Posts Tagged ‘educational reform’
This past summer I facilitated maker education classes for 5 to 10 year old kids. This school year I am a gifted teacher meeting with 2nd through 6 grades one day per week per group. I like mixed age groups and have no problem designing learning activities for them. I realized that the reason for this is that these activities are open ended permitting each student to naturally and instinctively to work at or slightly above his or her ability level. This actually is a definition of differentiation.
Many classrooms consist of students from different knowledge backgrounds, multiple cultures, both genders, and students with a range of disabilities or exceptionalities (Alavinia & Fardy, 2012). Differentiated instruction is defined as “a philosophy of teaching that is based on the premise that students learn best when their teachers accommodate the differences in their readiness levels, interest, and learning profiles” (Konstantinou-Katzi et al., 2012, p. 333). (in http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Differentiated_learning)
One of results or consequences of providing such activities is an increase in learner engagement, excitement, and motivation. Open ended learning activities permit and encourage learners to bring their “selves” into the work. They become agents of their own learning.
Because of this freedom, they often shine as true selves come through. Learners often surprise both the educator and themselves with what they produce and create. It becomes passion-based learning. Not only do the activities become self-differentiated, they become personalized:
Personalization only comes when students have authentic choice over how to tackle a problem. A personalized environment gives students the freedom to follow a meaningful line of inquiry, while building the skills to connect, synthesize and analyze information into original productions. Diane Laufenberg in What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?
Personalized learning means that learning starts with the learner. Learning is tailored to the individual needs of each learner instead of by age or grade level. It is more than teaching to “one size fits all” or just moving to learner-centered learning and changing instruction. Personalized Learning takes a holistic view of the individual, skill levels, interests, strengths and challenges, and prior knowledge. The learner owns their learning. Barbara Bray in What is Personalized Learning?
The educator, in this environment, introduces the activities and then steps back to let the learners take over their own personal learning. The educator lets go of expectations what the final produce should be; should look like; should do. The educator becomes a provider of resources, feedback giver, and communications facilitator. S/he becomes a tour guide of learning possibilities. S/he shows learners the possibilities and then gets out of the way.
Creating the conditions for self-differentiation and personalization can occur with learning objectives that start with action verbs such: create, write, explore, invent, make, imagine, prepare, build, compose, construct, design, develop, formulate, originate.
Parting Shot: The following is an Animoto I created to show how many forms of making there are, but it also demonstrates what can happen when open ended projects are introduced into the learning environment.
Originally published at http://blog.iat.com/2015/09/30/a-perfect-storm-for-maker-education/.
Perfect Storm: an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude.
The maker movement, as we know, is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers, a convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers. The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, stir the imaginations of consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in–China merchandise. (Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future)
A movement made up of hobbyists, tinkerers, crafters and innovators is getting ready to change what you thought you knew about the American economy. They’re teaching a new generation how to repair rather than replace, and if what they’re looking for is not available, to invent it. They call themselves “makers,” and they will figure out how to build whatever you can imagine. (The Maker Movement Is About the Economy, Stupid)
There currently exists the conditions for a perfect storm for maker education due to:
- The Do It Yourself (DIY) Movement
- Focus on STEM and STEAM Education
- Information Access and Information Abundance
- Affordable Maker Technologies
- Crowdsourcing and Participatory Culture
- Open Source Resources
The Do It Yourself (DIY) Movement
Do It Yourself, or DIY, is a term that is used by various communities of practice that focus on people creating things for themselves without the aid of a paid professional. embers of these subcultures strive to blur the lines between creator and consumer by constructing a social network that ties users and makers close together. The phrase Do It Yourself along with its acronym is also commonly used where a layman endeavors to complete a project without the physical aid of a paid professional. http://184.108.40.206/library/D.I.Y.
What this means for young people is that they are growing up in DIY cultures, where they have role models who engage in DIY and where they have 24-7 access to information and technological resources. For example, younger makers can turn to DIY, a safe online community for kids to discover and learn new skills. Older makers can use Make: DIY Projects for inspiration, ideas, and how-tos.
