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Framing and Frontloading Maker Activities

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As I’ve mentioned in some other posts, I come from a background in Experiential Education (yes, it is a specific professional discipline). I’ve also discussed reflecting on the learning activities to increase the chances of extracting learning as well as transferable skills and knowledge from the activities. This is an integral part of experiential education – see my previous posts, Where is reflection in the learning process? and The Maker as a Reflective Practitioner.

Another concept common to Experiential Education, that also increases the chances that transferable skills and knowledge result, is framing or frontloading the activities as part of introducing them.

Frontloading is making clear the purpose of an activity prior to actually doing it.  The idea is that if participants clearly understand the purpose or lesson upfront, that lesson will repeatedly show itself during the action component. (http://chiji.com/processing.htm)

The practitioner tells or guides participants before the experience on how what they want them to focus on in the activity. It is about guided attention before the activity. (http://www.aee.org/tapg-best-p-matching-facilitation-strategy)

What are the benefits of frontloading?

  • It helps participants use the upcoming activity to build on prior knowledge and experience
  • It helps participants set purpose and intention for the activity
  • It distributes expertise to the participants before the activity begins, as opposed to the facilitator or instructor being the only expert (http://experience.jumpfoundation.org/what-is-frontloading/)

Some of the general themes and ideas for frontloading making activities include:

  • Using and Reviewing Essential Questions – explicitly discussed prior to the maker activities. For example –
    • What are the attributes of having a maker mindset?
    • What skills do you need to be an inventor? an engineer?
    • What are the steps to the design process?
    • How do inventors, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and/or artists solve problems? How do they overcome challenges?
  • Using Scenarios – for example –
    • You have been hired to create a new invention to bring kindness into the world. This invention will be shared with all of the kids in the United States.
    • The kids at the local shelter would love to have one of the latest and greatest of toys. Make them one of these.
  • Specifying Standards – the Next Generation Science Standards include some good examples. The educator can introduce the standards and explain what they mean in terms of the upcoming maker activities. For example:
    • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
    • Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
  • Asking Questions Related To Personal Skills – for example –
    • The following maker activity will draw upon your imagination, creativity, and innovative mindset. What do you consider your strengths in this area that can be used during your maker activity?
  • Asking Questions to Help with Scaffolding and Sequencing the Activities – the facilitator can review previous activities and then ask participants prior to the next learning activity –
    • In this next activity you will be asked to do _______________, what skills did you learn in the (previous activity) that will help you do ____________ in this upcoming activity?
  • Asking Questions Related To Using Peer Support-Working Collaboratively – for example – 
    • How might you use your co-learners support if and when you get stuck or reach an impasse while working on the next activity?

Frontloading Maker Activities

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 16, 2016 at 12:53 am

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