Category Archives: Mechanical Applications of Technology EDET 677

Week 6 Initial EDET677: What stuff will you stock your making space with, what’s the cost, and how will you fund it?

Aleta May
EDET 677 Mechanical Applications of Technology with Dr. Graham
Week 6 Initial Post

This week’s essential question just happens on the first ever week called “National Week of Making” (officially started on June 17 through June 23) that will unveil several new initiatives and begin by expanding across 50 states in more than 1,400 schools: https://thejournal.com/articles/2016/06/20/president-unveils-new-initiatives-during-national-week-of-making.aspx?admgarea=Features1&m=1

A Maker Promise includes a K-12 school leader who will support their school or district by setting aside space for making, and showcasing student projects after having a making campaign. In the planning stages are commitments by schools , companies/organizations that will set up coding labs, fab labs, mobile labs for further community access, as well as pilot programs and more.

At the website listed in the references, “Where to Buy Supplies,” website is a whole list of weblinks for places shoppers may go to buy supplies for their Makerspace. Since I know that my new administrator wants to bring in at least one 3D printer to our school, In Libow & Stager, on page 154, there is a percentage list for allocating a budget for setting up a FabLab. I went to the link listed on this page: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U-jcBWOJEjBT5A0N84IUubtcHKMEMtndQPLCkZCkVsU/pub?single=true&gid=0&output=html and found out that the cost of their Fab Lab Inventory as of 6-24-16 had gone up from the writing of the book by about $6,650. Since this is listed for the MIT budget, of course it is very expensive. Two points come to my mind. First, the prices of items are rising, and our school’s focus could be more on percentages. At this point, what I do know is that 3D printers would fall under the major equipment purchase category; and our textbook recommends that this type of equipment be around 40% of the budget.

Also, I realize that there is a wide array of 3D printers, and that new makers need equipment that is both durable, and where the filler for making items is affordable. In the rural area of Alaska where things are either flown in or sent in on a barge, the chemical content of some liquids, fillers, etc. can add significantly to the shipping price tag—so this is a definite consideration. Also, a 3D printer needs to come with company support for troubleshooting any issues encountered during the making process. This can be in the form of video clips and pdfs., but will also need to include strong customer service; maybe even over Skype. Assuming this will become a trend across the district, albeit gradually, we may need technology support in Bethel who can come in to fix a machine.

Other percentage categories from the budget include 10% for each: spare parts for equipment, electronic parts and consumable supplies, tools, and computer or tablets and Android devices that are “easier to create apps for” Martinez & Stager,” 2013, p. 143), and finally “books, safety equipment, cleaning supplies, office supplies and storage” (Martinez & Stager, p. 154). To stock a Makerspace, Hlubinka (2013) mentioned that each school is very individualized. I remember thinking about clearing out a section upstairs in our school for a book room arranged by themes and levels that are in sets teachers could checkout for their class. Since we have such space issues in our school, I do believe that we can have some space cleared out of the library for placing big, shared items.

We can also clear out an area for students to go upstairs for completing projects. This fall, our school program will continue to be split 50%/50% for dual language through the 5th grade, but this will now go all the way down to Kindergarten instead of starting with 2nd grade. The students stay in the same room while teachers move between classrooms to teach two grade levels. With some classroom sizes larger than others, carving out a corner for making may be limited. Carrying items up and down the steep stairs is not safe for most of the elementary students. So likely the more dangerous tools and projects would be located up stairs. Setting up more than one Makerspace area will likely affect the budget.

