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Posts Tagged ‘school reform

School Should Be More Like Camp

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Some things about me:

  • I love to learn, create, invent, ponder and imagine what can be.  I consider myself insatiable when it comes to learning
  • I hated school from 2nd grade through college.  It was painfully boring for me.
  • I loved summer camp.  I went to day camp for 10 years.
  • I have vivid memories of my camp experiences.  I have vague, blurred memories of school.
  • I feel that I learned so much more at camp than I did at school.
  • I believe that school wasted and basically stole my time.

So needless to say, I promote the idea that school should be more like camp. What follows is a chart comparing school to camp.  Which would you prefer to attend?  Which would you prefer your own children to experience?

school-camp

What follows are some excerpts of articles that reinforce these ideas.

From Why Can’t School Be More Like Camp

Focus on Relationships, Team Building, and Goal Setting

The first day of school would start with the teacher leading the students in team building activities and giving them ample opportunities to get to know each other. Kids would be paired and grouped in different ways to make sure that everyone learns everyone else’s name. New kids would be warmly welcomed by returning kids.  They would also learn about each other’s talents and interests. This conversation would be ongoing throughout the year to give kids the chance to share with and encourage each other as they learn new things.

Hands-On, Active Learning by Doing

If school were more like camp, hands-on activities would far outnumber multiple-choice tests. The information that really “sticks” is the stuff we do, so why is so much time spent on memorizing things that are forgotten within days?

If school were more like camp, students would spend less time sitting at a desk quietly working by themselves on a work sheet and more time practicing teamwork and collaboration, working on science projects and presentations, acting out a book they are reading, and building their creativity and problem-solving skills.

Students would be encouraged to delve deeply into topics that interest them, regardless of what’s on the list of standards.

A Positive Culture

If school were more like camp, teachers would be trained to create a fun, warm, and inviting place as much as they are trained to teach math skills. They would learn how to find what is special and unique about each of their students and help their students feel valued and included.  Teachers would check in with each student, every day, asking how they’re doing and providing support if they are struggling. Kids would be excited to get to school, and teachers would greet each student with a smile and a high five, hug, handshake, or fist bump.

If school were more like camp, kids would be cheering for and supporting each other as they learn new skills. Kids would celebrate each other’s successes by making daily “WOW” announcements and leaving encouraging notes. For kids who are struggling in some area, supportive peers would provide guidance and encouragement. Kids would openly talk about their areas of strength and weakness and support each other in improving.

Core Subjects Plus “Free Choice” Learning and Pursuit of Passions

At camp, we require that kids participate in certain activities, even if they’re a little scared. We know that they benefit immensely from challenging themselves and building new skills. But we also allow kids to pursue activities that they are passionate about. What if school could be the same way? Kids would be required to learn specific skills, of course, just like they are now. But they would also have more free choice options to pursue things they’re passionate about. Aspiring writers could have their own blog. Future doctors could do extra science research and experiments. If we showed more respect for kids’ interests and desires and let them spend more time on things that they are passionate and excited about, school would be a much happier place for them.

. . . and some more characteristics of camps which should be common school practices – from 5 Ways School Should Be More Like Summer Camp

Intentional, Intense Community

Summer camps make a point of helping the community to bond quickly through playing games, hiking and camping together (a.k.a. meeting and coming through a challenge together), telling stories around a fire, sharing sleeping quarters, and creating rituals around daily tasks like eating.

Facing Fears and Pushing Comfort Zones

At summer camp, kids do things they are afraid of.  They go swimming in creeks with snakes, they sleep in cabins with creepy crawlies, they go on 3-day hikes and sleep in the woods with who knows what kinds of monsters, they scrape their knees, and they don’t have their parents around to rely on.  Now if that isn’t just a recipe for learning coping skills and how to handle the unexpected, I don’t know what is.

Outdoors and Interactive

We already know that sitting in a desk and being lectured at is not the best way to learn.  There are also studies showing that environmental education boosts creativity, social skills, and problems solving skills.  So it’s clear that education should be more hands-on and more out of doors.

