At Lodestar, the academic year is underway, and with the innovative structures that we are implementing, there is always iteration, all the way down to the level of the structure of our lessons. Across the school, and especially in the Making, Art, and Design classes, we want to jump right into making and tinkering, to pique student interest and provide tangible opportunities for students to wrestle with challenging concepts.
Thus, in a maker-centered environment, educators face the following design challenge: how can we structure classes to minimize direct instruction and maximize hands-on activities? In addition, can we accomplish this while providing adequate time for reflection on the activity? More
For the past three years, Aaron and I have been co-facilitating a two-day workshop called Designing Making Experiences where our goal is to introduce educators to making and maker-centric learning through designing curriculum and prototyping projects that they can take back and use in their classrooms. We teach skills and tools as it becomes appropriate to each educator’s projects but we emphasize that this is not a workshop where they should expect to “get taught” how to use a 3D printer, Arduinos, etc.
While we love the DME workshop model and plan to continue running it, in our own classroom practices, we have been feeling a desire to explore the specific reasons behind why we want students to engage in making projects. The questions we keep returning to in our own practices are:
“How do we design making projects that are purposeful?”
“To what end are students engaging in making?”
“Are the making projects impacting students’ lives in a positive way?”
“If we can’t figure out why we want students to engage in a making project, is the project worth doing?”
(created by Rachel for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
(written by Rachel for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
A few years ago, I biked to a neighborhood church in Berkeley to see Naomi Klein, one of my all-time heroes, speak about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. During her talk, Klein – a master journalist, speaker, and storyteller – wove a pretty compelling narrative about the social, economic, and political systems that have given rise to climate change, how these systems are failing both the planet and the majority of humanity, and the need to confront and replace these dominant structures in order to weather the proverbial (and not-so-proverbial) storm. As she spoke about the next phase of climate activism, she offered a piece of advice that gave me goosebumps at the time and has stuck with me ever since: “Dream in public.” In other words, our most powerful tool in addressing social inequality and collapsing ecosystems is our collective ability to articulate and iterate a new vision of what might be possible. Our salvation lies in our imagination.
(written by Lara for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
Purposeful making allows for students to learn by doing. Teachers create safe and enjoyable spaces for students to learn, integrate and apply skills in a collaborative process, Students are able to ask questions, grapple with problems, create, experiment, receive feedback and design solutions to bigger, meanwhile they are taking ownership of their learning process. Prior to the DPME workshop, I have had no knowledge or experience with maker spaces, but I am so excited to learn more so that I can create more meaningful experiences for my students. I used my time in the DPME workshop to absorb as much information as possible and learn from all of the experienced minds in the room. I just completed my third year teaching high school geometry, where I executed the more traditional approach of teaching isolated skills from a textbook because the standards told me to do so. However, a question that constantly haunts me as an educator is “are my students’ learning experiences valuable?” I cannot answer this question affirmatively because the definition of valuable…or purposeful… is so ambiguous in the eyes of students, teachers, and the school. I have been tasked with the challenge to navigate between meeting the common core state standards and creating spaces for students to make meaning of the skills they’re learning. The DMPE workshop encouraged me to design a geometry unit that integrates computer programming with the course standards congruence and rigid transformations.
(written by Heather for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
In my history class a purposeful making experience needs to combine a purpose for the making with a purpose for the historical understanding. Both parts need to be significant, and the combination of the two purposes should be greater than either one together. Historical understanding enhances the making experience, making enhances the historical understanding.
(written by Hadiyah for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
Purposeful making: this idea is still uncovering itself. currently I am experiencing it as: growth-mindset, keeping it real and honest (checking-in and checking yourself!), how are you building in checking and balancing strategizes and against what standard(s)?, how does it connect, and to what (especially if it is obvious, Call. It. Out.)?, focusing on meaning overall and by various participants (org, team, individual, facilitator), coming back again (reference values/standards often throughout development)
Project: Collectively craft team social media space More
(written by Gary for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
After leading a monthly creativity workshop with the parents of Lighthouse, I saw firsthand how much fun and learning occurred based on all the positive feedback received. Comments from parents such as, “this was really fun”, and “i didn’t think i could do it when i started”, and “now i can relate more with what my kids are experiencing”, and my favorite, “thank you for the boot camp…i found out that i have muscles i didn’t know that i had”.
(written by Erin for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
I believe that all making is purposeful. Individuals will rarely take up a making project without there being a need for them to create something or to experience the process of making it. The notion of purposefulness, for me, becomes more muddled as the maker experience moves into a formal school setting. The question then becomes, “Whose purpose?” A project may fulfill the needs of a teacher or the school system, but not the student. Conversely, it may provide a great experience for the student and be purposeful to them, but not be seen as having purpose from the school’s perspective, depending on its values and mission.
(written by Dominic for Designing Purposeful Making Experiences, Jun 2017)
Purposeful making, to me, is making that meets the needs and/or wants of not only myself, or my students, or my school, or our community, but seeks to bring these categories together so that they can become more aware of their interconnectedness. Making can be meaningful to oneself personally, but it can become more meaningful when it helps the person to feel they can exist and contribute within the society around them in a capable and even unique way. This is why building a prototype for one’s own enjoyment can be just as meaningful as working in a team that is doing community outreach. Where the latter may be more explicitly focused outward, the former implicitly may be meaningful in that it allows a person to be present with one’s self, while also honing the skills or ideas that may positively impact one’s relationship with others.