This means that basic stocks will fall into the categories listed on page 147 of Libow & Stager:

• Electronic parts and tools
• Computers, cameras, software
• Craft and art supplies
• Building materials and traditional tools
• Junk for recycling into new products
• A library

Hlubinka (2013) makes a good point that “No matter how durable the tool, equipment always begets more equipment. Hand tools need toolboxes or cabinets to organize them. Battery-powered tools need charging stations” (p. 4). This goes on further to imply that other items that may not initially considered in a list are vacuums, first aid kits, filters for equipment, sharpening blades, and more. It seems like to me that it would work best to start out building Makerspace(s) that are focused according to grade levels. Maybe the younger students could start with very simple tablet coding programs, like an open source dialect of Logo called Scratch, that uses turtle animation to replace text-based programming with snap-together blocks” (p. 137, Libow & Stager) where they can animate stories. The next grade levels could start using LiliPad Arduino for Flora for creating “wearable computing construction materials” (p. 124, Libow & Stager) to work with fabrics and electronics.

A Makerspace library should include pre-bookmarked sites set up to go to Make Magazine Arduino, Super Awesome Sylvia’s Simple Arduino Projects, and Instructables for project ideas (p. 125, Libow & Stager). Books that support Arduino and other platforms students use can line shelves in that bookroom I mentioned earlier, for a variety of age levels.

Setting up a Makerspace by buying used, as suggested by Hlubinka (2013) is a good idea. I bought a very sturdy table for setting up a Makerspace in my home this summer off Craig’s List. I think putting out a wish list to the community Calista Corporation leaders and our schoolboard members might be a way to have an initial Makerspace “shower” and item tagged money-tree, for our new area. Since the article by Chang mentions support by Chevron, maybe we can gain support in Alaska from large oil companies to reconstruct or build new Makerspaces.

References

Chang, R. (6-20-16). Maker movement: President unveils new initiatives during national week of making. https://thejournal.com/articles/2016/06/20/president-unveils-new-initiatives-during-national-week-of-making.aspx?admgarea=Features1&m=1

Gabreski, G. (Retrieved June 24, 2016). Where to buy supplies
http://mbusdmakerspace.weebly.com/where-to-buy-supplies.html

Hlubinka, M. B. (2013). Stocking up school makerspaces.

Libow, M., S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. (Chapters Six, Seven and Eight)
EDE

EDET 677 Week 5 Initial Blog Essential Question: What is the relationship between teaching and learning?

Aleta May
EDET 677 Mechanics of Technology with Dr. Lee Graham

The computer programs I have used at school; such as Reading programs– Lexia, Compass Learning, Imagine Learning, assisting with the Read 180 program and Math programs Dreambox while touching on ALEKS Math, are all wonderful tools for an individualized blended learning environment. But it is so important to remember that these are programs designed to deliver curriculum—and can become robotic and even counterproductive if the teacher is not closely monitoring student progress within the medium of computer learning.

In Martinez & Stager (2013), the mantra, Less Us, More Them (LUMT) was introduced. This means we need to support our students; usually after waiting to be asked, but also by making ourselves available by walking around observantly. The goal is not fruitless struggling, rather “Wise teachers know when to dispense the smallest dose of information possible to ensure progress” (p. 71). This theory of learning rests on contructivism that is “progressive, child-centered, open-ended, project-based, inquiry-based” (p.71). The theory of teaching is constructionism—where teachers bring together new experiences that are associated with what students know and to be available at a natural moment in time – while being willing to let go of making sure every student gets the same “right” information delivered to them without any opportunity to tinker with objects and resources to experiment with and discover ideas. We need to set up environments for learning that bring about teachable moments that can be fully utilized when they occur. This 8 minute YouTube clip captures the teachable moment in a way that connects teaching and learning by setting up for a Leaning Mindset that includes not just a growth mindset, but a sense of trusting the teacher, belonging, and class goals are relevant to their personal lives:

The Cognitive Principles of Effective Teaching Video 5 of 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1QTaK2wmBQ

Prior knowledge needs to be correct in order to build on it. How do experts use this knowledge? Why does what I am learning matter. Formative assessments are valuable for immediate feedback for both students and teachers. Teachable moments need to be long-term. By using the information, students gain information they need for building understanding, and in turn using this knowledge over at least three times (in different ways). When students are completely involved in the concept, they are more likely to recall it from long-term learning.

