Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Framing the Conversation Around Makerspaces at Create Make Learn Summer Institute

Framing the Conversation Around Makerspaces at Create Make Learn Summer Institute

The 2019 Create Make Learn Summer Institute will be an opportunity to engage in conversations around makerspaces as we create, make, and learn all week.  We'll use the following questions to frame our conversation around creating, making, and learning. 

The earlier conversations on this topic are usually focused around the WHAT questions.     Just exactly WHAT is a maker space?  I was once sitting across the desk from a principal who shared that she  had just googled "makerspaces' during our conversation so she would know what we are talking about.    The term Makerspaces conjures up different images in almost everybody who uses it.  Personally I like to use Space for Creating and Making  as a way to shake preconceptions that come with the term Makerspace.   A makerspace can be many different things to each of us.  It can have all types of tools, supplies, and equipment.   We've traveled to many makerspaces across the country and have yet to find any two alike. 

We have visited many different Makerspaces in our bus, and each of them have different tools and take on different formats.  As we explore WHAT a makerspace can be and WHAT it can have in it,  I hope to introduce  a few different configurations of makerspaces,  each with their own unique sets of tools and supplies.   
We have visited many different Makerspaces in our bus, and each of them have different tools and take on different formats.  This week, each of us can share our experiences with different configurations of makerspaces, each with their own unique sets of tools and supplies. 

Another area that many want to talk about is HOW do people MAKE?  There are so many different ways to approach making. This week, we will explore different types of makes that you might see in a makerspace. This could range from a skill building make to a quirky expression of self.  I look forward to exploring  some of the common types of makes as we share our stories of making and experience creating and making together this week. 

Probably one of the most important questions is the WHY question.  Simon Sinek encourages us to KNOW OUR WHY! And while I agree that knowing your why is one of the most important things you can talk about in the conversation about makerspaces,  it is NOT necessarily the first question you need to find the answers to.  Sometimes you just need to start Making!  And the more you make the more you will be able to articulate your why.  Too many people think that you have to know your why BEFORE you move forward.  I think knowing your why is a process and sometimes you just have to LAUNCH and the clarity about WHY will happen as you reflect on your process.  It's sort of like playing with Legos - sometimes you hands know before your mind knows what it is building.  As we gain clarity about our WHY, we should also consider how we will assess whether we are hitting the target.  This week's institute will include some timely conversations around Assessment and how to approach (or not approach) assessment in our creating, making, and learning process. 

 The WHO questions are not always obvious.  But they are important ones.  Without explicit attention to the WHO questions, you might accidentally end up creating a space that is not inclusive.  Unfortunately that is a challenging condition to remedy.  There are several ways to talk about WHO is making in your makerspace, and making sure that you have someone on your team who wears an equity lens in your conversations about making is helpful.

These conversations are not linear or hierarchal.  So don't expect a recipe or a step by step guide. We'll weave in and out of of these conversations and this framework is meant to to get the gears turning helping to  frame our conversations around making in education.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Join us at Orleans Central SU for a Fun Day of Creating, Making, and Learning


Designing Low Threshold Maker Challenges  90 min - 2 hours

Appropriate for all grade levels from PreK - 12.

We’ll experience different Maker Challenges as a student and discuss facilitating maker challenges that use Cardboard, Craft Supplies, Circuit materials, and other low threshold materials. (Low Threshold activities are easily accessible for participants with NO experience and can be modified so they are appropriate for a variety of grade levels)

Participants will then design a grade appropriate challenge associated with a piece of literature or content theme.

Bring a book or piece of literature you read with your students.

Creating Confidence with Circuits and Code

(Grades 3- 12)
(Attend the whole series or individual components)
Each of the sessions below could be between 60 - 90 minute

Session 1 Creating Confidence with Circuits and Code using Micro:bits

A Micro:bit is a low cost circuit board that works with block based coding to support exploration of several phenomen, inventive thinking, and computational thinking. It has rapidly become one of the most popular STEM/STEAM maker tools around for its ease of use and rich educational resources available to support educators and student learning. https://microbit.org/ . Appropriate for grades 4 - 12.