Regular Communal Singing

Singing a beautiful or lively group song is different than singing along to the radio.  It can bring a group together and can infuse a relatively mundane task with humor and joy.  But it takes time and commitment to build up a community repertoire of songs.  We have to take the time to teach them and sing them regularly so that is an inclusive activity.  There is little quite so touching as a group of young people harmonizing around a camp fire, or singing a song of gratitude to the cooks, or merrily caroling as they walk to the next activity.

Mixed Age Groups and Mentoring

This is something that summer camps get really right and most schools get really wrong.  At summer camp, kids are constantly mingling across ages.  Teen-age counselors are leading the activities and what could be more hip than that to a 10-year old?  Here is this older, totally cool person, who isn’t nearly so old as their parents, who they can jump on, and look up to and learn games from.  They get to see this older person making jokes, having conversations, dealing with problems, singing songs, having fun and generally being a model of (more) mature, multi-dimensional life.  In schools we separate the teen-agers from the pre-teens and both suffer.  The teens lose out on that sense of responsibility and accountability; they don’t get that sense that their behavior might influence someone else.  And the young ones only have teachers and parents to look up to, who seem so distant and foreign, instead of learning from a variety of ages and outlooks.

. . . and some others based on my own experiences.

Arts Integration

Doing art with a fully stocked art room is a central activity at camp.  All kids are artists at camp with accessible art projects like scratch art, lanyards, leaf rubbings, tie dying.  Children smile with pride at their creations rather than saying things like “I can’t draw” or “I am not an artist.”

Informal drama and theater is also part of the camp experience with talent shows, charades, and paper bag dramatics.   There is innate joy to expressing oneself through drama and theater without the fear of being graded or judged harshly.

Games, Sports, Movement

Sitting around passively isn’t part of the camp experience.  If the camper isn’t playing a sport, s/he might be going for a swim.  Then s/he runs to the art room, and after that – maybe a quick game of tag.  Kids aren’t (or shouldn’t) be told not to run (as in run in the halls).

Learning from Multiple Sources with Ongoing, Informal Assessment

Multiple means and avenues are used to learn to swim, tie a knot, identify a leaf, make a lanyard, and/or sing a song,  A combination of direct instruction, peer modeling, peer feedback, and natural consequences work together to help insure that most campers learn these skills.  Evaluation and assessment are indirect and ongoing – again coming from multiple sources.

. . . and finally, if we are serious about student engagement, motivation, and retention, then student satisfaction with and enjoyment of school should be a primary goal.  From the New York Times article, Why Can’t School Be More Like Summer?

Summer camps are by design happy places, run by people who clearly have been selected for their genial and outgoing personalities as well as their willingness to be ridiculous and silly on short notice. Camps embrace what Robert Louis Stevenson called “the duty to be happy”  Happiness is embedded in the summer camp business plan, and is central to what they do. If children  aren’t happy; they won’t come back.  Schools could learn a lot about student retention and achievement by taking a page from the summer camp happiness playbook.This is especially true right now.  Yet in all the talk about education reform, happiness rarely seems to make the list, even though there’s plenty of evidence out there about what an improved school environment might mean for learning and test scores, not to mention student attitudes and drop-out rates.

The bottom line, which is the focus of many of my blog posts, is that there is a belief that schools need to be the way they are.  They do not.

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm

The Importance of Authenticity Inside and Outside the Classroom

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I teach graduate educational technology courses at Boise State University to mostly in-service teachers.  One of them is Integrating Technology Into the Classroom.  It as a course with a project-based learning framework.  Learners are given a series of course projects and asked to develop learning activities for their particular content areas and grade levels.  Examples include developing a video library and associated lesson for their content area; developing a lesson for their content area that uses social media, etc.

This morning I received the following communication from a co-instructor:

Jackie, I thought you would want to know this.  I teach 514.  I ask each student to reflect on a “best learning experience” and this semester I have a student in 514 who wrote the following:

My experience of EDTECH 541 stands out for me as the best experience I have had in learning. I say this for many reasons, and they start with how the structure of the course allowed such creative freedom along with the exploration and experimentation of new tools. With every assignment, I just remember thinking how fun it was, and how great it was that a school class could engage me so much.

