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Maker Camp: Toy Making and Hacking

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For the past two summers, I have gotten the marvelous opportunity to teach maker education camps to elementary level students, ages 5 to 12. Each week has a different theme and each theme meets for the five weekdays from 9:00 to 12:00 with a half hour break. Our first week’s theme was on Toy Making and Hacking. Here are the webpages of resources I aggregated on these maker activities:

Below is a list of activities completed with the students along with descriptions and my reflections on the degree of success with these activities.

  • Stomp Rockets
  • Gami-Bots
  • Colorful Gears
  • Candy Gobbler
  • Small Toy Take Apart
  • Portable Gaming Devices Take Apart – Invent a New Game

Stomp Rockets

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Materials:

  • 1/2″ PVC Pipe (cut into 36″, 3 x 12″; 6″ segments – one set per participant.
  • 1/2″ right angle joints – 3 per participant
  • 1/2″ cross joints – 1 per participant
  • magazines
  • cotton balls
  • pennies
  • transparent tape

Procedures:

I made some minor modifications of plans presented at http://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-Stomp-Rockets-Easy-and-Fun/. For the camp, I had each camper make his or her own launcher. One or two launchers, though, would have been fine for this activity.

Reflection:

I was excited to begin our week together with this activity as it is high impact. I did stomp rockets before with this age group a few years back. What I didn’t anticipate was the difficulty the campers would have making their rockets. They had trouble rolling the magazine pages around the PVC pipe and taping everything together. I was actually a little baffled that they couldn’t do these not too difficult hands-on tasks. As such, their rockets didn’t perform as they should off and several campers were very disappointed.

I would like to do this activity again in the future. If so, I would (1) do it later in the camp week, and (2) concentrate more on making the rockets insuring that the kids build fairly functional rockets.

Gami-Bots

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Materials:

  • business cards
  • scissors
  • cell phone motors
  • double stick tape
  • transparent tape

Procedures:

The following plans were developed by Howtoons and can be found at http://www.howtoons.com/?page_id=3475

gami-botFinal.jpg

Reflection:

The maker campers really loved this activity. They all were successful is getting their Gami-bots to move. They even invented a game using the floor tiles whereby they placed all of their Gami-bots inside the tile and the last Gami-bot left inside the boundaries of that tile won. I had one of the campers’ mother ask if I could do maker activities for her son’s birthday. This was one of the projects she requested.

Colorful Gears

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Materials:

  • laser cut gears of assorted sizes
  • magnets (6x6mm 1/4″X1/4″)
  • magnetic boards
  • permanent markers

Procedures:

I had seen something similar at an EdTech conference but out of wood.  Instead of wood, I laser cut the gears out of acrylic. I used http://geargenerator.com/ to get the size of interlocking gears I desired and sized the middle holes to be a little bigger than 1/4″ to fit the magnets. This site produced files I used with the laser cutter at a local makerspace. I had the campers color their gears with permanent markers and then attach them to magnetic boards using the magnets as pivot points.

Reflections:

I was really excited about this activity. I think gears are lots of fun. I also thought that by having the campers color and create their own patterns would increase interest. I was wrong. They did the activity, seemed to like it okay, but were ready to move on once they did a single gear connection. I attempted introducing group collaborative creations as can be seen in the right photo above. A few were interested but not with overwhelming enthusiasm. I probably won’t be doing this activity again.

Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game

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Materials:

  • 2 liter bottle
  • Tweezers
  • Doorstop spring
  • Aluminum foil
  • copper tape
  • 5 MM LED lights
  • Batteries and terminal connections
  • Double sided alligator cables
  • Candy or prizes for the gradding

Procedures:

I modified the plans presented at http://makezine.com/projects/make-41-tinkering-toys/monster-candy-game/.

mad-monster-diagram-e1409959714880

I simplified this design by creating parallel circuits to have the LED eyes light up if the Tweezers touch the wired mouth  (similar to a DIY operation game – see http://www.makereducation.com/operation-game.html).

Reflections:

I knew this would be a difficult one and warned the campers of the high difficulty level. Most kids had some problems getting their gobble monster to work so I asked them to reflect on their learning experiences:

 

Last summer I asked the campers to make Operation Games. All were successful so for future camps, I’ll stick with the Operation Game.

Toy Take Apart and Create Something New

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  • Small Toys-Electronics (bought from the Dollar Store)
  • Handheld Games (bought a box from ebay and from local thrift store)
  • Screwdrivers-hammers to take the toys apart
  • Hot Glue and/or Solder to create new toys

Procedures:

See http://www.makereducation.com/toy-take-apart.html for information and resources about doing toy take aparts and hacking. My biggest rule for doing toy take aparts is that the kids need to create something new – a new invention, a new toy, something to make the world better. It isn’t just about taking things apart, it is about using those parts to make something different  . . .  new  . . .  better. Below are a few of the maker education campers explaining their hacks:

Reflections:

Toy Take Aparts are always successful. The kids sometimes get frustrated trying to take the toys apart but with a hammer (used by me), we can break apart the most stubborn of toys. I love seeing the kids reactions as they find out what’s inside of an electronic toy and seeing them use their creativity to make something new out of the parts. This is a keeper!