Session 2 Creating Confidence with Circuits and Code using Makey Makey

Makey Makey has long been one of the easiest circuit boards around in the makerspace STEM/STEAM space. It works with Scratch (from MIT) to introduce students to inventive thinking, problem solving, designing thinking and computational thinking.
It is the perfect maker tool to help create a maker mindset, and build foundational skills using circuits and code. https://makeymakey.com Appropriate for grades 3 - 12.

Note: Makey Makey is more entry level and can be used with programs where they can invent with circuits without any coding. Adding coding options makes it a tool with a high ceiling that students of any age can use as an introduction to physical computing.

Session 3: Creating an Integrated STEAM infused Unit/Project

Using the skills you learned above (Microbit or Makey Makey) participants will experience design thinking to create a STEAM project that informs, persuades, and entertains.

We’ll examine the making of an integrated STEAM Unit Example and identify standards and proficiencies that can be addressed in several content areas. Participants will have the opportunity to start planning their own integrated STEAM Project appropriate for their own content and grade levels.


Day 2 Playful Prototypes (Tentative)

Framing the Conversation Around Makerspaces
What, Why, How and Who
(60 minutes)
Introductory workshops Presentation/ Discussion on the Power of Maker Centered Learning and how to frame questions around makerspaces. Will include a hands on activity: Create a Design Notebook 30 minute

Experience Makerspace Tools, Materials, and Practice by creating Playful Prototypes

This workshop provides a hands on experience with 3 different types of maker tools/practices This could be offered as a workshop format with specific times for each part or it could be offered as a Drop in with opportunities to explore other maker tools and supplies and consult as needed.

Experiencing STEAM Challenges using a WindTunnel - 30 min

Building Your Own Wind Tunnel using Design Thinking - 60 min

Creating solutions using fabrication tools (create sun catchers and wind spinners)

Cricut Cutter (low cost accessible to all schools between $200 - $300)

Optional: 3D printer additional time needed

Optional: laser cutter additional time needed

The first two are accessible without specialized tools.
The third option is an introduction to different computer controlled fabrication tools often found in a makerspace

Playful Prototypes: Slides

Design Thinking - Make a Wind Tunnel
60 - 90 minutes hours
Teachers will experience Design Thinking while creating a tool for their classroom or school makerspace (a wind tunnel) that they will take back to their school. Teams from schools (3-5 people per team).
Cost of materials will be billed separately

Wind Spinners and Sun Catchers

Use a maker tool for fabrication (i.e. Cricut Cutter, Glow Forge Laser Cutter, 3D printer) to design a wind spinner or Sun Catcher.

These tools range from $200 - $2500. Come experience them, learn the difference between each and the pros and cons of each one while making either a Wind Spinner or Sun Catcher. This workshop will help participants make selections about which of these tools belongs in their school makerspace and why by providing a hands on experience that ALL teachers can enjoy (no experience necessary)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Collective Impact around the role of makerspaces in our schools

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day in two different Vermont schools as they introduced new maker tools and supplies to students and teachers that their school received as winners of the Educate/Innovate Grant  developed through a partnership with the Vermont Lottery and the Vermont Agency of Education.

Brownington School unpacking new maker tools and supplies from Educate Innovate Grant

Montgomery School exploring new maker tools and supplies from Educate/Innovate Grant

I loved watching the process that these schools went through as they carefully considered WHY they wanted a makerspace in their school and WHAT tools and supplies would best help meet their WHY!

Both groups started by helping their school community EXPLORE the ideas and concepts related to makerspaces.   What is a makerspace?  Where does  CREATING and MAKING fit into the LEARNING process?  What does MAKING look like in a classroom?   It was a pleasure to be part of that process.   Both schools invited EMMA (my mobile maker studio) and I to visit their school and help their school community during what I call the EXPLORE stage in conversations around makerspaces.

