Invent to Learn Workshop


Last week I attended a two day workshop with those maker experts, Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.  The authors of the pivotal maker book, Invent to Learn, were in town for this workshop and one in Edmonton.

In a school learning commons setting, 100 of us listened, played, experimented and collaborated.  We used kits on the first day to experiment with programming (Hummingbird), circuit completion with sticky LED lights and copper tape, and with fabric and conductive thread.  Makey-Makey kits were also available to create with.  Our table had a large kit of littleBits with various extra components.

The second day was a bit of talk then we walked the walk.  Each group created a bird programmed using Snap and the Hummingbird sensors and motors.


Did we get direct instruction? Were we guided into the kits with warnings and directives to follow? Nope, we were challenged to dig in and see what we could come up with.

I think everyone learned plenty from the experience of using the kits rather than sitting through “learning how to use the kits.” To be wholly engaged in learning without the mammoth instruction that usually precedes the use of new technology was a refreshing experience.

Our group had 4 teachers, and 3 “specialists,” that is, not classroom teachers.  Everyone had expertise to contribute to our project.  None of us had worked with the Hummingbird kit. All of us contributed in some way to the design, creation and automation of our bird.

How did we learn? We talked to each other and other groups.  We concentrated by ourselves on the logic of the problem.  We googled (a bit). We observed.  We wired and re-wired, clicked and dragged code and then clicked and dragged different code.  We were loud and messy.  We laughed and cheered.  And we all thought how exciting it would be if this sort of learning took place in every classroom.

To see the results, click here.



The Importance of an E-Portfolio

My previous experience in an elementary school saw us trying to have all of our students develop an e-portfolio to add to year to year.  Some attempts were more successful than others but one thing never changed.  Every student was excited to document to process of their learning on their e-portfolio and even more proud to present their work to teachers and parents.  Having the work documented over the year and year to year meant every students saw the evidence of their learning and their progression as a learner.

An e-Portfolio is a great place for students of any age to collect their learning into one place and develop it into a sort of on-line resume.  In order to collect items for your e-Portfolio begin by gathering artifacts of your learning.  These may be physical items that are photographed for your e-portfolio such as prototypes, objects, or metaphorical items. For example, a photograph of a globe may be an artifact for the use of social media to connect to a classroom in another country.

A reflection is a piece of writing to accompany your artifact telling how this artifact contributed to your teaching and learning, what was successful about the learning and, perhaps, what you would change for next time.  These reflections can be the outcome of a blog, on-line journal or hand-written journal that you are keeping as a reminder of these initial stages of teaching or the continuation of your education.

Once you have collected these artifacts and reflections, spend some time describing your philosophy of teaching and learning.  The emphasis you see in the artifacts that you have collected or the themes that continually are present in your reflections should make this document easier to write than before you have done the initial work.  Leave room in your philosophy for growth and change because you will not be the same teacher, educator or person after a few years in the field.

Collecting other certificates of professional development and items that have contributed to the teacher and learner that you currently are can be kept in the folder as well and you can pick and choose what you would like to be visible to a prospective employer.

A digital copy of your resume should also be included.

Your e-portfolio should be a living document.  Spend some time each week or couple of weeks or after a particularly successful unit, lesson or learning outcome to update your e-Portfolio.  The field of education means you may be changing classrooms or schools or post-secondary institutions more often than you thought and your e-portfolio provides continuity for various experiences.

I haven’t spoken of particular platforms or software but this general introduction will have you on the look-out for items to include when you decide how you will be working on your e-portfolio.