Sunday, March 19, 2017

March is for Making: Makerspace as UnConference Learning

Lucie's ToyHack attempt after Pi Academy

Having just come from a memorable 3 days at the CUE Conference 2017 in Palm Springs, CA I sat down to write the March is for Making blog  post #19, reflecting on all the learning from the past few days.

Then this following memory came across my screen, from a project I was playing with a year ago at this time.

This started me thinking about the impromptu Toy Hack that I got to participate in at a pop-up makerspace that happened in the UNCONFERENCE area at CUE 2017. Filled with inspiration from keynote addresses of Jo Boaler,  Cathy Hunt,  George Couros  it became obvious to me that a maker spaces in our schools can invite us to learn in the same way as unconference areas do -especially if they are paired with learning commons style libraries. 

This is what happened when creative maker-educator Sam Patterson and  Jeff Branson (Master Maker from Sparkfun Education)   who had recently met at SxSw bump into each other again in the Palm Springs Convention Center.    Within minutes the energy from their SxSw meeting picked up where it had left off in Austin, and they started planning a fun toy hack session for the next morning in the UnConference Session.  They even invited me along!  

Sam brought a promising toy,  Jeff brought his suitcase with Sparkfun goodies, I brought along a few tools and some of my own recent projects.  

BY providing an UNCONFERENCE space,  CUE gave us permission to play, permission to learn in our own way, permission to  invite others to learn with us by joining in the fun or just watch and ask questions.  The impromptu session didn’t have to be planned months ahead of time and approved by a committee!  

In their book, FREE TO MAKE,  How the Maker Movement is changing our schools, Our Jobs, and Our Minds,  Dale Dougherty and Ariane Conrad state that “Making can give kids permission to play.”  Dale also mentions that ‘parents are in a position to give or withhold that permission.”  (p. 176).
I feel that schools are in the same position to give or withhold permission to learn through play, tinkering, creating, and making.

And by including a makerspaces in their learning landscape, schools are in turn setting up an unconference area  and inviting kids to learn their way…

In the #CUE17 closing keynote, Cathy Hunt asked us

A makerspace, not only invites kids to learn their way,  it gives the message that we value different parts of them.

In his #Cue17 keynote, George Couros challenged us to keep school relevant  by giving kids a place to create in school!  A makerspace in your school can not only invite kids to create, it can give them a place to discover their passions.  And when kids discover their passions they will spend hours doing it and learning how.   ,  

Instead of extending the school day or the school year, why not send them out the door so passionate that they can’t wait to get home and extend their own learning. Then perhaps we would find them in a state of flow instead of state of tears over homework completion battles with their parents.

Unfortunately too many people watching  children (or adults) laughing during a messy and sometimes chaotic toy hacking session walk away with questions  like “Looks like fun, but what are they learning?”   

In Free to Make, Dale offers a quote from Peter Gabrielson to answer the “What did they learn”  

“Heck yes, they are learning something, “  writes Gabrielson in his book.  “And it may be the most valuable thing they’ve learned all week -- this hit-and-miss, trial-and-success, seat-of-the-pants approach.”  believes that tinkering may raise all sorts of questions in their minds and inspire them to learn more about what they’re tinkering with, and it may start them on a path to a satisfying career, not to mention, good fun on their time.”  (p. 176)

But  some of the best justifications  for the types of learning that can happen in a makerspace came from the opening keynote at CUE  Stanford professor Jo Boaler which was filled with research about how current pedagogical practices are NOT ideal are NOT best practices for creating the mindset students need for making learning gains.

Her keynote was filled with stories and data about the impact  that mindset has on learning gains.

You can find some of the keynotes and interviews with Jo, George, and Cathy on Cue Live's You Tube Channel

Overall I’d say  #Cue17  did a fantastic job providing us with so many resources and choices in how we learn!'

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