I still remember the white knuckled drive last January, as I filled my mobile studio (EMMA) with maker supplies and drove EMMA through the snow covered back roads of Vermont.

EXPLORING MAKING as a vehicle for learning at Montgomery School. (January 2019)

The Explore Stage can provide educators with some of the vocabulary and concepts often found in conversations about makerspaces.  An Explore stage event introduces new tools and processes to teachers.  Seeing  THEIR own students interact with copper tape, circuit boards, and coding can help educators see what a maker mindset can look like in their school as well as introduce them to tools and supplies they might not be familiar with.  For example, even though most science teachers have lead experiments with batteries and light bulbs,  many of them have not used copper tape or conductive thread or codable LED lights like neo-pixels. The Explore Stage opens up conversations about new possibilities.

EXPLORING possibilities for Creating, Making, and Learning at Brownington School. (January 2019)

As educators see evidence of learning and engagement with different materials and processes during an Explore stage event, they are better positioned to ask deeper questions and imagine more possibilities for making in their learning environments. 

The Explore stage should get the attention of both your students and staff. It should start the wheels turning  and stimulate curiosity.  As your staff starts thinking about making,  new questions should arise.  Following this stage,  your staff should  notice opportunities to learn about makerspaces or related tools, supplies,  and processes and how making might connect to content and pedagogy. After a maker exploration event, your staff may start to notice opportunities like local makerfaires,  workshops and conferences,  student competitions, or grant opportunities. 

The one day EMMA Visit during the Explore stage positioned both Montgomery School and Brownington to notice and consider applying for the Educate/Innovate Grant.  One of the functions of a good grant RFP process is to stimulate innovative ideas and scaffold the process for those ideas to become reality.  The Vermont Lottery Educate/Innovate grant provided two schools with the  funding to help their project ideas to become reality because of the resources that grants provide.  However,  the impact of a grant RFP process can and should expand beyond the stuff that those who are awarded the grant receive.  Every school who applied for this grant received a chance to go through an inquiry process that prepares their school or classroom to plan for a makerspace.  This process is very similar to the stages of Guided Inquiry (Ann K. Caspari, Carol Kuhlthau, and Leslie K. Maniotes)

Schools like Montgomery and Brownington, whose staff and students have participated in some type of Explore stage event,  start the grant RFP process with ideas and questions that have surfaced during their Explore stage event.  The grant RFP process allows them to focus those ideas, IDENTIFY learning goals that could we well served by having a makerspace in their school, and streamline their search through the many maker education resources available.   The next step for each school that applies for a grant, is to IDENTIFY a question for deeper exploration.

For the Montgomery school, that focus was on engaging more student learning through the Nature Trails that are an integral part of their community.    For the Brownington school, the focus was on leveraging the engaging properties of music and sound to create  a year long, cross-grade level and cross curricular STEAM project promoting collaboration, creativity, and student choice.  Each school used the focused inquiry question that they IDENTIFIED to search for information and GATHER resources that might allow them to CREATE a prototype project.

The process to IDENTIFY a focused question, GATHER resources to CREATE a prototype design as part of the grant RFP process was also valuable to several other schools throughout the state.  I received calls and emails from several Vermont schools asking about tools and materials and professional development during this time.   I noticed that the RFP process scaffolded many schools through the learning that often happens within a guided inquiry. When I look at the positive outcomes that have already happened to individuals and organizations (schools) through this process,  I'm super excited.   I can't help but think about ways that we can build on all that individual school-based learning that has happened through the grant RFP process to become a broader learning organization.

It is my hope that every school who went through the RFP process uses the focused question, knowledge, skills, and resources they have worked through and shares it with each other as a way to spread ideas of what's possible.  It is my hope that organizations that did not receive the funds through this process will still be energized and look for other ways to pursue their vision, whether it be other grants or local funding.   The value of a grant RFP process extends beyond the financial resources or "stuff'.   By continuing to share ideas and resources gathered during the RFP process, we can have a broader collective impact on statewide learning around the role of makerspaces in learning.

