Before I hop onto my soapbox, here's a few interesting/fun links to check out.
Eric Curts- who always comes up with great Googley ideas, posted a great template for Build a Jack-O-Lantern with Google Slides. Check it out here
Tom Mullaney posted a nice short video about Google Keep's new integration into Google Slides.
Richard Byrne pulled all of the new Google Slides features together in his post here. Although there are quite a few new features to check out, the one I was most interested in was how to insert a timeline into Google Slides. Lucky for us, Richard has it covered. Check out his blog for more.
Those of you who know me, know that the whole "mindset" verbiage is something I don't really buy into as anything new and wonderful. But, this summer and this fall I have been focused on trying to renovate the "old" computer lab into a STEAM lab. Thus, I have been diving into the whole maker movement, maker "mindset" and trying to figure out how our elementary school, our students, our teachers, our culture- can all work with a makerspace, a STEAM lab. It's exciting to see it begin to build.
A little history...
Back, maybe 10 years ago, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez started doing something called the Constructivist Consortium before NECC and then ISTE. I went to a couple, didn't get it. I wanted it get it, but I didn't and found it frustrating. Then they started having summer workshops called Constructing Modern Knowledge. I went to the first one- hated it, actually left a day early. I really wanted way more direction than Gary was willing to give. He wanted folks to stretch themselves, take risks and take charge of their learning. As I said, I hated it. When their book Invent to Learn came out, I read it. This is not the way I was taught, nor the way I ever taught, and certainly not the way I felt I learned best. But, after pushing back on this and all the language associated with it, it's worth doing. Students can take risks, can extend their learning. Even their teachers can try it and see how it feels to be the learner, to have the questions, to find the solutions.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to go with Judi, our HS media specialist, over to Mt. Holyoke to visit their makerspace, courtesy of former HA teacher Janet Slocum. I had never been to this new space and was really impressed by the variety of choices the students are afforded. But, keep in mind, this is Mt. Holyoke College, so they have the funding to do it up right. After seeing all the cool projects Janet has done with her students, seeing the fancy laser cutter projects, and the molds that had been made- to fill with chocolate, we sat down to talk about how to make the connections between the school/state curriculum and makerspaces. I was a little surprised to hear that even at a facility like Mt. Holyoke, that the professors, instructors aren't leveraging the makerspace and all the cool stuff they have there. Students are coming in and doing more personal work. The only exception I saw, heard about, aside from Janet's work was a print-making course. We talked about how to make the curriculum tie-ins, without making it yet one more thing for teachers to try to cram into a very busy schedule.
Today, I watched a group of 4th graders work in our STEAM lab with Sphero robots. They used Blockly drag and drop programming, and programmed their robots to make a square. Their next job was to make a maze on the floor with painter's tape and see if they could program their robots to maneuver through it. Aside from some very basic instruction before they began, they were not given a lot of directions. Some asked for more help. Some just went for it. They had 3 values to put into each roll command- time, speed and direction. I could easily see how this could be a math lesson, a physics lesson and a communication lesson- all rolled into a programming activity. Luckily, I am not under pressure to get through a set curriculum. Many of you are. How can we embrace this "maker mindset", learning by doing, when our students, our teachers, the administrators and parents are so heavily invested in test results? I watch students walk in, take control of their learning, work past the time to leave, and leave excited and smiling.
What is this mystical maker's mindset? Beats me. It's hard for me to just go for it. to try to something with no real directions, to fail sometimes. I do it because I don't have a lot of choice. There's no manual for this, no scope and sequence, no pacing guide. I ask others, I seek help from youtube, from twitter, from my PLN... but, like the kids in my STEAM lab today, I sometimes just have to try it and see. I spent half of lunch time today beginning to learn how to program the little Edison robots we have- along with the help of a 6th grader. We did a pretty good job learning as we went, learning from each other. Tomorrow we will try again and see what else we can make them do.
When we were at Mt. Holyoke, I asked the woman who is in charge of the makerspace how she learned everything she needed to know to grow and run the space. Guess what- she is self-taught. If you like to read about mindset, Dale Dougherty, one of the founders of this movement, wrote about it here; EdSurge has a list of 6 "must-haves"; read some of Colleen Graves' work here or check out some of my friend Jackie Gerstein's work here. I steal ideas from Jackie on a regular basis. She has also pointed the way to great resources like the Destination Imagination Challenges.
If you haven't tried design challenges- go ahead- give it a try. You may discover that you have a "maker's mindset".