Maker Education: Pedagogy, Andragogy, Heutagogy

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Maker education is currently a major trend in education. But just saying that one is doing Maker Education really doesn’t define the teaching practices that an educator is using to facilitate it. Maker education takes on many forms. This post provides an overview of how maker education is being implemented based on the teaching practices as defined by the  Pedagogy, Andragogy, Heutagogy (PAH) continuum.

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http://drgarimakamboj.wix.com/pidp#!learnings/c1sec

Traditionally, Pedagogy was defined as the art of teaching children and Andragogy as teaching adults. These definitions have evolved to reflect teacher practices. As such, andragogical and heutagogical practices can be used with children and youth.

PAH within a Maker Education Framework

The following chart distinguishes and describes maker education within the PAH framework. All teaching styles have a place in Maker Education. For example, pedagogical practices may be needed to teach learners some basic making skills. It helps to scaffold learning, so learners have a foundation for making more complex projects. I do, though, believe that maker education projects and programs should go beyond pedagogical oriented teaching as the overriding goal of maker education is for learners to create something, anything that they haven’t before.

Driving Questions

  • Pedagogy – How well can you create this particular maker education project?
  • Andragogy –  How can this prescribed maker project by adapted and modified?
  • Heutagogy – What do you want to make?

Overall Purpose or Goal

  • Pedagogy – To teach basic skills as a foundation for future projects – scaffolding.
  • Andragogy – To provide some structure so learners can be self-directed.
  • Heutogogy – To establish an environment where learners can determine their own goals, learning paths, processes, and products for making.

Role of the Educator

  • Pedagogy – To teach, demonstrate, help learners do the maker education project correctly.
  • Andragogy – To facilitate, assist learners, mentor
  • Heutagogy – To coach, mentor, be a sounding board, be a guide very much on the side.

Making Process

  • Pedagogy – Use of prescribed kits, templates; step-by-step directions and tutorials.
  • Andragogy  – Use of some templates; learners add their own designs and embellishments.
  • Heutagogy -Open ended; determined by the learner.

Finish Products

  • Pedagogy – A maker project that looks and acts like the original model.
  • Andragogy – A maker project that has some attributes of the original model but that includes the learner’s original ideas.
  • Heutagogy – A maker project that is unique to the learner (& to the learning community).

the-pah-of-maker-education-3

 

 

Developing a Flexible & Risk-Taking Mindset

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A flexible and risk-taking mindset rather than a fixed one will benefit all stakeholders in an educator’s realm: the educator’s learners, colleagues, her or his learners’ families, the community, the field of education-at-large, and of course, the educator him-or herself.

Mindset is defined as “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset)

Given today’s climate in education systems, one based on accountability, scripted curriculum, and teaching to the teach, far too many teachers develop a fixed mindset. Many educators feel forced into a paradigm of teaching where they feel subjected to teaching practices outside of their control. Then when they are asked to engage in a process of continued growth and development, many profess: “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t have enough resources.”, “I need more training.”, “I need to teach using the textbook.” ,”I need to teach to the test.”, “I might lose control of the class.”, “I have always successful taught this way.”

Mindsets-1

What happens way too often is that given these restraints, educators develop feelings of powerless and of learned helplessness. This leads to developing beliefs that they have no freedom to take risks nor to try out new things in their classrooms. Sadly, though, this becomes an over-generalization.

It is a myth that we operate under a set of oppressive bureaucratic constraints. In reality, teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the work they chose to do in their classrooms. In most cases it is our culture that provides the constraints. For individual teachers, trying out new practices and pedagogy is risky business and both our culture, and our reliance on hierarchy, provide the ideal barriers for change not to occur. As Pogo pointed out long ago, “we have met the enemy and it is us.” http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/brian-harrison/2013/09/5/stop-asking-permission-change

Instead of this type of fixed and paralyzing mindset, educators should focus on having a flexible and risk-taking mindset. I know that these qualities can be part of a growth mindset which is usually discussed in terms of a growth vs. a fixed mindset.  I wanted, though, something specific to educators that signifies their willingness to keep evolving and building their professional skills.

What follows are some strategies educators can use to develop, further develop, and maintain a flexible and risk-taking mindset:

  • Develop an awareness when you enter the status quo and mediocrity complacency. Recognize it. Revisit it often. Talk about it. Shake yourself out of it in any way possible!  Interestingly, Mr. C. discussed this in a very recent blog post.