I've been thinking about how I can continue to contribute to our shared learning and  have collective impact on the shift in teaching towards greater hands on learning.

  • I'm super excited to be working on a new series as part of the Tarrant Institute blog around makerspaces and design learning.   The series will become part of a makerspace toolkit.  I'll include resources that I shared with many who contacted me during the Vermont Lottery RFP as well as resources I've shared with others who have contacted me with questions around makerspaces.  I'd love to hear what you would find helpful to include in this Maker Toolkit. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.
  • I'll also continue to blog and  share stories, tips, ideas and resources on this Create Make Learn blog and invite others to join me. 
    Would you like to guest blog or be featured in a story that would inspire others?

    You can receive emails of new posts by subscribing to the blog.  Or better yet, attend one of the upcoming Create Make Learn Summer Institute, Two Day Bootcamp or other events face to face and connect with other like minded educators.  See more at www.CreateMakeLearn.org
  • I plan to continue working with organizations like Tarrant Institute on rural outreach and continue to bring EMMA - my mobile maker studio -  to Vermont schools as a way to collaborate with Vermont educators and spread our collective learning.

    • I have joined the Vermont Agency of Education STEM/STEAM network.  You can get more information from  Greg Young at greg.young@vermont.gov or (802) 479-1448.  Here is their next face to face event.

      STEM/STEAM Resource Sharing Day
      Register for STEM/STEAM Sharing Day, a free, full-day professional learning opportunity for STEM/STEAM educators on Thursday June 20, 2019, from 8:30 a.m.– 3 p.m. at the Teddy Bear Factory’s Makerspace, in Charlotte, VT. Participants at this STEM/STEAM sharing event will have the opportunity to engage in the development of interdisciplinary performance assessments, learn from and collaborate with other educators, examine best practices around STEM/STEAM education, and outline future work and outcomes of a statewide STEM/STEAM network.
    • I have renewed my membership to our local community makerspace.   I value my membership at the Generator in Burlington Vermont.  Yes, I value the tools, but more importantly I value the network and the wealth of knowledge and inspiration that comes with that.
    • I will continue to participate in the Champlain Mini Maker Faire as a way to share, get inspired and connect with others.  Check out their upcoming K12 School Day this Fall.
    These are just a few ideas  and I would love to hear how you might also  contribute to our collective learning about makerspaces in education.

    According to Peter Senge,  learning organizations are

    …organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.

     Let's keep sharing and learning together.   And let's celebrate together and cheer each other on throughout the process of learning together.

    Saturday, March 30, 2019

    Day 30 - Less Talking more MAKING to learn Design Thinking

    Recently I overheard a group of teachers planning  a maker sequence and trying to figure out where to make space in the sequence to explain design thinking to the children.  I immediately was reminded of the times where I had spent too much time talking about design thinking instead of having the students experience design thinking and learning the stages by 'doing them. 

    While designing a maker experience for  Beeman Elementary School, I  decided to spend less time TALKING about design thinking and more time integrating the concepts and language used in  Design Thinking into the maker sequence. But even though my goal was to  integrate design thinking language and practices into the maker event instead of spending lots of time talking about the different stages,  I still wanted the students to leave familiar with the stages and what they looked like.   Here is how I approached my goal.

    First I made a large poster of Design Thinking stages that also included examples of what each phase might look like.

    Next I used each stage of the design thinking process to plan the sequence of  activities that I would lead students through.

    In the case of this maker experience, I modeled using HOW MIGHT WE language  when I described  our goal for the day.

    In our case they knew they were going to build a wind tunnel, but there was still room for the Empathy stage to learn more about who might be using the Wind tunnel they would build and what that interaction might look like.  YouTube is filled with videos you could use to increase empathy in this first stage of design thinking.    Here is the video I used to give student the opportunity to OBSERVE students using a Wind Tunnel.

