Tuesday, March 13, 2018

March 13 - An Invitation to Teachers from Your Community Maker Space


Today's post in the March is for Making series  (30 posts in 30 days to inspire making in your school) 
 is an invitation from Karen McCalla and the MINT to educators to join her and other educators who have taken advantage of their local maker space-  either by stopping by to take a tour,  or signing up for a class or two, or becoming full fledged members.  
Karen is the teacher-librarian at Mill River Union School, a 7-12 middle/high school with about 500 students just south of Rutland.  This is her 17th year at Mill River.  And after 4 years coming to the Create Make Learn Summer Institute as a learner,  we've finally convinced Karen to share her knowledge with us as part of this  year's Create Make Learn Summer Institute lead learner team. 
Karen McCalla is  also the Maker Evangelist at The MINT: Rutland’s Makerspace.  The MINT is a collaborative workshop and learning space with shared tools and equipment for anyone who wants to make things.  You can learn more about The MINT at rutlandmint.org  

Guest blog post from Karen McCalla
Karen giving a tour of The Mint to other educators.
Why should teachers be makers?  

I’ve had this conversation many times with teachers in my own school and district and with colleagues across the state.  As we work to change the learning experience in our classrooms to focus more on proficiencies and on students owning their own learning, it’s important for teachers to embrace these tenets for their own learning experiences as well.  We all know how unengaging sit-and-get PD can be; embracing the maker movement can be your opportunity to create your own journey to becoming a more effective teacher.
Embracing making will help you:
  • move past pre-packaged learning materials in your classroom
  • own your own learning, and help students understand the power of ownership for their own learning
  • gain practice in constructing your own meaning and making your own way to answers, and help students practice these skills
  • gain facility in allowing students to show what they know in many ways
  • build comfort with “not knowing”
Teachers need to experience making from the point of view of a student.  The only way to do that is to try out making yourself.  It’s only after doing many of your own projects that you will fully be able to empathize with the feelings that happen for students.  The process of making can be intensely frustrating just as often as it is intensely uplifting.  Having experience with the process helps you coach students through the rough patches and celebrate their successes.
Makers of all ages learned to finish 3D prints with airbrushing in a recent class at The MINT
You can try out making on a very small scale inside your own classroom or house.  The process begins by identifying a need (for yourself or others) and then designing something that helps address this need.  As part of the design cycle, you’ll go through many revisions on your way to something that really works to solve your problem.  The design cycle is really never-ending, but you’ll probably get to a place where you feel comfortable with the final product.  Along the way you will have learned new skills, become more self-sufficient and learned how to find answers when you run into dead ends, connected with experts who can help answer your questions, and shared the results of your work with others.  Hopefully the feedback you get is helpful and reinforcing.  It’s the best feeling to be recognized as someone who can make things to solve problems!
The more you make as a teacher, the more likely you are to bring in making into your own school.
Kids (and teachers!) learn to sew on sewing machines at the MRU Makerspace
Kids love taking apart (and putting back together!) computers at the Mill River UHS Makerspace
It is good for students to see their own teachers as makers and as learners.  When we all own our own learning in a community, we’re all in it together.  What an empowering experience for students, and for us!  Role models are important for makers at all levels.  So is a community of makers to support you when your own making journeys become challenging, and to celebrate your successes with you.  

A virtual community of makers can provide this support.  The state-wide Create Make Learn alumni community is one example.  After our face to face summer institute, the community continues to share using virtual tools.   A nation or world-wide PLN in another example, irrelevant of how you access that community (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or your own platform of choice).  

An in-person community can also be a wonderful support.  For that you might look to Vita-Learn or the Vermont School Library Association, or, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a makerspace like The MINT, The Generator, Laboratory B or The Claremont Makerspace.  Maker spaces provide a vital community of other makers who will support your making, provide input on projects, expertise, and a sounding board when things don’t go quite as planned.  
Other makers you meet can also be good resources for your students.  Need someone to help a student through designing in 3D using Sketchup?  You might know someone at the makerspace who can help. 

Even if you don’t live very close by, it’s worth identifying your nearest facility and getting on their list for class announcements or following them on social media.  Even if you can’t be a regular member, taking occasional classes is a good way to create a supportive community for yourself and meet fellow makers.

In my case, the resources at The MINT complement the resources we have at my school Makerspace.  They have the tools we can’t afford, can’t fit, can’t maintain or can’t have because they could be too dangerous for a school makerspace.  
Sometimes I can bring student projects to The MINT and finish them there.  Most times I have to do those steps for the kids (liability can be an issue) but we’re working on ways to have students working alongside teachers at The MINT.  
As an example, I have 3D printed things for students at The MINT that were too large for our smaller, school 3D printer.  The MINT one also has much better resolution, so sometimes if we have a student model that requires fine detail, I'll print it at The MINT instead.  I've printed custom phone cases (too big for our school printer) and a large dragon model at The MINT.  The student who designed the dragon had done a lot of work with adding textures, and they weren't really coming through that well on our school printer.  
We are working on partnerships with Rutland Central and also Rutland City.  In these partnerships, students will come in the small groups with some teacher supervision.  Their MINT time is really for production of projects that they have planned and developed prototypes of at their home schools.  
We have several teachers from various districts as members, and they have been bringing student projects sometimes too.  We've had students from Killington Mountain School at The MINT learning about 3D printing and the laser cutter.  In much the same way, they have been designing projects at KMS and then coming as a small group to The MINT to use our equipment.
Making in the classroom is here to stay, and teachers who are makers improve their classrooms and their interactions with students.  Try out making today!

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