I found a site where I can go to, select a subject (math), select video and type in a topic (area & perimeter) and get to videos or interactive games: http://pbslearningmedia.org
http://kyuk.pbslearningmedia.org/search/?q=area+%26+perimeter&selected_facets=&selected_facets=

Using these can help the teacher capture a teachable moment and individualize learning. This is the Twitter handle: #PBSLovesTeachers

I believe that teachers’ professional identities are strongly impacted by factors like how the teachers around them view their roles, how safe a teacher feels trying out new pedagogies when they are being observed for using perhaps more traditional methods, and most of all how teachers view themselves as confident educators through their own beliefs and knowledge. Gee suggested “that a person’s identity is related to being recognized in a given context” (Bjuland, Cestari, & Borgensen, 2012, p.4). Related to this is the idea of using narrative to teach. This is similar to using think-alouds to teach, the teacher goes through a narrative process as he/she shows students their thinking by letting them in on their own process as they teach. When we solidify our thinking by self-reflection, we are in the process of thinking through how we will engage students through similar narratives, even when we teach math.

What is just as important is when we create an environment of pedagogic discourse is to allow for dynamic discourse—talk that is less regulated by the teacher and more shared between the students, rather than making them the regulated. The teacher takes on the role of being regulator only as needed. A resistant identity “complaining/arguing with the teacher, finding fault with/making fun of the teacher, blaming/doubting the teacher, challenging/refusing his authority” (Park, 2008, p. 9) is the result of legitimizing the power structure in “seemingly normal classroom interactions as pedagogic discourses between teachers and students as the regulator and the regulated in a classroom” (Park, p. 9).

Teachers will need to change “how they view themselves and their work in the context of their discipline and how they define their professional status” (Brownell & Tanner, 2012, p. 339). In my role as an educator, I have served primarily as support staff. I teach students individually and in small groups, I have gone room-to-room to teach English Language Development, and used music to teach speaking fluency. The changes in my roles are numerous. I have definitely experienced the changes in my own professional identity and often considered what the “rules of membership of that discipline” (Park, p. 341). I have a lot of control over how I am perceived, but not completely. There are many perceptions of how a special education teacher should teach, usually without consideration to the whole picture of how I would actually serve a number of students with highly different ages and needs. There really is not a professional culture of special education teaching anymore—as it has already gone through so many changes and adjustments.

In my role as a reading specialist is not necessarily the same from one day to the next either—direct teaching in small groups with a novel, teaching reading skills through content area reading, bringing students up to the level of their peers on a fast track, analyzing reading data for teachers, and coaching. I think as a technology professional, I will need to keep my professional identity in line with that of current research readings, needs of my school and district, and keeping students up to date through immersing them into as much information about the various uses of data as possible in order to prepare them for their future careers.

References

Bjuland, R., Cestari, M. L., & Borgensen, H. E. (2012). Professional mathematics teacher identity: Analysis of reflective narratives from discourses and activities. J Math Teacher Educ. Springer.

Brownell, S. E. & Tanner, K. D. (Winter, 2012). Barriers to faculty pedagogical change: Lack of training, time, incentives, and . . . tensions with professional identity? CBE Life Sciences Education. The American society for cell biology. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3516788/

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

Park, Hyu-Yong (2008). “You are confusing!”: Tensions between teacher’s and student’s discourses in the classroom. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 43(1), pp. 4-13.

Week 4 Reflection EDET677: Essential Question: What project could help me integrate my content with making?

By Aleta May

During this week, I did explore how a maker space might look in my small classroom and how it might soon be connected to the library with a 3D Printer. I explored the idea of how students would make something to support a project or theme they are working on in their classroom. I found a very useful “Rubric for the 6 Facets of Understanding by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe Understanding by Design at: http://www.newtown.k12.ct.us/Portals/Newtown/District/docs/District%20PLC/6%20Facets%20of%20Understanding.pdf

This will be very a very helpful guideline for the evaluation piece of any project based theme or activity. It really helped me to focus on the overall structure for planning the rest of the project when I read Teresa’s blog post. She selected a theme and three standards for students to choose from. Then she used the guide from Martinez and Stager on pages 58-59 to answer eight questions regarding the structure and meaning of her project; from the purpose and relevance, to connecting students and sharing results.

