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.