Initial Post Week 10, EDET677: Essential Question: Why does “Lewis Angapak Memorial School (LAMS)” need a Makerspace?

Aleta May

Initial blog week 10 EDET677

Essential Question: Why does “Lewis Angapak Memorial School (LAMS)” need a makerspace?

At Lewis Angapak Memorial School (LAMS), we serve a very, very high percentage of students who live in lower-income households. At the heart of a growth mindset is the students’ beliefs about whether “you can learn new things, but you can’t change a person’s intelligence” (Sparks, 2016, p. 2). Since “a growth mindset was a greater predictor of success for poor students than it was for their higher-income peers” (Sparks, 2016, p. 2), when persistence and grit were promoted, according to research completed by Claro, Dweck, and Paunesku in Chile with 168,000 10th Grade students. Students from poverty are more likely to have a fixed mindset, believing that they cannot change their skill sets or intelligence. I believe many students have this fixed mindset at LAMS.

For example, when new teachers come to our school to teach from an outside state, often I hear statements that reflect this fixed mindset. More specifically, the students have been taught overreliance on the teacher for help. Martinez & Stager (2013) have led me to realize that we are definitely not alone: “Kids have been taught through the years to expect teachers to spoon-feed them detailed recipes for success” (p. 190). What is even more eye opening is that “removing that safety net may cause some cognitive dissonance, especially for your most successful students” (Martinez & Stager, p. 190). We are on track in changing this at the elementary levels so that students have a growth mindset.

Furthermore, I believe incorporating technology and other creative making into the content areas will help students delve deeper into the meaning of what they are learning—in every content area. A Makerspace provides a place for creating with other students and can become a shared space that inspires students when they see other projects in the making.

At LAMS, we need two areas for Makerspaces. I have gone through this in more depth in another blog post; so in summary, one space would be for older students upstairs in our school with the more dangerous making tools while another would be in a portion of our library and in my room which is right next to the library.

To encourage a growth mindset across the grade levels this coming year, we need to begin with kits like the Arduino Circuits kits. For example, when students are taking physics this fall in 9th grade, there will be a section of the text devoted to learning about atoms, which fits exactly in with using kits to get started using hands on learning to build computational literacy. Students will learn programming and electronics (focusing on ‘how’) in the form of “material computational literacy” (Berland, 2016, p. 197) one of three components of computational literacy. Arduino Kits start students out with copy and paste code, and gradually build into adding code. Then our LAMS students need to discuss with each other and clearly articulate “to whom and for whom” through “social computational literacy.” The skills of explaining to others will build our students teaching and speaking skills along with technical skills. “Cognitive computational literacy” describes why (p. Berland, 197).

Specifically, students at LAMS may have a different way of viewing the world from the textbooks they encounter. “Schank argued that humans build up linked, recursive models (called scripts and schema) and learn when those models prove insufficient.” At LAMS, facilitated experimentation with “productive failure” in making and tinkering will guide our students toward how to analyze a problem through critique and evaluation. I appreciate how Berland states that “understanding the problem space—is a key move towards literacy rather than raw skill or knowledge” (p. 201).

Loertscher, Preddy, & Derry (2013) propose a model to describe a Maker, Using, Tinkering, Experimenting, and Creating (uTEC) Maker Model. This is how I visualize LAMS transitioning students from being teacher dependent to independent creating.

  • Beginning at the Using level, students “re-create something others have already created,” . . . follow “step-by-step instructions already developed by another to create . . . at the consuming level” (p. 3).
  • The Tinkering level, is a formative stage that involves “questioning the how  and why”; such as “altering code just to see what happens” (p. 3).
  • The Experimenting level, is where students leave behind things that others created and begin to design something new. This is the stage where “ideas begin to flow, trial and error are enacted as hour after hour slips by unnoticed” (p. 4). I want students at LAMS who are at this level to think critically and ask questions like: “I like this idea; not that. Does this work? What if? No, not right yet. . . . What if?” (p. 4).
  • At the highest level, Creating level, students will work to think independently and as a group to create “a novel product or design” p. 4). At this level, students share their intelligence as a collaborative group so that “what emerges is greater than the sum of the minds that created it.”

Here is an example of a young man in TED Talks developed through these stages from tinkering “In the Maasai community where Richard Turere lives with his family, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.”

I agree with Berland who states that experimentation “requires prior understanding of the problem space . . . and with tinkering “learning what might happen through making semidirectedly and failing” . . . is “productive failure” (p. 201). The students at LAMS bring a perspective from their own environment that may require facilitating a bridge between what they know and understand within their own environment and what the textbook is teaching. Richard Turrere in the TED talks YouTube clip solved a problem with lions through an understanding of electronics he had built up over time. Being from different environments from the majority population does not equate a fixed mindset; rather it obliges the teacher (as well as administration’s responsibility to take responsibility for educating themselves on the importance of making at LAMS and the district level) to facilitate connecting that bridge.