Point number four on p. 58 state that “Children have a remarkable capacity for intensity that is rarely tapped by the sliced-and-diced curriculum” (Martinez & Stager, 2013). The way I have worded this many times to colleagues when I explain that I have trouble “sticking to the curriculum” is that in order to really reach students with what is in the text is to make those ideas come alive! This is one way I have realized that I am really more contructivist in my philosophy than I had previously realized. Many things have slowed this down to just pursuing very basic hands-on manipulative ways of helping students visualize math, or the elements of a story; and finding a way to get students to discuss a book together.

There is so much to learn by reading the blog posts of colleagues in this class!

Below are comments I made to colleagues in class this week:

Josie,

Your opening statement rang true with me—“with a growth mindset and sense of adventure,” anything can happen. I’m in my home in Oregon for the summer and recognize the Legos comment as exactly true here—it starts out as a step-by-step kit, then it all goes into one big tub.

Wow, I really love the Lego math examples for building square numbers and relating fractions! How are the students guided to ask reflective questions in the contemplation stage?

Continuing new tasks that immediately builds on prior learning reminds me that we need to give students plenty of time to create and learn. One reason for this would be to solidify the original learning by using it again as a foundation to learn from.

I wonder if the Lego materials could add the arts ‘A’ to their repertory to make connections between Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM).

Aleta

Catherine,

Check out this CircuitScribe YouTube link! I wonder how you could use this pen to draw out linear equations; such as for, designing a building in architecture. The CircuitScribe is a ball point pen that writes with conductive silver ink.

I think sufficient time is one of the most important elements of a good project. If a project is related to a class project, then sometimes finding a space to store the ongoing project can become another element – space. What about when students move in and out of a classroom—it is good to view other classes projects, but space can be an issue. Well—I found a design for floating shelves today at http://makezine.com/projects/floating-shelves/ Maybe this would be a solution.

Collaborating would help teachers see standards emerging in projects that the teacher closest to the project(s) might overlook. Emerging understanding is part of grasping that teachable moment. Maybe posting standards on the wall as a partial guideline for students to think about—going back to keeping students responsible for their own learning.

Amy,

It really helped me to revisit the three types of projects for students. This helps me to answer questions about the teacher’s role as well. I am also a special education teacher. I think integrating making to improve-writing would work well. This could even be technical style write with bullets. Another way might be to express what they read by making a scene read about in the book, then dictating to an audience where a teacher or another student acts as a scribe for them (so they can rewrite this—seeing their own words appear on paper or as script to scenes they make). They could use the visual they made to help them know what to explain.

I notice that students really like to see their own stories hanging in the hallway. They seem to enjoy looking at other students’ writing as well. Laminating and binding them makes it into a real book. Your project gives me ideas, like using a prompt. I visualize your students taking pictures of what they make to add to their writings.

Such an awesome plan! Thank you for sharing.

Aleta

Teresa,

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I am so glad I read your post! It is organized so well. You pointed me in the direction of how using The Eight Elements of a Good Project from Martinez and Stager’s guide can be used in an actual project. Starting out with the standards for students to choose from was another great idea. I believe I will need to narrow my broad thinking now to one specific grade level (most likely for 9th grade students I will have that are on an individual education plan to help them create and write to a project in class with the curriculum they will be focused on; but allowing them time to work on this project way in advance of a classroom due date.

I visited the Makeymakey website you posted: http://makeymakey.com/gallery/

Wow, the project ideas are endless and very educational!

