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The Benefits of the Copy Stage of Making

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In Learning in the Making: How to Plan, Execute, and Assess Powerful Makerspace Lessons, I propose a model for the stages of making.

I believe that the heart of making is creating new and unique things. I also realize that in order for this type of making to occur, there needs to be some scaffolding so that maker learners can develop a foundation of knowledge and skills. This post focuses on the Copy Stage of this model.

  • Copy – make something almost exactly as someone else has done.

In this age of information abundance, there really is an unlimited number of DIY resources, tutorials, Youtube videos, online instructors and instructions on making all kind of things. These resources provide a good beginning for acquiring some solid foundational skills and knowledge for learning how a make something one has never made before.

For a recent classroom activity, I wanted students to learn about and use Adafruit’s Circuit Playground. Some students made a Circuit Playground Dreidel (they learned about dreidels from an Orthodox Jewish student who was in my class and they loved it!) using the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/CPX-Mystery-Dreidel, and others made the Circuit Playground Scratch game with the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/adabot-operation-game/overview. I provided them with these directions and the expectation that the learners follow them pretty much on their own with me acting as an explainer and coach when they ran into difficulties. Here is a video of my learners enjoying their newly made dreidels.

The benefits of beginning maker activities with the Copy Stage includes:

  • Basic Skill Development and Acquisition
  • Foundational Skills for More Advanced and Creative Projects
  • Following Step-By-Step Directions
  • Positive Problem-Solving When Obstacles Occur
  • Asking for Help From Peers
  • A Sense of Accomplishment About Finishing a Project
  • Enjoying the Use of Finished Products They Made

There has been a fair amount of criticism leveraged against “paint-by-numbers” types of STEM and maker kits. This criticism revolves around the stifling of the creativity of learners. I contend that learners need foundational skills so that they can be freed up to be creative. Think about learning how to cook or play an instrument. The basic and foundational skills need to be there in order for the makers to go in directions that are new and creative for them. For example, I spent several decades as a ceramic artist, making wheel thrown and altered pottery. I needed to know how to throw a decent bowl before I could go in that direction (and yes, my pottery in this image began as wheel thrown cylinders).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 18, 2020 at 10:40 pm

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