as an forever developing educator in order to share with and model this process for other educators.
As part of a graduate course in Social Network Learning, I ask students to create a non-linguistical representation. Here is the description of this assignment:
The intent of this module is to assist you in developing a personalized and deep understanding of the concepts of this unit – the concepts that are core to using social networking as a learning venue. Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks, create one or a combination of the following to demonstrate your understanding of these concepts: a slide show or Glog of images, an audio cast of sounds, a video of sights, a series of hand drawn and scanned pictures, a mindmap of images, a mathematical formula, a periodic chart of concepts, or another form of nonlinguistic symbols. Your product should contain the major elements discussed in this module: CoPs, Connectivism, and Personal Learning Networks. These are connected yet different concepts. As such they should be portrayed as separate, yet connected elements. In other words, you should use at least one symbol per concept and somehow show how they are related and connected
This assignment supports several of my beliefs about what represents “good” education:
- Learners should be producing as much as consuming content.
- Learners (of all ages) should be adding value and contributions to knowledge bases.
- Learners should be given opportunities to express their unique voices.
- Learners should be given opportunities to be creative and innovative.
- Learners should be asked to synthesize and analyze content in unique ways tapping into higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
- Using on-linguistical representations support visual thinking skills.
Here are some samples from this term.
A Powtoons Animation
A Musical Expression
Communities of Practice are demonstrated by multiple instruments playing a major scale. All the musicians share the same passion (the scale). At first the musicians are out of sync but as they continue to work together and learn more the music begins to come together. By the end they are all playing together (Wenger, n.d.). I felt this was a good representation of how learning can be facilitated through Communities of Practice.
Personal Learning Networks are demonstrated through the use of drum beats. It starts with just one beat and slowly more and more beats are layered on top making the music (the learning) grow. The use of all drums represents the similar interest shared by people in a PLN and the variations in the beats represent how each person brings a unique perspective to the learning environment (Kharbach, 2012).
Connectivism is demonstrated by different instruments slowly being layered on top of each other. As the music becomes stronger it’s representing how learning can grow by connecting with others around the world through web 2.0 (“Connectivism”, n.d.). It also shows how learning with others is more effective than learning alone. (Creative Expression: CoPs, PLNs, and Connectivisim)
My non-linguistic representation is an interactive version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. My idea was that our feet are the base of a person. I see one’s personal learning community as their base that provides support. In that area I included a spider developing his web or network as it represents how over time people build their web/network. I included a picture of a map because it looks like the veins and arteries of the city as it connects people across boundaries just as our personal network connects us across space and time. A picture of fabric for knitting is a metaphor for how we knit our own network to fit our individual needs. As Dr. Buchem explained in her presentation, when people feel personal control over their learning, they approach it with more passion and commitment. Finally, if the creation of something complex and interwoven had a sound, I always envisioned it sounded like Struggle for Pleasure by Wim Mertens.
For the main joints, I placed images of connectivity. Some are obvious, like the Chain Bride in Budapest, a chain link fence or a satellite. The grand canal of Venice (Blue Venice) by Manet works in two ways. It is a boat traveling across the water which is a way of travel and staying connected, but also with it being from his impressionist period, it is made up of seemingly random strokes of color. Up close, it appears a mess. From a distance, we can see each color and each mark works perfectly with each other and creates a beautiful image.
For communities of practice, I thought the hands were a proper symbol as they are the appendage that we most use to interact with our world. We touch, hold, build, and break mostly with our hands. To represent idea of communal practice, I included a video of the Liverpool fans singing to their soccer team. Nothing says community in practice like 45,000 people singing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” This is true trust and humanity. The song guarantees that even in the face of failure, even in the darkest times, there will be unwavering support. It is a fine example of a positive communal relationship. Also, I included a time lapse video of London. When we see the hours of the city in this sped up manner, it reveals the hidden way the people of a city all work together like the blood pumping through the city’s veins. (http://danielmcilhenney.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/creative-expression-of-plns-connectivism-and-communities-of-practice/)
A Human Body Comparison
Personal Learning Networks – In my visual representation, individual organs such as an eye, a hand, and a brain represented PLN. Each of these organs seems to be functioning on each own (personal), each one seems to be self-directed (they know when to blink, to move, or to think), and, finally, they are interconnected but they “do not know” other members of the network. Learning/life occurs on individual level.