I found the Makey Shop. Here is a pdf file I found for making a game of operation that uses a combination of technology, like Scratch, foil, electrician’s and copper tape, chopsticks, and a cereal box. http://makeymakey.com/guides/pdfs/MaKeyMaKeyScratchOperationGame.pdf

Thanks for sharing your project and the site.

Aleta

EDET 677 Week 4: Essential Question: What project could help me integrate my content with making?

EDET 677 Mechanical Applications of Technology, with Dr. Lee Graham

Week 4 Initial Blog Post

by Aleta May 

In my current role as an educator, I am considered to be half-time special education teacher and half-time site test coordinator. This fall we will have a new Site Administrator (SA). He was an assistant principal in a village prior to accepting this position in our village. We have met and talked in person and one question he asked me is “So how can I use you for the other half of your day?” I told him that I had trained teachers to give some of the tests themselves and that with such a big turn over of teachers, I am not sure how many new teachers will come in already knowing how to administer MAP tests or AIMSWeb tests (I had been expected to give all of these when they first came to our school). I believe I will have less uninterrupted time during the many testing sessions that occur through out the year. There is also an individualized assessment for English Language Learners (ELLs) that has required me to stop and give this to about 120 or more each year. Teachers had refused to give the group ELL test, simply by not taking the required online test and that I needed backup authority to push group-wide teacher training on giving their own ELL group tests. This would leave me with make-ups in each testing area and the fall WorkKeys test. Since the new SA has testing experience at his prior position, and knew the teachers to give their own group ELL test, we freed my time up right there.

Further, we talked about using a 3D Printer (which will be the focus of my selected project). He was scouting out my very small room. He had talked with a technology person at our district office about using a 3D Printer for projects. Well, for one thing I was excited. For another, I don’t believe the new SA or myself really understood the word MakerSpace. He wanted to put a round table in my room, but it is not wide enough. I showed him how I could rearrange my desks to face each other and assured him I would clear out some things in my room to make more space. When he came back for a second visit, I was doing just that! He thought he had upset me. I explained that I had just recently decided to complete the Instructional Design and Technology Master’s degree, rather that taking it just part way. I explained as well that I have two other Master’s degrees, and that it may sound completely ridiculous to be going for a third, but that I knew enough to realize we are moving in a new direction in education. He said he did not think it silly, as he is pursuing a doctorate.

This SA showed my husband (Dan, a full time Special Education teacher with a lot of natural technology, electrician, etc. skills) what he plans to do with the small library space that is currently setting there in complete disarray. This space is just outside my room that has windows looking over to it. This SA was a building contractor prior to getting into education. Dan and I built our house. Okay, we have three outliers ready to go.

What is 3D printing? This emerging technology can not only print 2D, but can take printing to the level of “rapid prototyping, solid freeform fabrication, and most commonly, additive manufacturing (AM)” (Hughes & Wilson, 2016, p. 18). If laser beams are used, they can “fuse powdered particles together in layers” and in its beginnings, the peopleat University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, developed “sophisticated 3D computer-aided drafting (3D CAD) programs” (Hughes & Wilson, p. 18).

Here is an example of how a 3D printer could be used to create a Population relief map by usterwop:

Population Relief Map

This is a way that a 3D computer could be used by a student group studying population differences and impacts through social studies assignments.

A 3D Printer is something that could be added to a MakerSpace. It is not the all and all of the space. The idea is to create an environment, physically and via facilitation (the Contructivist educator) that allows students to make things. Most likely, these things will need to be part of a specific curriculum standard for a class. The facilitator/educator does not need to be an expert on everything students come in to work on. “It is unacceptable and unnecessary to deny children the opportunity to work on something they are passionate about because the teacher is not an expert in that particular field” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 64).

