A reflection about setting up makerspaces and giving students the keys

The challenge for me this week was to really think through the career exploration program and consider a making project and not just to just theorize whether it was possible.   I was able to answer a lot of questions I had about  whether it was practical and an appropriate pedagogy for the program; I also found that it was already very much in line with how I facilitated the program, but it gave me more direction on what an ungraded final project could be and how it could still be used to assess or evaluate not just the participants but the effectiveness of the program.

At our Makerspace on Hangout Air, I was able to work on my Love-O-meter project and I am starting to feel that I need to spend more time with my Arduino to keep building on the progress I have made.  I have only been taking screenshots and it’s something I have to keep reminding myself to do, especially when we are already in a Hangout as a class.  I’ve tried setting up my makerspace to take video but it has been challenging to take close-up video (so you can actually see the wiring) while operating the Arduino!  I will use screenshots for now but am invested in figuring out how to take video as I am working on each project.  Stay tuned!

In reading about other projects, it was amazing to see how others would use making and tinkering in their classes and how in some ways it seems to be an appropriate format for teaching and learning, but at the same time it would take a lot of time and effort to plan and implement – something all teachers already have very little of in their regular schedule.

@teacherNDaNorth shared her ideas for a time-lapse photography project with many possibilities for including making.  I suggested connecting the project to a wider audience – local photography artists, festivals or businesses to give students’ work more exposure but to also help them connect their project and interests into real world experiences.  With media there is always potential for sharing with other students across the world, and the subject of their time-lapse photography project – climate science and geography, would be relevant anywhere.  @teacherak14 wrote about collaborating with other teachers and I shared that interdisciplinary units would be an ideal way to incorporate a making project because students would be supported to connect different content areas to their topic.  I suggested that her Endangered Species Unit could be an documentary which would enable students to also learn the skills and strategies involved in filming, writing, and producing, in addition to the science and social studies aspects of the project.

@cherbabes demonstrated the potential of starting off with a simple yet big idea that could easily grow into more complex projects.  I suggested some related topics that came to mind and agreed that using differentiation and scaffolding the complex project could be useful as well.  I also recommended that students be able to evaluate and reflect on their work which might allow them to enjoy the different interpretations that their peers create on the same big idea.  @scottroleff shared some fun ideas for making projects in his classes.  Given the strict curriculum guidelines at his school, it was awesome to see the various ideas and possible projects that could develop from them.  As a crossover from the #uaemergtech blogging this week, it was good to make the connection to various industries utilizing makerspaces in framing project ideas with students, particularly if it is an area or topic of interest for them.  I recommended also using sports and the analytics involved to show probability and statistics and that flipped learning with the projects might be another approach if he has limited time in class to include tinkering and making for projects.

@ortizjad4est wrote about teaching Arduino and having students create their own projects, she had a lot of great ideas for incorporating making and tinkering with her students.  One thing that came up for me as I read other blogs was that makerspaces had great potential for meaningful PBL projects but that teachers would need to balance their planning with allowing students to reach their own discoveries.  I commented that students would probably learn skills and concepts as they needed them in their project while teachers often want to organize stages and have skills and concepts come before actual making.  I feel very strongly that to incorporate makerspace but then to script when and how students work on their projects would defeat the purpose of making and tinkering; it would not be any different from most class projects that the teacher has planned, including outcomes and rubrics for final products.  More than funds for materials and tools, this conflict of interest creates the greatest challenge for educational makerspaces, if the pedagogy behind them gets absorbed into the traditional structure of the “typical” school and classroom.  There is a growing community of educational makerspaces and they will play a great role in determining if this will lead to greater shifts and improvements in how teachers teach and learners learn.

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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