    EMPATHY stage:
    • Ask questions
    • Make observations
    • Gather information
    • Empathize: Understand the feelings, needs, and concerns of another

    In our  Beeman Maker Event,  we used the following template to help each create a HOW MIGHT WE statement for the Wind Tunnel we were about to build.

    DEFINE stage:

    How Might We ____________________   (create/make/design)

    For  _____________ (describe who you are making for)

    That ____________ (what specific needs/wants do these users have)
    That ____________  (will we be using a certain tool, process,  or improved system)
    That  ____________ (constraints/ limitation - cost, material, time)

    IDEATE stage

    In the IDEATE phase, we asked the students to sketch some ideas for a protoptye they might build. Lots of stickynotes can be very helpful. They often think they are done and as facilitator use the word AND to try to get them to keep the conversation forward. Have the students share their ideas by posting the sticky notes on to wall or bulletin board and perhaps grouping like ones together.

    PROTOTYPE stage:

     Next comes the fun part, where the students have access to tools and materials to build a prototyped.


    TEST and Revise stage:

    In the case of making our wind tunnel, the students got to observe several other classes test their newly constructed Wind Tunnel.

    As we completed each of these steps I made sure to get some photos and videos of each stage, and then put together this short video for us to debrief.


    As we watched the video together we were able to discuss the different stages of a design thinking and how each felt to them.

    The next time you are tempted to 'lecture" ABOUT design thinking, consider leading students through an exercise where they will experience Design thinking and use visual clues around the room to help them name each stage that they just went through.

    The more you use the design thinking protocol, name the stages, and compile evidence of each stage, the more your students will internalize the stages (and you didn't have to 'lecture"


    Friday, March 29, 2019

    Day 29: Adding Digital to an Analog Game with Scratch and Micro-controllers

    Today we will continue with our series of posts on Creating and Making with an Earth Day Theme.

    In our last game we designed a MAZE type  game in Scratch and then built a physical game controller using conductive materials, craft materials and a micro-controller board such as Makey Makey or FunKey.

    Today's game will model creating an analog board type game and using Scratch and a micro-controller to add interesting elements to the  board game.

    We'll also review how we used Design Thinking to guide the process.

    The Earth Day Theme 2019 - Protect our Species allowed us to develop empathy for the needs of specific endangered species. The Earth Day sites provided lots of great information for the EMPATHY stage of design thinking.

    Using the assumption that games can help motivate us, we can Define the game design problem using HOW might We language often found in the
    DEFINE stage of design Thinking.

    During the IDEATE Stage of design thinking we start brainstorm LOTS of possible ideas for a game that will meet our need to entertain in a way that will inform and persuade. Some ideas might include:
    • Maze Challenge
    • Board Game
    • Quiz Type Game
    • Physical Movement  Challenge

    Finally its time to PROTOTYPE one of our ideas
    Here are some things we considered during our prototype We picked a board game as our game type. The settings was in the ocean and the game pieces were sea turtles.

      We decided to use a color die to move our game piece through the game board. As the game piece landed on a color, new facts were revealed about our endangered species. After landing on a colored square, and listening to the fun facts, the player picks a challenge card what either adds or subtracts health points. The player tally's the health points when they reach the end of the path on the board. If they have positive health points they have escaped from Extinction. If they have negative health points they are on route to extinction. We decided to add fun sounds in Scratch to make the game fun and to add the ideas of multiple values for the health points to add an element of suspense and luck to the game.
      Here are some pictures of the prototype in progress.

      Creating a colored dice to move the game piece along.

      Playing with conductive elements that could trigger fun facts and fun sounds.

      We used Scratch to record and select sounds and informative audio to add to the game.

      After several iterations, we decided to use a brass brad and paperclip to create and open circuits, that would become a closed circuit when the game piece landed on each square.

      The paper clips were connected to copper tape which was in turn connected to the GROUND on the circuit board. Each brad was connected to a think strand of network wire, which was then connected to an alligator clip which was connected to the UP, DOWN, LEFT, and RIGHT pins on the circuit board.