What I see myself doing as a classroom support specialist is helping to create a MakerSpace and connecting student projects to classroom goals for a variety of subject areas and grade levels. In an article by librarian, Margaret Sullivan (2015), she wrote about the library expanding beyond a world of finding answers to questions students propose to a 3D learning environment, breaking past the former 2D paper/pencil/book format to include: “new digital resources, technology tools, and an assortment of ever changing ‘stuff’ in a large, unbreakable space that can adapt to student learning endeavors” (p. 16). Keeping in mind that our school library space will be small (since a large chunk has been redesigned to be a classroom space), I think the factor that will organize it into a MakerSpace is a proper pedagogy that utilizes the space flexibly. The questions to ask, according to Sullivan (2015) include, “Can a student move from critically thinking about a question into inventing an answer with his hands? Can a student jump up with an idea, move to a workstation with a tablet or book in hand and engage with tools to build a model?” (p. 16). She affirms my thinking on getting together with classroom teachers to “expand the project-based curriculum” (p. 17). The next step is to showcase their projects. I notice that we have a glass case in the library that used to showcase new and interesting books—now it just showcases the same books as if they are molded into the case. Small to midsize projects can be placed here.

I think using a rubric called, “Rubric for the 6 Facets of Understanding” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe Unerstanding by Design, found at: http://www.newtown.k12.ct.us/Portals/Newtown/District/docs/District%20PLC/6%20Facets%20of%20Understanding.pdf  would be a good example guideline for evaluating student use of 3D Printer projects. The six facets are: explanation, interpretation application, perspective, empathy and self-knowledge. It may be that not all six would be used for each thing a student creates; rather some projects may focus more on application than perspective and vise versa. My reasoning is that this rubric framework rewards the student for creativity, deep thinking about these facets without being so directive that I stifle their creative ideas.

Another aspect of a MakerSpace K-12 environment that intrigues me is e-textile. According to Vanderwerff (2014), “an e-textile is a combination of physical-computing and textiles, where people create items like a turn-signal biking Jacket” (p. 2). I clicked on the link in this paper: http://web.media.mit.edu/%7Eleah/LilyPad/build/turn_signal_jacket.html  and thought of how popular it was one year to use reflective tape in our “culture week” activities the first year I was at my current school. I was assigned to this area, and I upped the engagement by finding silhouettes of NBA basketball players, and pretty designs. All of a sudden, even adults became interested in adding decorative reflector tape to their coats for safety as they walked along the boardwalks. I really think it would be very fun to go to a site like the one above to learn about adding LED lights, sensing switches, (and includes introduction to Arduino). This is so new to me; I want to explore more. This could be a project that aligns to health & safety curriculum project.

I think a MakerSpace is a natural addition to a school environment, and the library is the perfect place to guide students into project based learning that is aligned to their curriculum standards. The role of the facilitator might be to bring in small groups or individual students and make observations as to ways the project aligns specifically with curriculum standards to communicate with the classroom teacher. The student could then reflect on the standard(s) in writing to tie in what they have made, or are still making, and make the connections themselves. This is deeper thinking, because they are making, and reflecting on concepts rather than just ingesting what is delivered to them via books or instruction and expressed through content area vocabulary that has no meaning to the student(s).

The next step is for me to make this idea more specific. There are major steps to design an integrated curriculum unit. I will be following the seven steps and template from ConnectEd (2010) as I delve deeper into designing a unit. My inspiration for MakerSpace development is my own special education students who work so hard at academics and having a place for them to express their learning through hands-on design, thus motivating them to read and research the Internet a little deeper; thereby developing reading skills through natural engagement. As expressed by a principal in blogspot, a librarian with “a growth mindset and innovative spirit” can create a “learning environment that invokes relevancy and meaning in Chris’s school day” (Sheninger, 2014). With an overemphasis on academics without shop and arts, many students are left needing a space to make sense of their learning—through making. 

References

 ConnectEd, The California Center for College and Career (2010). Designing multidisciplinary integrated curriculum units, pp. 1-56.

Hughes, B. & Wilson, G. (2016). Technology and engineering teacher.

