Maker Faire 2.0

We are happy to say that we have successfully held our second annual Maker Faire in the Doucette Library.

Amid the bubbles, limbo, musical instruments and dress up clothing, we hosted about 300 students and their prototypes.  For anyone quick enough to think of the implications of this many prototypes in one place, they photographed lesson plans, materials and prototypes for a file of great ideas that may suit their teaching sometime in the future.

What exactly were we doing?  There was method in this madness for many reasons.  We were showing students what a Maker Faire in their school or classroom may look like.  We wanted students to see what kind of celebration students would take part in after working through their own problem solving using the design thinking process to prototype ideas and various outcomes.

We also wanted students to feel the engagement that is prevalent when design thinking is introduced into a project.  Creativity and innovation abound when few boundaries are put in place and students are allowed to draw on their own strengths to research and work through a problem.

We wanted also to celebrate the amazing work that has taken place over the last two years by these pre-service teachers.  As they launch to schools for their final practicum and to jobs in the teaching workforce, we hope they remember the Doucette Library has amazing resources for them to draw upon and that they return to make use of them.

And at this moment, I would like to thank my “partner-in-crime,” Tammy Flanders whose wonderful ideas and willingness to wear a tutu for a cause are second to none.  If you have a partner teacher like my partner librarian, your work life will be a breeze.  And I would also like to thank Dr. James Paul and his continual endorsement of the Doucette Library.  Our Maker Faire was a success because of all of the people involved.

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Maker Mindset

The Maker Movement is much more than just a space to provide students in the K-20 environment with a tricked-out place to “do” what they are learning.  A Maker Space without the mindset is just another static museum installation.  The pressure on schools, currently, to install a Maker Space complete with 3D printers and technology to rival NASA does not address the making at all.  The space is just a place before you gather the people with the maker mindset to facilitate within the space.

What does that look like? In most schools, it means looking around for staff who are “makers” and are naturally curious about the space and tools and match them with the space and students to see how the relationship works out.  Before teachers adopt making into curriculum teaching, they may need a chance to see what it looks like in an after school or lunch time club setting. The road to adoption for many staff may be in seeing the learning that goes on in the space before they imagine it working in a particular unit.

I am currently reading and working through the ideas in Creative Development by Robert Kelly.

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In a series of 5 workshops held here on campus by the author, we are learning about creativity, innovation, design thinking and collaboration and what each concept looks like in the future of education.  It is an exciting time to think what is possible if the learning is experienced by students at the hands of creative facilitators.  Although these notions won’t be adopted immediately into K-20 classrooms, the more we know about each concept and how to recognize it in teaching and learning, the better chance we have to be moving towards adoption.  More on these key concepts in upcoming blog posts.

The Maker Movement – Not only kits…

What if I told you the Maker Movement in classrooms is not just about the ingenious kits that you can purchase to introduce to students?  It is not only about the unique prototyping and creativity that comes from students.

What if I told you the making is about great citizenship?  What?  Not about the kits?  “Surely you jest!”  In a K-12 classroom there are learning opportunities that change from day to day (or in some classrooms stay the same from day to day) but in a maker class set up to appeal to K-12 students something else happens.

In an elementary maker classroom, students are gaining foundation skills other than how to complete a circuit or video and edit an iMovie.  Students are learning to co-operate, collaborate, take turns and negotiate with fellow classmates and other mentors in the room.  They are learning, sometimes most importantly, to listen carefully to someone else in order to solve a problem. They are learning to effectively communicate their own ideas to their peers and facilitators.  Some are learning to slow down and enjoy the process and others are learning how to observe, learn and apply their learning to new situations.

In middle school, challenges are beginning to show leaders in various fields and peer groups are, sometimes, the most important people in a student’s life.  In a maker classroom, we see new experts coming forth, peers learning to respect others and unusual groupings getting together to solve challenges.  Engagement in a middle school classroom looks like elementary in the noisy, active way but with more technology based solutions coming forth.

In high school, more sophisticated ideas are emerging in classroom maker spaces.  Students are using and learning foundation skills to solve authentic problems that they have invested time and energy in.  Engagement and investment from students comes from their brainstorming of solutions that address current problems they are aware of in the world at large.  Groups are formed with the solution in mind and students are focused on collaborating with a group that can further their goals.

Gaining these skills throughout each student’s experience in the K-12 classroom prepares them for life after their formal education.  Workplaces and post-secondary institutions value these “soft skills” that are acquired in classrooms that are innovative, student-centred and contain “making” as a focus of curriculum learning.

Start including hands-on making with the available materials in your classroom and see the evolution of a more caring, respectful classroom.

Also, one more practical tip, check out this link to an interview of Gary Stager of Invent to Learn given by the ATA.  He discusses all the most practical reasons why a Maker Space in your classroom makes sense.

Who do you follow?

 

As the adoption of educational technologies increases in the K-12 classroom, information about best practice is sometimes hard to find.  There are a few dependable blogs that I use for information on a regular basis.  These educators embed technology, sometimes effortlessly, into the environment in which they work.

The Unquiet Librarian is a high school librarian in Georgia.  The real world examples of her use of technology in the high school setting shows that a little innovation leads to a whole bunch of engagement.   Following this blog is an excellent way to try technology in your classroom without running a big risk.  Buffy Hamilton works through the lesson and the outcome and summarizes how the technology was successfully used within the lesson.

The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielson, takes on a big picture role.  As an educator, how do you use social media, cell phones or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to your advantage?  She takes her own experience and marries it to recent research and writes about common questions educators have about adopting emerging technology into their classrooms.  I like the personal mixed with the research to help look at how successful some educational technologies would be in specific classroom settings.

The Library Voice written by Shannon McClintock Miller was very interesting until she became “branded.”  Not in the Alberta sense of branded but in the educational technology sense.  Ms. Miller became very marketable so companies seem to be using her blog for advertising.  In the older posts, she used Twitter on iPads in the library to encourage students to tweet out their learning and share it with their parents during dinner.  The students at Van Meter School loved to Skype with authors, use the fixed and flexible maker space stations, blog, tweet and Instagram.  I learned a considerable amount from the older posts but I notice now I am visiting less often.

Kristen Wideen of Windsor, Ontario, Canada is the queen of adapting technology for her elementary classroom. This woman has no fear.  She integrates iPads seamlessly into curriculum and her students look totally engaged, all the time, on their YouTube channel, in blog posts, everywhere.  Does this woman sleep?

Not all blogs are created equal and not all are worthy of a following but check out a few and see what appeals to you.  Some of the best hands-on experience of educators is written about in blog posts now.  Notice that two of the blogs with great information are librarians who are also educators.  In some school environments, the person who adopts technology and offers a place and expertise for it is in the library.