I developed an “If it ain’t broke why fix it” attitude. By being comfortable and satisfied with the status quo had I stopped learning, innovating, moving forward…being successful? (Does the Status Quo Make you Comfortable?)

  • Engage in continuous reflective practice. As I discussed in Where is reflection in the learning process?, educators need to be engaged in ongoing reflective practice to stay fresh and invigorated, and to insure that your actions in the learning environment are done with intentionality.

The critically reflective habit confers a deeper benefit than that of procedural utility. It grounds not only our actions, but also our sense of who we are as teachers in an examined reality. We know why we believe what we believe. A critically reflective teacher is much better placed to communicate to colleagues and students (as well as to herself) the rationale behind her practice. She works from a position of informed commitment. She knows why she does and thinks, what she does and thinks.  Stephen Brookfield

  • Establish both face-to-face and online personal/professional learning networks with other educators and other professionals, ones who try to live their professional lives with a flexible and risk-taking mindset.
  • Try and learn new things in the classroom modeling taking risks and being a lead learner. As A.J. Juliani notes in 10 Risks Every Teacher Should Take With Their Class:

As I work with students and teachers there is one common thread that the “stand-out” classrooms share: They take risks. Not only do these students and teachers take learning risks, but they also take them together. They are partners in the learning process, where the teacher is the “lead learner”.  A.J. Juliani

  • Attend conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities outside of your comfort area . . . way outside of your comfort zone.

The bottom line becomes focusing on what can work rather than what is not working.  This is not to devalue the obstacles that teachers face. It becomes about noting where change is possible and making some small changes in teaching.  Small changes often result in larger, more systemic change.

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. . . and sometimes having a flexible and risk-taking mindsets makes an educator an outlier educator in his or her school environment and it takes courage to be an outlier educator.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Feelings During FLOW-Related Learning

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Watch children, youth, and even adults when they are immersed in learning something of interest of them, and you will see often complete engagement and personal joy. When education is done “right”, learners often feel and experience the following in their both formal and informal educational environments:

  • Joy
  • Engaged
  • Excited
  • Wonderment
  • Intrinsically Motivated
  • Creative
  • Accomplishment and Pride (in themselves and in their work)
  • Connected (to the content, to other learners, to experts)
  • Purposeful
  • Important
  • Valued

Learners Should Experience

All of these feelings described above are often experienced as part of a FLOW state. The characteristics of “Flow” according to its originator and researcher, Czikszentmihalyi, are:

  1. Completely involved, focused, concentrating – with this either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training
  2. Sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
  3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going
  4. Knowing the activity is doable – that the skills are adequate, and neither anxious or bored
  5. Sense of serenity
  6. Timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing
  7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward (http://austega.com/gifted/16-gifted/articles/24-flow-and-mihaly-csikszentmihalyi.html)

Joy and engagement are intentionally at the top of the list as I believe these two feelings  are needed in order for all others to occur, for flow to occur. First and foremost, for me, is my desire to help learners experience joy in the learning process:

Building on a child’s ability to feel joy, rather than pushing it aside, wouldn’t be that hard. It would just require a shift in the education world’s mindset. Instead of trying to get children to buckle down, why not focus on getting them to take pleasure in meaningful, productive activity, like making things, working with others, exploring ideas, and solving problems? These focuses are not so different from the things to which they already gravitate and in which they delight.(Joy: A Subject Schools Lack)

As for student engagement . . .

Student engagement, described as the tendency to be behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively involved in academic activities, is a key construct in motivation research (Thijs & Verkuyten, 2009). Consequently, compared to less engaged peers, engaged students demonstrate more effort, experience more positive emotions and pay more attention in the classroom (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). Further, engagement has also been associated with positive student outcomes, including higher grades and decreased dropouts (Connell, Spencer, & Aber, 1994). (Encouraging Positive Student Engagement and Motivation: Tips for Teachers)

I wholeheartedly believe that one of the roles and responsibilities of the modern educator is to set up the conditions for learners to experience flow. To achieve a state of flow in the educational environment isn’t nor does it need to be that complicated. It can be as simple as replicating real life learning in more formal schools. I have discussed this in my post Natural Versus Unnatural Learning. In real life, learners learn through . . .

  • Setting up environmental conditions for themselves – often in comfortable furniture sitting and laying in positions that work for them; eating and drinking when desired; going to the bathroom when needed and by not asking for permission.
  • Moving around and engaging in distractions which can help in processing information.
  • Asking others for information, ideas, and help on an as needed basis.
  • Getting online to explore personalized inquiry about the content they are learning about.
  • Interacting intimately with content related, real life objects.
  • Learning in a context where that learning real world applications. Deep and meaningful learning occurs within a context.
  • Watching and learning from those more experienced than them. Now with technology, this observation can come in the form of videos, social media, and live communication networks such as Skype and Google Hangouts. Natural Versus Unnatural Learning

Given a growth and flexible mindset, educators can easily implement these ideas within their own classrooms.