Focus on STEM and STEAM Education
One of President Obama’s initiatives has been a call to action for making STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education a priority in the United States. He emphasized the need to broaden participation to those groups who typically do not engage in STEM initiatives:
President Obama knows that we simply cannot, as a Nation, expect to maintain our run of ingenuity and innovation—we cannot maintain that stream of new and different ideas—if we do not broaden participation in STEM to all Americans, including women and girls and minorities. (Educate to Innovate)
Some professionals and practitioners are expanding STEM education to include the arts which translates in STEAM education.
In this climate of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation as the way to ensure a prosperous future. Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century. (STEM to STEAM)
Maker education can be a gateway to STEM involvement by students who may not have had interest in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines in the past.
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. (Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”)
Information Access and Abundance
We are living in one of the most exciting times in the history of humankind. Our world in now filled with information abundance, surplus, and access. The result is synergy whereby the human mind plus our current technologies far exceed the sum of these individual parts. We have technologies to access any type of information and to create products that match the pictures and voices in our minds; and we can use technology to get the assistance and feedback from folks around the globe. (Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education)
Anyone with access to the Internet has access to all kinds of information, resources, and tutorials. Young people are used to going online to find information and how-to tutorials via YouTube, Wikipedia, and their social networks. Young makers have taken advantage of this easy and free access information to make valuable contributions to our world. For example, Jack Andraka, who as a High School sophomore, discovered a test for pancreatic cancer through reading science research he found online. Katherine Wu, a ninth-grader, invented “the driver’s companion,” a device that could monitor drivers’ blinks and brain waves to see if they were in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. She studied neuroscience to find out how to identify signs of sleepiness, took an online course to learn how to create the computer code that would recognize those signs. (Local teens’ inventions impress scientists)
Affordable Maker Technologies
Accessibility of affordable maker technologies (e.g., 3D Printers, DIY computer devices) is due, in part to the democratization of these technologies.
When something is democratized it means that it is accessible to everyone. When used in the context of the maker movement, ‘democratization’ refers to the decreasing cost of the tools and technologies credited with spurring the movement. The cost of 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, and 3D scanners has dramatically decreased over the past five years. (Democratized tools of production: New technologies spurring the maker movement)
Today, the availability of affordable constructive technology and the ability to share online has fueled the latest evolutionary spurt in this facet of human development. New tools that enable hands-on learning — 3D printers, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computers, e-textiles, “smart” materials and new programming languages — are giving individuals the power to invent. (The maker movement: A learning revolution)
Maker technologies such as Makey-Makey, littleBits, Arduinos, 3D Printers, and robotics kits provide opportunities for learners to experiment and invent for themselves. They are accessible and usable by a wide range of skill and age levels; and even though there is a cost attached to them, they are more accessible to those with less financial means than similar technologies had been in the past. There does, though, need to be a continued dialogue and proactive efforts to create a maker culture of accessibility.
If the rise of the maker movement and these new tools for democratized production are going to create opportunity, how do we ensure that all people truly have access and training? It is essential to understand and address the social structures and identity categories that are inherent in the maker movement before the tools of production that play such a prominent role are truly democratized. (Democratized tools of production: New technologies spurring the maker movement)
If one of the characteristics of the maker movement is democratization of related tools, software, and techniques, then efforts need to focus on the education institutions that serve children (school, libraries, museums, after-school programs) especially underrepresented and underserved children. We need to insure that there is little or no gap between those of means and those with little means when it comes to maker education. Dr. David A. Williams (SVP of Program, Training & Youth Development at Boys and Girls Club of America) has tackled this head-on at BGCA (Tackling the Digital Divide & Closing the Opportunity Gap in STEM Education) and so has Congressman Joe Kennedy in Boston (Do Politicians Really Care About STEM Education?).
Crowdsourcing and Participatory Culture
The maker movement and makerspaces are that they are driven by principles of crowdsourcing and participatory cultures. Makers, as a group, freely share their makes so others can replicate and/or improve upon them.