Each assignment just seemed to get better. It also seemed like everything just flowed, and the work I was doing had some real impact. I was using the skills I practiced and learned the night before working on the project, the next day in my workplace. I even helped coworkers based on some of the things I learned in the class.

A major moment in this course was some validation of my work that I was not used to. A few of my assignments were used as examples, and some were even tweeted out, and retweeted! The fact that a professional in this field (the professor) and others thought my project had real value and took the time to share it thrilled me. That has been one of the best moments in my education, because for the first time I felt my work extended beyond the gradebook. I also felt like my work gave me some validation and confidence that I just might be able to put some things on a resume that might land me a sought after position someday.

I also remembering throughout the course how great it would be to do that kind of work for a living. It validated my choice and the months I spent trying to find a master’s degree I wanted to pursue. And it was a vast amount of time. I looked for nearly 4 months trying to find something, and just by chance I discovered this program. The EDTECH 541 experience I had was worth it.

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Of course, educators love getting feedback like this.  It is affirming, but more importantly are the rewards the learner received.  Note that the tone of this communication was not about me as the educator but her as a learner and student.  This is what excites me the most.  Messages gleamed from this feedback:

  • Learners need to be given authentic tasks which asks them to put their “selves” into the learning projects.
  • As noted in this communication, school should be fun and engaging.
  • Skills being acquired by learners should be relevant and usable in their lives outside of the classroom (regardless of age).
  • The educator should help learners establish authentic audiences where the learners can share their work to authentic audiences outside of the classroom, to audiences of their peers.  (Note: peers aren’t necessarily others of the same age.  They are those who share the same interests and passions, who have similar perspectives of the world.)
  • Social-emotional gains are important.  Learners gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities should be an intentional goal in all learning environments.
  • The bottom line, which I have stressed in the past, is that the educator should set up the conditions for learners to say, “I am a good and confident learner,” rather than “You are a good teacher.”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 30, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Self-Regulation: The Other 21st Century Skills

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Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner.  This post focuses on self-regulation.

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Self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed (The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning).

Self-regulation is a cyclical process. Students who are motivated to reach a certain goal will engage in self-regulatory activities they feel will help them achieve that goal. The self-regulation promotes learning, which leads to a perception of greater competence, which sustains motivation toward the goal and to future goals. (The Role of Motivation in Self-Regulated Learning)

Self-regulation is not only an essential part of healthy emotional development, it is also vital for academic success. Many studies, like the 2010 research conducted by the University of Virginia’s Claire Cameron Ponitz and Oregon State University’s Megan McClelland, show that children with high levels of self-regulation do better on tests when compared to children with low levels of self-regulation. Some researchers even see the inability to self-regulate as the root cause of the economic achievement gap. (Supporting Self-Regulation in the Classroom)

Some of the characteristics of self-regulation include:

  • Uses metacognitive processes
  • Self-monitors frequently and adequately
  • Regulates and controls emotional and cognitive processes.
  • Possesses unique and situational problem-solving abilities
  • Manages time for one’s own benefit
  • Self-motivates
  • Self-evaluates
  • Self-consequates

Self-Regulation

The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning
self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed. – See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/secret-self-regulated-learning/?ET=facultyfocus:e56:223522a:&st=email#sthash.zz2jDBUT.dpuf

Helping Learners Develop Self-Regulation Skills

Educators can play a key role in assisting learners in building upon and expanding their self-regulation skills. Strategies include using metacognitive reflection questions both prior to and after learning tasks to assist students through a process of guided inquiry:

  • What is the best way to go about this task?
  • How well are my learning strategies working? What changes should I make, if any?
  • What am I still having trouble understanding?
  • What can I recall and what should I review?
  • How does this material relate to other things I’ve learned or experienced? Supporting Self-Regulation in the Classroom)

Self-regulated learning has meta-emotional and environmental dimensions, which involve asking oneself questions like these:

  • How motivated am I to do the learning task, and how can I increase my motivation if I need to?
  • If my confidence in my ability to learn this material sags, how can I increase it without becoming overconfident?
  • Am I resisting material that is challenging my preconceptions?
  • How am I reacting to my evaluation of my learning?
  • How can I create the best, most distraction-free physical environment for the task? (The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning).

