Making in High School

Bibliotech header for Blogger

Yesterday, I attended a webinar hosted by Michele Luhtala, Head Librarian at New Canaan High School, Connecticut.  The webinar chronicled the first year of her maker space in the high school in which she works.  The many ways she used to introduce materials and kits into the space was interesting and how she used the space over time may just give you the encouragement to start one in your own classroom or to plan maker activities for your practicum.

A few of the highlights for me include the use of freezer paper on the tables to act as part doodle pad, part idea planner.  Introducing a few activities at a time seemed to work well for her instead of making it a materials free for all. Having students as “Texperts” worked well in that, although Ms. Luhtala could troubleshoot with most of the making, each student texpert leads the way with special technologies.  What a great leadership model for many students.

Also, keep in mind, this is a maker space on a very frugal budget.  Instead of spending on the furniture and decorating, the simple act of emptying out the space opened up many possibilities for making.  Notice the evolution of desk placement for her during the year.  This one migration of her personal space speaks volumes about her commitment and passion for the students and their independent and collaborative work.

This one maker space example shows the investment of staff and students in this one unique space in a school can change the whole tone within the school.  This is a space that accepts students unconditionally where they are at (notice the blogger who talks about scouts against the unchanging green screen) and where students exceed expectations while finding knowledge.

I think this kind of learning could do called “doing knowledge” as students experience and “play” with materials to create and invent unique prototypes.  There is not enough of this type of unstructured, constructionist learning  in most schools.  Introducing space and time with materials can encourage great learning.

Michele Luhtala’s blog can also offer insight into her success and learning about this first year of making.

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LEGO Mindstorms Robots

LEGO Mindstorms robot kits were the focus of the workshop last evening.  Although our robots had already been constructed by another class, we enjoyed the programming aspect of the kits.images

The programming software that accompanies the robots is fairly straight forward, especially if you have been experimenting with Scratch Jr. or any of the other beginning programming apps that I recently suggested.  The touch sensor and colour senor gave us an idea of how we could program directions for the robot in case of hitting a wall or following a path on a mat.

Our instructor had patience to allow us to experiment with changing many of the programming variables and testing out the results.

I am convinced that these robots, although costly, would be a great addition to any middle or high school setting.  As students watch the immediate effects of their programming changes, they are learning programming logic and design.

I will also learn how to build the robots and send them on various tasks to develop an idea of how far the robots and their programming goes but for now, it looks like they are a great investment. It was totally engaging and hands-on. I was absorbed by the learning and never looked at the clock.

I can imagine the excitement in a grade 5 or 6 class when these kits are introduced. It would be hard to concentrate on anything else.  I would suggest setting aside time each day to work on the building and equipping of the robots before the programming ever starts and having LEGO mentors from among your class to help facilitate those who are less familiar with the steps to build LEGO.

The kits offered amazing engagement for all of us.