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

NAF (2016). Integrated curriculum: Making the connection between academic and technical subjects.   NAF Headquarters, New York, NY.Retrieved June 5, 2016 at: http://naf.org/our-approach/educational-design

Schninger, E. (2014). ApPrincipal’s reflections. http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2014/12/impact-of-makerspace.html

Sullivan, M. (2015). Maker, tinker, hacker? Active learning spaces in K-12 libraries. Library Media Connection, pp. 16-17.

Thingiverse: by Usterwop http://www.thingiverse.com Population relief map retrieved on 6-9-16 at: http://www.thingiverse.com/glitchpudding/collections/dataviz/page:1

Vanderwerff, A (2014, 14 May). Makers in the classroom: A how-to guide. EdSurge News. Retrieved June 5, 2016 at: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-05-14-makers-in-the-classroom-a-how-to-guide

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. Retrieved 6-9-16 at: “Rubric for the 6 Facets of Understanding” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe Unerstanding by Design, found at:

Web.media.mit.edu. Build: Turn signal biking jacket. Retrieved on 6-9-16, at: http://web.media.mit.edu/%7Eleah/LilyPad/build/turn_signal_jacket.html

EDET 677 Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not?

Mechanical Applications of Technology EDET 677

Aleta May

May 21, 2016

Essential Question: Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not?

Constructionism definitely brings old ideas back into the schools in an age that has more opportunity than ever to bridge technology to making and creating for real purposes.

 Constructive technology has received its heritage from tinkering! It is constructionism versus instructionism; and the framework of making, creating, is built upon an interdisciplinary point of view (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, 2013).

Instructionism has the teacher imparting knowledge to students with little consideration for how one subject (discipline) is related to another. The students are receivers of knowledge in this theory of teaching. What is often not considered is that the learner has an internal set of schemata (preformed ways of understanding based on what they already know from prior experiences). In the theory of constructivism, therefore, the teacher facilitates learning, because, “knowledge does not result from the receipt of information transmitted by someone else without the learner undergoing an internal process of sense making” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 13).

As far back as Jean Piaget (1896-1980), he reminded teachers to ground teaching in action, not rote memorization; and to begin “with real and material action” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14); and Piaget’s collegue, Seymour Papert, would later frame the educational establishment’s favoring of the former approach over the latter as a battle between instructionism and constructionism” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14).

John Dewey (1859-1952) promoted the interdisciplinary learning based in authentic projects; thus preparing children to observe, problem solve and create methodical procedures for expressing their reasoning. Dewey was concerned with viewing the process of learning from the point of view that children are more than intellectual beings! They are social, emotional, and physical. Modern making can be expressed in the words of John Dewey: “First, that the problem grows out of the conditions of the experience being had in the present, . . . the new facts and new ideas thus obtained become the ground for further experiences in which new problems are presented. The process is a continuous spiral” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14).

Is today’s maker movement based on such theories? In my view, yes! We have so much constructive technology available to us now. We can socially communicate our understanding and build our knowledge just from discussing our reasoning, ideas, and thoughts by way of hands-on technology. Considering this list alone, children and adults alike can communicate to create by using “3D printers, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computers, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and new programming languages” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, article, p. 13). Both formally and informally, any person can use sharing tools and find ideas with instructions online.

Born in 1928, in South Africa, Seymour Papert may inadvertently be the originator of the modern day term, metacognition. He was an advocate of “coercion-free learning environments that inspire children to construct powerful ideas through firsthand experience” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 18). As he grew up, he started by tinkering with automobile gears; which in turn led him to think about thinking in his tinkering experiences—metacognition. Years later, Papert began to wonder out loud why schools took a tool with such potential, the computer, and simply transferred rote learning to the computer; without realizing the potential of creating! In fact, in 1971, Seymour Papert wrote a paper entitled Twenty Things to Do with a Computer (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 19). With Papert’s theory as a basis, constructionism, is a learning stance that says we need to teach students to construct and share real artifacts.

