Define Your Purpose
Tools not Toys
Bonus:Here are 2 invaluable resources that I highly recommend for any makerspace: Fab Foundation Lesson Plans, classroom-ready lessons designed by makerspace teachers all over the world Meaningful Making Books -free pdf download that includes lessons designed by k-12 FabLearn Fellows —
About the writer:With over a decade of experience in STEAM and maker education, Mark is passionate about project-based learning and teaching students to create with technology. He has worked with teachers and administrators all over the world to set up and design impactful learning experiences with makerspaces and related topics. One of his greatest accomplishments was through serving almost 30,000 US students with the high-tech makerspace on wheels called the Geekbus, which was recognized by the US White House (Obama Administration) for educational excellence in 2016. He speaks nationally about equity and access to STEAM and maker education and has presented at the Stanford FabLearn Conference, MIT Libre Learn Lab, SXSWedu, and other presentations in Hong Kong and Bangkok. In March 2016, he presented a TED Talk a TEDx San Antonio entitled “Everyone is a Maker, but Not Everyone has Access.” Now Mark spends his time in South East Asia as a learning experience designer, professional consultant, and a homeschooling father.
Just get started – be inspired!
This might be the hardest thing to do, but start with simple things such as doing a simple search on Google about a topic area, you might be surprised and find something you connect with. Another great place to start is to watch some Ted Talk videos or podcasts about the subject area to get inspired.
Find a community
Talk to teachers who are enthusiastic about the subject you are trying to get passionate about. It is helpful to see the subject through another teacher’s eyes. This technique is powerful, as you will not only find out new approaches to teaching that you can try in your own classroom, but you can try to see how the teacher sees their subject is relevant to the students’ future. You may also find great communities online in Facebook Groups and especially Twitter under #edchat!
Try new approaches in your own professional development
It is not necessary to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to teaching a new subject that you are unfamiliar with – there are many educators in your local community that shares tried and tested classroom approaches. Through social media or a simple Google search, you can find relevant workshops, events or social gatherings organized for teachers to exchange ideas in new areas of teaching such as Tech and Computer Science.These are just a few ideas to get you started and hopefully gets you excited about the new challenges that may be ahead this coming academic year! Another great place to start is to subscribe to Read Something Different, where our team at BSD will share upcoming teacher events, ideas and tips to enhance your classroom. If you have any ideas, recommendations, thoughts or questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to speak more about Passionate Teaching.
- Empathy — Understanding the needs of those you’re designing for.
- Ideation — Generating a lot of ideas. Brainstorming is one technique, but there are many others.
- Experimentation — Testing those ideas with prototyping.
As in any game, the experience of the users is key to its success. While their peers are trying the game, they are asked to observe how it’s being played and request for feedback.Students will then need to consider the feedback they receive, and learn to exercise their judgement as to what will ultimately be a compromise between the features they like versus the feedback they have received on what the users want. Based on the observations and peer feedback, students can determine how they can continue to improve their projects to test it again. This testing and feedback cycle is not limited to a single cycle, it is repeated as often as needed to make the game perfect – emulating the Design Thinking process of prototyping -> testing -> tweaking -> testing. This is great preparation for their lives as a whole as and an excellent exercise in giving and receiving feedback. With technology becoming ubiquitous it is an increasing and urgent responsibility to teach our students that technology is not the solution to problem but tools used by people to solve problems. To effectively solve problems, technologies should be built with keeping the people using them at the center; and employing Design Thinking skills helps achieve precisely this.
Why Code? The Student AdvantageTo kick off the day, teachers gathered in the assembly hall at String Theory School to learn about the current innovations and future trends that are most impacting the modern workplace. We reflected on how the exponential growth of Big Data has thrust the world from a manufacturing centric economy into the Innovation Economy where information is king. Thinking ahead, we discussed how Artificial Intelligence is poised to challenge the idea of human employment and what it means to add value to society and fulfillment to your life. As part of the opening remarks, we touched on two major benefits of students learning code: practicing Computational Thinking and Design Thinking. In many ways, Computational Thinking is problem-solving and fits nicely into many existing school subjects. Conversely, Design Thinking is an emerging focus for industry as a process for solving real-world problems for others. Coding can help to bring this aspect of learning into the classroom experience. During the presentation, several insightful discussions arose from teachers including thoughts about Machine Learning and the future role of the computer as well as the negative consequences of under-represented minority groups in the development of Artificial Intelligence. As one teacher noted “Computer programs are a reflection of the human who coded them.”
Key TakeawaysThe full day workshop was a powerful experience, not only for the teachers who participated but for BSD as well. We exchanged insights and experiences with teachers from around the world, received an inside view of the concerns and struggles that teachers face in an ever-changing world, and built relationships that will grow to impact students around the world! If you are a teacher or school administrator and would like to learn more about using technology in the classroom, please reach out to us! We can help you prepare your students for the ever–changing challenges of tomorrow and help them gain digital skills that will follow them into their future ambitions.
- They invest time and resources to develop clear and strong objectives and outcomes for teachers and students. After this is defined, choosing the right devices, infrastructure and software become easy.
- The school leadership supports the decisions made by the teachers and promotes buy-in from the teaching community. Developing agency in students is, in fact, starts with giving the same autonomy to teachers to make their own decision.
- They promote interdepartmental collaboration. Bringing together teachers with a wide range of skill sets and from different backgrounds helps bring out and inspires the best in everyone.
- They listen to the student and parent community and involve them in the decision making process.
- Give up control: When you bring in technology and the internet in the classroom you open the world of new possibilities. This makes it impossible for you to plan every detail of your lesson plan so I recommend carving in ample time for exploration and tinkering.
- Let students decide: It’s time for the end of term project presentations? Encourage students to be creative and let them choose what they want to do – shoot a video, create a website, even enact it or just stick to a slideshow – the choice is entirely up to them! Doing so helps build confidence and bring out students’ hidden interests and skills.
- Engage your students by asking for suggestions and feedback: Ask students to peer review their work by giving each other “three stars and a wish” – three things you liked about your colleagues’ work and one thing you wish they would do next time.
- Solve open ended problems: Ask big questions to solve big problems. Questions like – “how would you decrease traffic congestion in X city?”, “how would you improve the food and water distribute chain so everyone gets equal access to it?”, “how would you incentivise people to pay their taxes?”, etc. Asking such questions opens the doors to a series of follow up questions encourages students to gain a deeper understanding of how complex systems work, which in turn helps them to potentially discover the root cause of the problem.
- Be a coach or facilitator for learning: When it comes to technology, students need a supportive and experienced adult to guide them. They also need an environment where trying, learning-by-doing, and not being afraid to make mistakes is encouraged.