In order to effectively “teach” or demonstrate these questions, educators can practice and model using these questions him or herself.  S/he can verbalize these questions and responses while modeling a learning task.  In other words, the learners can benefit from observing the educator engage in this metacognitive process.

Educators can also directly teach learners the phases of self-regulation:

phase1

  1. Phase 1. Forethought/pre-action—This phase precedes the actual performance; sets the stage for action; maps out the tasks to minimize the unknown; sets realistic expectations and helps to develop a positive mindset
  2. Phase 2. Performance control—This phase involves processes during learning and the active attempt to utilize specific strategies to help the learner become more successful.
  3. Phase 3. Self-reflection—This phase involves reflection after the performance, a self-evaluation of outcomes compared to goals.

This material was taken from an excellent online self-regulation teaching module developed for-by the UConn Gifted Program – http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/siegle/selfregulation/section0.html

Building self-regulation skills is an ongoing process. Educators can use the 5 R’s to provide this continual support:

  • Regularity – Schedule time to practice daily
  • Repetition – Builds neural pathways that become habits
  • Reflection – Noticing sensations strengthens neural pathways
  • Research – Support kids in becoming prescriptive with which tools work best for them
  • Reach Out to Families – Share tools with parents/ care-givers to use at home (Supporting Self-Regulation in the Classroom)

Self-Regulation as a 21st Century Skill

Creativity and in-disciplined learning requires balancing the forces of order and chaos. Learning environments need to provide students a flexible structure within which students can experiment, collaborate, and problem solve. These are contexts that allow students to learn from both success and failure. Such open-ended environments, however, can be challenging to learners as well. They can appear chaotic and offer little guidance to students on how to navigate them. (Creativity, Self-Directed Learning and the Architecture of Technology Rich Environments)

Self-regulation has always been an important skill for learners to master, but changes in the learning landscape due to technological advances and open access to information have increased the necessity for this skill.

Learning Activities for Young People

Here are some activities for students to learn more about self-regulation:

 

Self-regulated learning also has meta-emotional and environmental dimensions, which involve asking oneself questions like these:

  • How motivated am I to do the learning task, and how can I increase my motivation if I need to?
  • If my confidence in my ability to learn this material sags, how can I increase it without becoming overconfident?
  • Am I resisting material that is challenging my preconceptions?
  • How am I reacting to my evaluation of my learning?
  • How can I create the best, most distraction-free physical environment for the task?

Metacognitive questions include these:

  • What is the best way to go about this task?
  • How well are my learning strategies working? What changes should I make, if any?
  • What am I still having trouble understanding?
  • What can I recall and what should I review?
  • How does this material relate to other things I’ve learned or experienced?

– See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/secret-self-regulated-learning/?ET=facultyfocus:e56:223522a:&st=email#sthash.zz2jDBUT.dpuf

More formally, self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed. – See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/secret-self-regulated-learning/?ET=facultyfocus:e56:223522a:&st=email#sthash.zz2jDBUT.dpuf
More formally, self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed. – See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/secret-self-regulated-learning/?ET=facultyfocus:e56:223522a:&st=email#sthash.zz2jDBUT.dpuf

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Shouldn’t Education and Learning Be the Same Thing?

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Schooling and institutionalized education have become removed from true, instinctual, and human/humane learning.  Humans have been learning since the beginning of time with major discoveries and innovations historically and currently emerging in spite of school.  This is the biggest problem I have with schools – most are contrived and coercive and do not honor the innate human need and desire to learn, discover, and evolve.

If order to fully understand the purpose of school, the history of its evolution as an institution needs to be understood.  What follows is part of A Brief History of Education in the Freedom to Learn series published in Psychology Today:

If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective.

Adults in hunter-gatherer cultures allowed children almost unlimited freedom to play and explore on their own because they recognized that those activities are children’s natural ways of learning. With the rise of agriculture, and later of industry, children became forced laborers. Play and exploration were suppressed.  With larger families, children had to work in the fields to help feed their younger siblings, or they had to work at home to help care for those siblings. Children’s lives changed gradually from the free pursuit of their own interests to increasingly more time spent at work that was required to serve the rest of the family. 