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 23, 2016 at 11:43 pm

Mindset of the Maker Educator Presentation

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This presentation, prepared for the Global Maker Day virtual conference, provides some background information on maker education, being a reflective practitioner, documenting learning, the roles of the maker educator, and resources.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 17, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Approaching Marginalized Populations from an Asset Rather Than a Deficit Model of Education

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Too often marginalized populations (e.g., some populations of people of color, students from lower economic communities) are approached with a deficit model. Attempts are made to instill in these groups of students the skills to make them successful at the Eurocentric education that dominates most schools in the United States.

The deficit model of education sees kids as

  • lacking in some way
  • defective
  • deficient
  • needing to be fixed
  • not as good as . . .
  • needing to develop skills valued by mainstream society

And in schools all over America, students are forced to “learn” in a way that befits deficit model thinking. We make sure that students are doubled and tripled up in the subjects they are worst at. Schools are reducing the amount of time students have music and phys-ed and even science so that kids have more time to raise their test scores. It is as if the sole purpose of schooling for many kids is just to make sure that they are slightly less bad at the things they are worst at. We have created a schooling environment where the sole purpose seems to be to ameliorate the worst of abilities our students have, rather than nurture the best of who they are. (http://practicaltheory.org/blog/2013/03/28/stop-deficit-model-thinking/)

Sadly, many educators and administrators aren’t even aware of the deficit model of education prevalent in many schools systems. It follows, then, that they are definitely not aware of the differences between deficit and asset models.

The differences between deficit and strength-based thinking help to explain why efforts to improve the public schools have often been counterproductive and certainly less than sustainable.  Most elected leaders and educational bureaucrats tend to view the public schools in deficit terms and seldom focus on individual and school-wide strengths. (http://www.teacherdrivenchange.org/deficit-strength-difference)

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http://www.teacherdrivenchange.org/deficit-strength-difference

The asset model of education approaches kids from marginalized populations as:

  • having unique strengths, passions, and interests
  • being competent and capable in settings that are important to the learners
  • having their own personal powers
  • having much to offer to other learners and their school communities
  • sources for educating others about their communities and cultures
  • thriving in a climate of differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning
  • even though they are not marching to the beat of traditional school design, it doesn’t mean they are out of step

assetmodel

Every child has a gift; the challenge is helping them discover that gift. This strategy focuses on the students’ abilities rather than inabilities. As students understand what they have to offer, they can focus on their abilities to accomplish tasks in any subject area. (http://www.schoolimprovement.com/initializing-asset-based-education/)

There is a growing body of research that urges schools to acknowledge the social and cultural capital present in communities of color and poor communities (Moll & Greenberg, 1990; Gonzalez, 2005; Yosso, 2005). Tara Yosso (2005), for example, critiques static notions of cultural capital that fail to recognize what she refers to as “community cultural wealth”—characteristics, such as resiliency, that students of color and poor students often bring to school that should be recognized and built upon. Similar research by Wenfan Yan (1999) suggests that academically successful African American students bring unique forms of social capital with them into the classroom that are distinct from white, middle-class cultural models and that African American parents tended to contact their children’s schools regarding their teens’ future career aspirations and experiences in schools more than White parents. As this body of research continues to develop, schools and school agents may abandon deficit perspectives, affirm the cultural richness present in these communities, and implement more culturally responsive approaches aimed at improving the educational experiences and outcomes for students of color and students from lower socioeconomic strata. (http://www.education.com/reference/article/cultural-deficit-model/)

Of special interest is the current trend towards maker education in both formal and informal educational environments and insuring equity for all populations:

A huge part of trying to bring equity to every moment of tinkering is to see students as full of strengths from their home community, their families, and their experiences. Kids are brilliant and it’s our responsibility to notice their brilliance and deepen it. This perspective has allowed kids who don’t fit into traditional ideas about what it means to be smart, or academic, thrive in the tinkering space. (http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/05/03/tinkering-spaces-how-equity-means-more-than-access/)

If we sincerely believe in creating school systems based on equity, then we need to design systems that honor and respect all students.

educational-equity

Questions Learners Should Be Addressing Every Day at School

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I believe it is every educator’s responsibility to help insure that learners are addressing the following questions during each school day:

  • What questions am I asking today?
  • What answers am I seeking today?
  • What am I exploring today?
  • What am I making today?
  • What am I finding exciting today?
  • How am I playing and having fun today?
  • How am I using failure to inform my learning today?
  • What am I doing today to cooperate with others?
  • How am I documenting my learning today?
  • How am I sharing with others what I am learning today?
  • What am I doing today that has the potential to benefit the world?

questions

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

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