      After lots of trial and error and changes to our plans, we were ready for the last stage - TEST and REVISE!
      We can't wait to try the game out with others and get ideas on how to revise and improve the game. The questions we have will be
      1) How did we inform you?
      2) What did we persuade you to do or stop doing?
      3) Was it fun?
      4) How might we improve our game?

      Thursday, March 28, 2019

      Day 28 - Meet Margaret - Maker / Welder Extraordinaire

      Today, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting one of the most accomplished makers I’ve ever met. As she passed around examples of her work, I was in total admiration. I was so impressed, that I couldn’t wait to introduce her to you. 

      Take a look at these amazing bracelets, created by welder extrordinaire - Mararet Merigo (also known as Peggy Citerella). Margaret is about to turn 99 this June and was the first female rated welder in the Yard during World War II.

      Take a look at these bracelets she made during 'down time" at the Navy Ship Yard during World Ward II.

      Take an even closer look

      And now meet the maker behind these beautiful pieces!

      Margaret was working at a candy factory in the 1930’s making about $13.00 a week and was in search of a higher paying job. After a LOT of convincing she found her way to higher pay and even equal pay to what the men were making as welders in the Charlestown Navy Yard - (well until the war was over and the women were expected to give their jobs back to the men returning from war)

      Margaret Merigo was the first female rated welder in the Yard during World War II.

      Listen to Margaret speak about her bracelets, her welding career and even her perspective on women, welding, and aging well.

      This was one of these days, when you just have to stop and listen and appreciate the amazing people that live in our own back yard!  I hope you enjoyed meeting Margaret as much as I did, today.

      Wednesday, March 27, 2019

      Day 27: Adding an Earth Day Game Controller to our Earth Day Maze

      Yesterday we created a simple Earth day theme maze using Scratch.

      Today, let's add a fun game controller. 

      You'll need a circuit board like Makey Makey or FunKey  and some some alligator clips.

      You'll also need some recycled materials, craft material to work with.  Make sure you have some conductive materials to work with.  I used aluminum foil and copper tape as my conductive material.

      Since my game was to raise awareness about Sea Turtles and it primarily used the up, down, left, right arrow, I decided to make 4 sea turtles pointing in 4 different directions as my controller.

      After a few prototypes made mostly out of Amazon box type cardboard, I spotted a coffee cut holder in the recycling and to imagine turning it into sea turtles!

      Inspired by this coffee holder in my recycle bin

      I started to imagine a sea turtle 

      With the addition of a little color courtesy of Crayola

      I used  aluminum foil for shell pieces, and even used a sharpie to add color. 

      I used some copper tape to create a long  lead to the underside of the turtle's  aluminum foil 

      And cut a slit in the colorful sea scape background that
      I could thread the copper tape lead through.

      The copper tape leads ran under the seascape to the top edge of the paper,
      where I clipped 4 alligator clips that ran to
       a Makey Makey's UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT pins connections

      I also created a version that connected the alligator clips to a 
      FunKEY board.  Both worked equally well for turning
      my crafty sea turtles into a Game Controller
      that moved my digital turtle through the maze.

      I was so excited to use my new sea turtles as controller that I started to imagine new features to my Earth Day based game.  

      In Version 2 below, 
      I  changed the color scheme to a sea colored blue
      I added a time element by adding music where the game finishes after the music is done
      I added a Game Over backdrop that appears after the game is over 
      I added a mystery element by hiding the sprites besides a closed door so you had no clue if the item behind the closed door was going to be help the animal escape from extinction until after you opened the door. 
      I also added point values to the different items that can count as health for the sea turtle.

      In future versions of the game I might add a scoreboard digitally, but for now we could manually calculate the health points or give out  physical 'cards' or 'tokens'  or 'stamps'. 

      Try this version of the game below . or  create a fun Earth Day themed controller and attached with a  circuit board  for even more Earth Day Fun.