Communities of Practice are also bigger units than PLNs. Thus, smaller units such as an eye or a nose can form a large unit represented by the face; a single unit such as a heart or a liver can now form an entire insides, and the brain is now “packaged” into the head. Still, each of these bigger units seems to be functioning on its own: self-forming and self-governing, even though they share common interests (for life), are involved into creation of new knowledge (our sensations as we see or feel things), it’s all happening in real life context, it can occur at any stage of our lives and, finally, it forms the identity of who we are on a physical level (at least.)
Connectivism is represented by the veins and arteries which connect all other organs together (by circulating blood and delivering oxygen.) Without Connectivism, the parts are simply parts! The final product is represented by an active human being with incredible capabilities (represented by a man on top of a mountain!) Similarly, only a combination of our personal learning networks formed into larger communities of practice and connected with yet other communities of practice bring us to our highest intellectual levels. http://edtechlog.weebly.com/edtech-543.html
A Snow Metaphor
The common link of snow in each of the concept representations serves as a metaphor for networking. Networking is the link that connects PLNs, CoPs, and the theory of connectivism. If people did not have the ability to communicate and collaborate with others through the tools they have available, new knowledge would not be readily available at the rate it is today, much in the same way that if snow did not exist, one would not have the ability to analyze the crystals of a snowflake, roll it into a snowball, or build a snowman. (Perrsonal Learning Networks, Communities of Practice, and Connectivism Through Creative Expression)
As those who follow me on Twitter and via this blog know, I am an advocate of the Maker Education movement. The reason, as I’ve mentioned, is that I come from a background in Experiential Education. Many of underlying principles and learning activities related to maker education fit nicely into the tenets and principles related to experiential education. Since this discipline-learning philosophy has been around a lot longer than the more formalized, current maker education movement, those attempting to move maker education into more traditional educational settings might draw from the writings and literature of experiential education to help explain and contextualized maker education.
Experiential Education, Maker Education, and John Dewey
Many look at the philosophy and writings of John Dewey as providing the foundation of experiential education.
For Dewey, experiences could be judged to be educative if they led to further growth, intellectually and morally; if there was a benefit to the community; and if the experience resulted in affective qualities that led to continued growth, such as curiosity, initiative, and a sense of purpose. (Experiential Education – Brief History of the Role of Experience in Education, Roles for the Teacher and the Student)
There is a congruence between these ideas proposed by Dewey and the Maker Mindset as discussed by Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Media:
Fostering the maker mindset through education is a fundamentally human project to support the growth and development of another person not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Learning should focus on the whole person because any truly creative enterprise requires all of us, not just some part. It is the difference between a child who is directed to perform a task and one who is self-directed to figure out what to do. That kind of transformation, that kind of personal and social change, is what making is about. (The Maker Mindset)
Paula Hogg in her post Why Dewey would applaud the maker movement in schools provides more insights about the connection of Dewey’s ideas with Maker Education.
In a maker environment children are at the center of the learning and it’s the child’s interests that drive the activities. This echoes the thinking of John Dewey John Dewey who said in My Pedagogical Creed “The child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material and give the starting point for all education” Dewey believed that all too often children are passively absorbing facts from the teacher and learning through play, exploration and inquiry is sidelined for strict discipline. Instead he thinks school should be places where children are actively learning through their own experience and working together helping one another and sharing the tasks. Doing and learning through play, tinkering, exploring and making are critical components of maker education.
Dewey also believed that the problem with traditional schooling is that it disjointed from the real workings of the world and therefore cannot prepare children for their adult lives. He goes on to say: “I believe that the school must represent present life – life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the play-ground” Central to the maker pedagogy is that learning must be meaningful and have a purpose for the child. It is about creating meaningful products – not just doing for the sake of doing. Children must be involved in tasks that include real life problem solving that is relevant and meaningful to them and their world. (Why Dewey would applaud the maker movement in schools)
The Practices of Experiential Education as Applied to Maker Education
The Association for Experiential Education, established in the early 1970s, proposed that the following principles mark the practice of Experiential Education. I took liberty in highlighting those phrases/practices that I believe also characterize Maker Education.
- Experiences are structured to require the learners to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
- Throughout the experiential learning process, the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
- Learners are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces a perception that the learning task is authentic.
- The results of the learning are personal and form the basis for future experience and learning.
- Relationships are developed and nurtured: learner to self, learner to others and learner to the world at large.
- The educators and learners may experience success, failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes of experience cannot totally be predicted.
- The educator’s primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process.