Many maker movement initiatives are rooted in the idea of a “Participatory Culture,” a term coined by American media scholar Henry Jenkins. Henry Jenkins recognizes the key elements of a participatory culture to include low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. (Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School By Laura Fleming)
And as Dale Dougherty ( , considered by many as the father of the maker movement, stated in the Maker Mindset:
The Maker Movement is spurred by [….] the increasing participation of all kinds of people in interconnected communities, defined by interests and skills online as well as hyper-local efforts to convene those who share common goals. (Dougherty, The Maker Mindset, 2013)
Whenever you design a tool that allows people to be creative, there are people who will start to be creative with the tool. Once we made that available, people are now responding and creating. So it’s not so much that we’ve become a world of people who do hardware hacking, but, I guess, a world where people are becoming more involved in the creation of products. (Arduino’s Massimo Banzi: How We Helped Make The Maker Movement)
Related to crowdsourcing is crowdfunding which, as it implies, is asking the public to fund some worthwhile causes. Crowdfunding sites like Donors Choose can help educators get maker materials for their classrooms, increasing the chances that underfunded classrooms can get the tools and materials related to the maker movement.
Open Source Resources
Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open source software is made by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition.
Makers often share their “makes” so other can reproduce them and/or improve upon them. For example, Markerbot’s Thingiverse is probably one of the biggest online repositories of open source 3D designs. A quick perusal of the website shows designs everything from prosthetic devices to footwear to toys.
The sharing culture that marks the maker movement carries over into maker technology companies in that they often make their software and hardware open source. Popular educational maker hardware such as Arduinos and lillteBits are open source:
Open-source hardware shares much of the principles and approach of free and open-source software. In particular, we believe that people should be able to study our hardware to understand how it works, make changes to it, and share those changes. To facilitate this, we release all of the original design files (Eagle CAD) for the Arduino hardware. These files are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, which allows for both personal and commercial derivative works, as long as they credit Arduino and release their designs under the same license. (Arduinos FAQ)
littleBits has the following to say about developing open source hardware:
Open Source Hardware means that we make the design files available for the circuit designs in our modules pursuant to the CERN Open Hardware License Version 1.2. It makes sense for us because littleBits products are a teaching tool: sharing our designs allows for the possibility of teaching how these circuit designs work down to a circuit level. (What does Open Source mean?)
The bottom line is that educators both in formal and informal settings would be foolish not to take advantage of this perfect storm of maker education resources, tools, and strategies that currently exist.
One of my learners’ favorite things to do at my maker education summer camps is taking toys apart – breaking them and then putting back together in another form. This got me thinking that breaking things should be part of every teacher’s and learner’s education. These include:
- Breaking physical objects apart to see their components and how they work.
- Breaking apart how the physical classroom is set up and letting learners help create the setting where they will learn.
- Breaking down barriers of communication . . between educators and learners; between learners and other learners; between the school and parents; between school and the community; between the community of learners and the rest of the world.
- Breaking apart and crushing stereotypes about different genders, ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientation when age appropriate.
- Breaking down walls that keep schools isolated from the world outside of those walls.
- Breaking attitudes that “we’ve always done it that way.”
- Breaking a system that believes children should be grouped by age and grade.
- Breaking (and throwing away forever) the current assessment systems and the related belief that standardized tests actually measure student performance and achievement.
- Breaking apart the idea and practice that children and youth cannot nor should not be teachers.
- And one big NOT . . . NOT breaking the natural passion and excitement that humans have to learn.
These are just my initial thoughts. What would you add to this list of breaking things as a form of education? I want to create an infographic on this list so please add to it!
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:
- DIY Science Toys – http://www.makereducation.com/diy-science-toys.html
- Toy Take Apart – http://www.makereducation.com/toy-take-apart.html
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
- Colorful Gears
- Candy Gobbler
- Small Toy Take Apart
- Portable Gaming Devices Take Apart – Invent a New Game
- 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
- cotton balls
- transparent tape
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.
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.
- business cards
- cell phone motors
- double stick tape
- transparent tape
The following plans were developed by Howtoons and can be found at http://www.howtoons.com/?page_id=3475
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.
- laser cut gears of assorted sizes
- magnets (6x6mm 1/4″X1/4″)
- magnetic boards
- permanent markers
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.
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
- 2 liter bottle
- Doorstop spring
- Aluminum foil
- copper tape
- 5 MM LED lights
- Batteries and terminal connections
- Double sided alligator cables
- Candy or prizes for the gradding
I modified the plans presented at http://makezine.com/projects/make-41-tinkering-toys/monster-candy-game/.
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).
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
- 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
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:
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 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.
created by Jon Andrews
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.”
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.
. . . 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.