Anything that can keep me focused whilst sitting for 5 hours on the world’s most uncomfortable stool has to be good! And “good” (in fact, more than good) is how I’d describe my maker experience on Friday at Macquarie University with Gary Stager in the ‘Invent to Learn’ workshop.
Whilst someone I spoke to afterwards indicated they would have liked to have heard a bit more from Gary on the theory behind Maker Learning, I was more than happy to spend a good part of the day engaged in “making,” because that’s what I can’t get from reading a book or researching the Net. If you’re wanting that sort of information then you can’t go past Invent to learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Stager and Martinez.
That said, here are a few of Gary’s “gems” about Maker Learning:
- Making is the last shot for progressive education; it’s a means to keep interdisicplinary and constructivist learning alive, and to blur the boundaries between academic and vocational education
- Our highest calling as teachers is to equip kids to solve problems that don’t yet exist
- Schools should expose kids to things they don’t know they love
- Young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity if they have an investment in something
- Using technology is not cheating; it makes complexity possible
- Don’t get distracted by the “shiny objects”; the making process is more important than the product
- The reason you can get information off the Internet is because someone else was willing to share
- All assessment interrupts the learning process
- Why document the process of making a robot; the robot is the documentation!
- A good [project] prompt is brief, ambiguous and immune to assessment
- Let kids stay with something long enough for it to change their lives
And so to making…. My making experience really thrust me into the shoes of the learner. As Gary informed us that we were about to be let loose with Makey Makey kits, LEDs and conductable thread, Aduinos, conductable paint and play doh, Scratch programming software and lots of other “stuff,” I really had no idea of how it was going to pan out – I have enough trouble working out how the TV manages to decode signals to produce a picture, so this was going to be a real challenge!
That said, I was very proud of my making efforts (both individual and collaborative):
And what did I learn from my making?
- Just dive in and play
- Try, try and try again, and if it still doesn’t work…
- Ask someone for help
- Time flies when you’re “in the zone”
- Making needs to be meaningful – why else would you do it? ( so those who know of my affinity for graphic novels would recognise my “brooch” as a thought bubble with a kapow symbol and not just “two bits of felt stuck together” – my son’s description)
My next question is, are these things that we desire of our students as learners? The answer is clearly and loudly YES! For each and every one of the processes or “states” that I experienced, there’s a wealth of literature to support them as educational objectives. Think Michael Schrage (serious play) and Seymour Papert (hard fun); think Vygotsky (social proximity) and John-Steiner (collaboration); think persistence (Dweck) and resilience (Tough); and think flow (Csikszentmihalyi).