Having graduating in the area of Home Economics / Social Services, I completely appreciate this comment: “Some of the time-honored practices that were common in classrooms a generation ago—art, music, drama, woodshop, sewing, cooking, playing with and using real tools and craft materials—nee to return to the daily experience of children trapped in schools with no time for anything but test prep” (p. 14). There is so much to learn that fits the paradigms of integrating content areas and hands-on learning. Fast forwarding to current day, there is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focus; however “STEM is still mostly science and mathematics, taught separately with little or no attention to technology and engineering” (Asunda & Mativo, 2016). So far, in the school district where I teach, the STEM program is located in Bethel. It appears to me, from the vantage point of our school, the math teacher has the most say in who “qualifies” to attend the semester long training, as there are limited spots to fill. I believe that a better way would be to develop project-based learning at the local level, which deals with solving local community issues while rotating groups of students to use the more expensive advanced resources in Bethel. Ideally, the units would be pre-planned with a vision for what the emphasis would be when they go to Bethel for a week or two at a time.

The purpose of project-based learning, that includes constructionism as well as constructivism, is to develop learning within the context. In one way, this is not new thinking. As the chapter opens up on page 11, it states: “Making things and then making those things better is at the core of humanity” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book). The difference now can be that with the computer age and multi-devices, “New open source microcontrollers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical world to the digital world” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, article, p. 13). We can program computer devices to use as controllers to make connections between the digital and physical worlds. This is an advantage with potential for everyday students to invent, create and apply making things to learning more than ever before. Learning becomes effective because it is goal oriented and situated within an environment that is meaningful to the students. A systems thinking model affords the opportunity for students to benefit from “the merging of the content from two or more disciplines “ (Asunda & Mativo, 2016, p. 10). More and more teachers will be drawn into a systems approach to teaching. Teacher planning will need to be mapped out as a team so that they can share expertise with each other. Students benefit when they are able to connect learning across contents, through hands-on projects, comprehend and retain what they learn. An example of integrated STEM process that integrates STEM programs begins with reflection to form the problem’s context; research to gather relevant information; discovery to help students determine what they need to know and how to break into small groups to solve the problem; application may be a stage for testing a model solution; and communication is where students learn to give and receive constructive feedback from each other and the expanded community (Laboy-Rush, extracted on 5-21-16).  Here is a link that gives a brief overview of how digital arts can be incorporated into a STEM Camp:

This STEM camp includes arduino microprocessors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wbU8bxP_yo

The simple design of the swing can be used to teach students “mathematical Pythagorean theorem to figure out swing position; using science in selection and use of energy equations; and using engineering and technology to determine loads applied to the A-frames and sketch the concept” (Asunda & Mativo, 2016, p. 12). What a project to design and make at the high school level for elementary schools!

Contructionism, in my opinion, is a reaction and response to the last several years of teaching subjects primarily in a non-integrated way, removing arts, welding, construction, mechanics, etc. in favor of a back to the basics of reading, writing and math—with science and social studies on the side. The current STEM movement is a method that integrates subject areas into meaningful projects. This maker / creator movement also implements authentic assessment; definitely a reaction to over testing in way too many separated areas. Assessment alone is another topic.

References

Asunda, P. A. & Mativo, J. (2016). Integrated stem: A new primer for teaching technology education. Technology and Engineering Teacher.

Laboy-Rush, Diana (extracted 2016, 21 May) from http://www.rondout.k12.ny.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_719363/File/12-13/STEM/STEM-White-Paper%20101207%20final%5B1%5D.pdf

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. S. (2014). The maker movement: A learning revolution. Learning & Leading with Technology.

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. S. (2013). Invent to learn: Makers in the classroom. Education Digest, 79(4), pp. 11-15.

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

“Summer STEM Camp 2016 at The Digital Arts Experience in Westchester, NY” and include arduino microprocessors: extracted on May 21, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wbU8bxP_yo .