- The educator recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
- The design of the learning experience includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes. http://www.aee.org/about/whatIsEE
As an experiential educator who has fully embraced technology as a means for allowing and facilitating learner voice, creativity, innovation, inventiveness, the Maker Education movement fits into my vision about what a good education entails. I have been blogging and presenting about Maker Education – see http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/tag/maker-education/. But recent discussions with other educators and administrators made me realize that the idea of maker education is often vague and seems unrealistic in terms of regular classroom instruction. As such, in the future, I am going to associate and discuss Maker Education in the context S.T.E.A.M. – science, technology, engineering, arts (including language arts), math, hopefully, encouraging regular classroom teachers to integrate maker education projects into their classrooms.
What follows are some resources and articles I compiled to provide educators as part of this discussion.
Link to Thinglink that contains links to the following resources – http://www.thinglink.com/scene/530497733706907648
Pivot Point: At the Crossroads of STEM, STEAM and Arts Integration from Edutopia,
retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pivot-point-stem-steam-arts-integration-susan-riley.
STEAM is an approach which uses STEM and the arts to foster learning that is both skill- and process-based. STEAM brings together the critical components of how and what, and laces them together with why. Think of STEAM as teaching through integrated network hubs where information is curated, shared, explored and molded into new ways of seeing and being through collaborative risk taking and creativity. This means that students are using the skills and processes learned in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics to think deeply, ask non-Googleable questions and solve problems.
STEAM Blends Science and the Arts in Public Education from The Wall Street Journal, retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304747004579224003721262792.
The technology kids have now is the worst technology they’re ever going to have in their hands so we need to give them opportunities to take things apart and put them back together in connection to solving problems in the world.
STEAM Ahead: Merging Arts and Science Education from the PBS Newshour, retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/the-movement-to-put-arts-into-stem-education/.
If we think historically about how that has always been a part of learning, why would we stop it? Why would we deny our children that which will allow them to really contribute significantly in the future? It’s not only learning from root, it’s really understanding through their bodies, through their thinking, creativity and how they apply the knowledge.
Arts education helps Americans compete in the global economy. Part of what the arts certainly provides is the creativity and innovation, which is really fundamental in how many other countries are looking at success. Actually in the U.S., how we want to measure success is in terms of how to be creative, how to be innovative.
Gaining STEAM: Teaching Science Through Art from U.S. News, retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/stem-solutions/articles/2014/02/13/gaining-steam-teaching-science-though-art.
Across the country, teachers and administrators are coming to a similar conclusion: art informs science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and vice versa. Consequently, they are pioneering new methods of teaching that combine disciplines which have been isolated from one another under traditional educational models. The way we get an innovative workforce is to make sure that we have creative and critical thinkers coming through our schools. Incorporating art into STEM disciplines is a way to cultivate the minds needed for the knowledge economy.
STEAM: Adding art to STEM education from The District Administrator, retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/steam-adding-art-stem-education.
STEAM enables schools to instill a collaborative culture, with lessons and courses that recognize individual course content often complements multiple areas of study. Students encounter this overlapping content often without recognizing the connections. Educators are realizing that STEAM learning—throughout K20—is increasingly important in educating the student population to be ready for whatever college or career might bring.
STEM to STEAM: Art in K-12 is Key to Building a Strong Economy from Edutopia, retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/stem-to-steam-strengthens-economy-john-maeda.
With global competition rising, America is at a critical juncture in defining its economic future. I believe that art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century in the same way that science and technology did in the last century, and the STEAM movement is an opportunity for America to sustain its role as innovator of the world.
Kids Unite Art and Science and Create a World of Wonder from the Imagination Foundation, retrieved from http://imagination.is/storybook/kids-unite-art-and-science-and-create-a-world-of-wonder/.
STEAM connects the different subjects together in the way they would relate to the business world and to each other.
What is the Maker Movement and why all the recent buzz in Education? from Little Bits, retrieved from https://littlebits.cc/what-is-the-maker-movement-and-why-all-the-recent-buzz-in-education.
For many educators, Making locates its familiar counterpoint in the block area of the early childhood classroom, the hot pot on the classroom desk where Stone Soup is being heated and stirred, the woodworking bench with its array of familiar tools, art class, computer class, backstage where the high school crew is building the set for the school play—Making happens any time students use technology to make something. The Maker Movement of the 21st C is all about modern invention and innovation, and it combines new technologies into the mix to include open hardware (like littleBits,) computing platforms and programming tools (like Arduino,) and tools like laser cutters and 3D printers alongside say—a sewing machine.
Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making” from Edutopia, retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/stem-engagement-maker-movement-annmarie-thomas.
At a time when many people are asking how we can get more students interested in STEM fields, we are hearing from teachers who have found making to be a great way to get students excited and engaged in their classrooms. We are seeing making occurring in subject classes such as math or science — in classes specifically listed as maker classes — and in a variety of less formal settings such as clubs and study halls. Many of these projects incorporate a variety of STEM topics. Students working on designing and building furniture for their classroom use algebra and geometry to figure out the dimensions. E-textiles and soft circuitry, in which circuits are sewn using conductive thread or fabric, have shown to be an engaging way to teach electronics and programming, especially for young women. The possibilities for ways to incorporate making into the school day are endless, and it is exciting to see what teachers have been developing and sharing.
The following materials are being used to present to educators the idea that implementing maker education requires a different mindset, and often different roles and skills of the educator.
To access this via Thinglink, which includes embedded resources, go to http://www.thinglink.com/scene/529031635128025090
Resources for Educator as a Design Thinker
Ideo. (n.d.). Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit – http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/about-toolkit/
Pfau, P. (2014). Rethinking Education with Design Thinking – http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/February-2014/Rethinking-Education-with-Design-Thinking/.
Speicher, S. (2013). Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth - http://gettingsmart.com/2013/11/design-thinking-schools-emerging-movement-building-creative-confidence-youth/
Teachthought. (2013). 45 Design Thinking Resources For Educators http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/45-design-thinking-resources-for-educators/.
Educators are creating their own professional development opportunities on their own time without compensation, acknowledgement, nor credit.
With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren’t possible a decade ago (Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning).
Here is a list of how they are doing it:
- Being active on Twitter via
- Twitter Hashtags (see http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/a-comprehensive-index-to-educational.html )
- Tweet Chats (see http://goo.gl/IYDNqk)
- Attending and/or presenting at a virtual conference:
- Participating in a MOOC:
- Attending and contributing to ongoing webinar series:
- Writing Blog posts – reading and commenting on others’ blogs.
- Going to and/or helping organize Edcamps (see http://theeducatorsroom.com/2014/05/edcamp-unconference/)
For more information on self-directed professional development, see my post, Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development:
Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn. Alice Miller
I have a fitness teacher. She knows fitness, she knows how the body works. She knows how to break down the exercises and how to teach them. What she doesn’t know is each participant’s body. She assumes she knows what is best for all of the students. In other words, she lacks empathy for those in her class. Some tolerate her, others do not go to her class because of her lack of empathy for her students. But these are adults, children in public school education do not have such a choice. So this post is a call to action to highlight and become intentional in bringing teacher empathy into the classroom.
What is Empathy?
Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind describes empathy:
Empathy isn’t sympathy- that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling—to stand in their shoes, to see with their eyes, to feel with their hearts—it is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality, climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.
A Rationale for Empathy
Given all the pressures placed upon teachers in today’s schools, I think, not necessarily due to all of fault of their own, some educators overlook the reverence they should take in relating to and interacting with their learners. Jonathan Kozol in Ordinary Resurrections so beautifully stated:
Good teachers don’t approach a child with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable.
. . . and . . .
Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” Defining empathy skills in practice – Carl Rogers and unconditional regard
Empathy for one’s students should be a top concern of educators and intentionally used as a primary instructional strategy.
Empathy and the Educator as a Design Thinker
Given the recent popularity of design thinker, some educators are looking at and proposing that educators using design thinking to design the learning experiences in this classrooms. As Grant Wiggins notes in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking:
The learning is the center of our world, not the teaching. And until we see that we are in the business of designing and causing learning instead of merely in the business of teaching, we will fail to cause optimal learning. Great care has been given to thinking through the goal of the learning and the conditions that have to be in place if optimal engagement and active learning, in a group of diverse students, is to occur.
Many describe empathy as the first step of effective design thinking. “One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process” What is Design Thinking?
I would go as far as saying that empathy is necessary for designing all facets of teaching: setting up the classroom, selecting curriculum, choosing and implementing classroom management strategies, and teaching each individual learner as unique individuals.
Benefits of Empathy in Teaching and Learning
Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:
- Foundation of the teacher-student relationship: With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
- Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education: There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
- Meeting the social emotional needs of the students: “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
- Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘ (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).
Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers (Empathy in the Classroom)