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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Making-- it's about developing culture & mindset, not a space

This past week I had the pleasure of joining education and Project Based Learning (PBL) consultant, Michael Gorman (@mjgormans); Institute of Play educator, Jackson Westenskow (@jjwestenskow); and PBS Learning Media (@pbslrnmedia) at ISTE 2016 to talk about building a maker culture in classrooms and schools. And not only do we need to support teachers in shifting the design of their lessons and classrooms, we also need to support students who are so used to finding the one right answer to a problem, or telling teachers what they think we want to hear in order to earn a good grade, that working on open-ended design projects can be extremely stressful.

Although the types of making happening in our various organizations differs (PBL and Genius Hour for Michael, gamification and play for Jackson, and digital making in my own classrooms), there was one major thread that tied all of our experiences and projects together-- our belief in the importance of first developing a maker culture and mindset in our classrooms before jumping into buying fancy maker tools or building makerspaces.

This year’s ISTE event in Denver was inundated with gadgets and gizmos aplenty to help schools deck out the growing number of makerspaces taking over old classrooms and computer labs, but how effective will a shiny new makerspace be in your school if no one walks their class across campus to use it?

Digital making via 3D design
Until teachers fully understand the importance of allowing students to create; to analyze problems and come up with their own solutions; to reflect on their thinking and their work; and how to integrate making and design processes into their standards-aligned lesson design, making will remain the “extra” that only gets done during free time or “choice time”.

So, how do we as teachers, coaches, principals, and district administrators grow a maker culture at our sites and help develop maker mindsets in our teachers and students?

Here are some highlights from our presentation on how to get started:
  • “Making is a mindset, not a space” (@mjgormans)
    • Maker spaces or carts or corners or useless if we do not first develop a maker mindset and way of thinking
  • Teachers need training on how to incorporate play and making into learning
    • Training format should mirror what teachers’ classrooms should look like
    • Want more to see more play in classrooms? Then teachers should be playing in PD!
  • Teachers learning CS hands on!
    Everything is interconnected!
    • Cross-curricular and interdisciplinary instruction is part of the PBL, play, and making culture
  • Coaching and ongoing support is key!
    • “One and done” trainings do not transform classrooms and schools
    • Coaches are so important for providing the ongoing support teachers need while changing their practice
    • Coaches should be in classrooms to help teachers and students feel safe to “fail foward”, knowing there is someone standing by to jump is as needed or just to be a cheerleader during the growing process
  • Making shouldn’t be an “extra”
    • Making and play should be standards-aligned and a regular part of good instruction and student learning

Some of our favorite resources for maker/play/PBL classrooms:
    • Professional development and lesson videos, games, lesson plans, interactives, simulations and more… for free!
    • The “Makers” collection includes videos and lesson plans focused on STEM topics and their relationship to the “real world”
    • Daily news rewritten at various reading levels for students in grades 3-12
    • All of my maker projects are embedded as a part of interdisciplinary instruction, many of which we also connected to current events read about via Newsela
    • An organization dedicated to designing new models of learning and instruction
    • Offers professional development for teachers/schools
    • The Exploratorium is a San Francisco museum providing hands-on learning and experiences in the STEM fields
    • Resources and lessons on tinkering and making to learn
    • Organization dedicated to project-based learning
    • provides free PBL resources, lesson plans, and tools and resources to support teachers in designing their own PBL units
    • Also offers professional development on PBL
  • Raspberry Pi
    • The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to digital making and computer science education
    • These low-cost computers can help educators incorporate more hands-on computer science, coding, making, and problem-solving activities in classrooms
    • In addition to selling devices, the Raspberry Pi website provides access to free learning kits and lesson plans

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