References

Berland, M., Making, tinkering, and computational literacy (Chapter 12). In Makeology: Makers as learners (volume 2), (2016). Peppler, K., Halverson, E. R. and Kafai, Y. (Eds.). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Loertscher, D.V., Preddy, L., & Derry, B. (2013). Makerspaces in the school library learning commons and the uTEC maker model. Teacher Librarian, 41(2), pp. 48-51.

Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (Ph.D.) (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Sparks, S.D. (July 20, 2016) . Growth mindset: How much can it counter poverty’s damage? Education Week’s Blogshttp://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2016/07/growth_mindset_how_much_can_it.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2

YouTube Video:

Turere, R. (Feb. 2013). My invention that made peace with lions. 7:20. TED. Retrieved 7-21-16.  http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_turere_a_peace_treaty_with_the_lions

6 thoughts on “Initial Post Week 10, EDET677: Essential Question: Why does “Lewis Angapak Memorial School (LAMS)” need a Makerspace?

  1. catherinesquared

    I relate when you write about the fixed mindset of poor income students. I witness it daily in my class. I have also found these same students are my most resourceful. I see them as being more at ease and excited using a makerspace than my typical ‘A’ students. Sometimes the ‘A’ students are the ones who are most uncomfortable, because suddenly they aren’t quite sure what is expected of them. There isn’t a strict set of steps to how they earn their grade. I can totally imagine your kiddos bringing in items they have at home or that could be recycled to use in their tinkering. I am excited for you and your school to create a makerspace! I watched the video about Richard Turere and I am crazy inspired. I have already downloaded a copy for myself to show to my students. I think it is important for them to see other people their age doing amazing things. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
    1. aletakmay Post author

      Catherine,

      I am so glad you are inspired by that YouTube clip. Although it is 7 mins. it was so inspiring to me as well! One big need our students have is how to fix their bicycles–from chains to leaky tires. I wonder if the dump could start sorting trash into metals, like bicycles, with the idea in mind of reusing. Catherine, our kids are Can Do kids–and I am so proud of those ‘A’ students because often they swim against the odds in life. However, I’m ready to ‘shake it up’ as well.

      Aleta

      Reply
  2. tessiesim

    Aleta,
    I also see students who are overly dependent on teacher support to do any tasks, and even to get started. Even in a small group, they can suck all of my time and energy or just sit when there is no one to directly help them. I agree that teaching a Growth Mindset and modeling it ourselves is important to get these students to try and realize that it’s okay to make mistakes. I like the stages you describe in transitioning to a Maker Model. It’s important that we scaffold this idea rather than expect overnight change in how our students function independently. I think your idea of starting with kits and more specific tasks is key to gradually letting them create more independently. I hope to hear more about how you implement these changes in your school.

    Reply
  3. aletakmay Post author

    Amy,

    Scaffolding seems to make sense to me–and breaking the cycle at the early primary stages. Maybe this is where blended learning comes in as well. Students may need to work on computer assignments, then rotate to a making station. Again, time and grade level of students affects all of this. Also, teachers need IT support and kits at least in the beginning as part of that scaffold.

    Thank you for your feedback, as it keeps my dreams into the top end of moving forward, but in a successful way teachers can manage.

    Aleta

    Reply
  4. katemullin17

    I love your transitioning levels to get students to be independent users of the makerspace! In fact, I really enjoyed everything about your post: the video clip, the two different makerspaces for your school, and the idea that your students view the world differently than the textbook (absolutely!). I was prepared to write about one or all of these in depth, but then I got to the comments, and those are what truly grabbed my heart.

    “Scaffolding seems to make sense to me–and breaking the cycle at the early primary stages.” The cycle of teacher dependence is so detrimental to students actually learning material. Discovery is such an important part of the process, but often educators just “spoon-feed” information as a means to cover all the material or simply because it is easier. Helping students understand their part in the process, their responsibility in being an active part of the learning process, is a very real challenge, especially when working with students use to the system of teacher-led learning.

    I started my career as a secondary teacher in rural Alaska. I had never been more frustrated in my life. Each day, as I worked with my students who were barely able to read, who couldn’t write, who didn’t understand math, I wondered to myself, “Where did the system fail these kids?” (One example was the student who had passed prealgebra the previous year with an A by redoing the same eight lessons until she received 90% or better on each of those lesson…except there were 165 lessons to cover in the prealgebra curriculum, 157 of which she never did). I wasn’t ready to jump on the bandwagon of allowing minimal effort for full credit, further perpetuating the cycle, but as a first year teacher, I had no experience and very few resources to draw upon. To make matters worse, I kept hearing over and over, “They are just village kids,” as if to say they were born with different learning abilities than the rest of the kids in the world or they didn’t deserve to be educated at the same level.

    This experience is what spurred me to return to the land of student loans to pursue a degree in elementary education. One cannot simply sit on the sidelines and hope for change to happen. I needed to be a part of that change. I needed to experience the difficulty of changing that fixed mindset, from my students, to their parents, to staff members. I taught the youngest students (K-3) and even this group showed resistance to owning their education, but over time and with a lot of hard work from ALL of us, this group of students learned to value their role in learning.

    Every child deserves a great education, and the students at your school are lucky to have you!

    Reply

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