As industry progressed and became somewhat more automated, the need for child labor declined in some parts of the world. The idea began to spread that childhood should be a time for learning, and schools for children were developed as places of learning. The idea and practice of universal, compulsory public education developed gradually in Europe, from the early 16th century on into the 19th. In America, in the mid 17th century, Massachusetts became the first colony to mandate schooling, the clearly stated purpose of which was to turn children into good Puritans.

Employers in industry saw schooling as a way to create better workers. To them, the most crucial lessons were punctuality, following directions, tolerance for long hours of tedious work, and a minimal ability to read and write. From their point of view (though they may not have put it this way), the duller the subjects taught in schools the better.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, public schooling gradually evolved toward what we all recognize today as conventional schooling. The methods of discipline became more humane, or at least less corporal; the lessons became more secular; the curriculum expanded, as knowledge expanded, to include an ever-growing list of subjects; and the number of hours, days, and years of compulsory schooling increased continuously. School gradually replaced fieldwork, factory work, and domestic chores as the child’s primary job.

Schools today are much less harsh than they were, but certain premises about the nature of learning remain unchanged: Learning is hard work; it is something that children must be forced to do, not something that will happen naturally through children’s self-chosen activities. The specific lessons that children must learn are determined by professional educators, not by children, so education today is still, as much as ever, a matter of inculcation

From the Time Magazine article, How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century

There’s a dark little joke exchanged by educators with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls–every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school,” he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are white.”

It really is a sad statement of the school system when some of our world’s greatest scholars have such strong critiques of institutionalized schooling:

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.  Albert Einstein

It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. Albert Einstein

In school I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me. Steve Jobs

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Anne Sullivan

Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. Plato

Since every effort in our educational life seems to be directed toward making of the child a being foreign to itself, it must of necessity produce individuals foreign to one another, and in everlasting antagonism with each other. Emma Goldman

Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality. Helen Beatrix Potter

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.  Henry David Thoreau

Education is one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.  Bertrand Russell

Some of the overt and covert values and messages of our current institutionalized school system include:

  • Learning is difficult and involves hard work, discipline, repetition.
  • Obedience and conformity are valued.
  • There are winners and losers.  Winners are those who get the good grades; losers are those who do not.
  • There are experts, the teachers, the textbooks, the administrators, who know it all and should not be questioned.
  • Learning involves being quiet and sitting still in a desk.
  • Traditional paper and pencil tests can measure student learning.
  • Learning is about studying what has been and what is rather than what could be.

These educational practices are often taken at face value without being critically analyzed, dissected, and/or tested for truth.  Educators and all related stakeholders do not engage in serious contemplation around the question, “What is the purpose of school?” in order to analyze the efficacy of these practices.

I am not advocating for the abolishment of school.   Schools offer children and youth many resources they might not be able to get otherwise – communities of learners, mentorships, physical resources, emotional support.   I am questioning, though, the broad acceptance by many that institution has to be the way it is.  Isn’t a goal of education to learn the process of citizenship, democracy, the betterment of humankind?  If so, shouldn’t all of the stakeholders – educators, learners, parent, community members, politicians – engage in a continual process of evaluating and modifying the school system to best meet the needs and desires of all?   Evolution as defined as “process of progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions” is a natural process, but when schools are examined from a historical perspective, there is very little evidence of the evolution of the educational system.

The argument, the questions I propose are not new but until change occurs, they are worth revisiting and reconsidering,

school questions

As a parting shot, when discussing the purpose of school, can be summarized by a statement made by Daniel Katz in Reflections on Ferguson — What does education mean in a world like this?

School is an enterprise that is premised around hope and purpose.  In order to truly engage with the operation of school, a child has to believe that there are reasons and purposes that make sense and has to have hope that school will lead somewhere desirable.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm

The Educator as a Maker Educator eBook

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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

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Introduction

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.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Teaching and Facilitating Entrepreneurship in the School Setting

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iamentrepreneur

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Maker Education and Experiential Education

with 3 comments

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

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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

Maker Education as Experiential Education              https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2227689-maker-education-as-experiential-#

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 22, 2014 at 6:22 pm

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