Design and Maker Class Colloquium

On August 8 and 9, the Windward School hosted its second annual Design and Maker Class Colloquium, a two-day summer workshop for teachers, administrators and informal education professionals to demystify making and the design process.  In the emerging world of professional development in maker education, DMCC is clearly top notch.

The event is well structured.  The first day included a keynote by Karen Wilkinson of the Exploratorium who spoke on the big ideas in maker learning.  I think everyone in the audience was in attendance was already a big fan of maker education.  However, several of the quotes she shared deeply resonated with the audience.  How do I know?  I watch for when people take pictures of the slides.  These quotes included:

  • The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for inventing rather than provide ready-made knowledge.  Seymout Papert.
  • Based on “constructivist” theories of learning, which assert that knowledge is simply not transmitted from teacher to learner, but actively constructed by the mind of the learner.
  • “Constructionism” is a theory that suggests learning happens more effectively and new ideas emerge when people are actively engaged in making an external tangible object.

What also resonated with me (and the audience) was the concept of lifelong, lifewide learning.

This image from the LIFE Center suggests that most formal learning takes place between grades K through 12.  As one ages, formal learning situations occur less and less, while informal learning influences us from birth.  The question is: how do we leverage that?

We also discussed the Learning Dimensions Framework. This framework covers the role of engagement, initiative & intentionality, social scaffolding, and development of understanding. The Facilitation Field Guide is equally compelling.  Both documents seek to connect new ways of learning with STEM education and maker education.  Both documents should make their way into all teacher’s professional development portfolio.

The keynote ended with an activity (always a surprise during a keynote!): the compass points visible thinking tool.  Here, in small groups, we discussed the following key questions about maker education:

  • E: What excites you about this idea?
  • W: What do you find worrisome about this idea?
  • N: What else do you need to know about this idea?
  • S: What is your stance or opinion about this idea?

The discussion helped frame our work for the next two days.  Some of the contributions were surprising:

  • How do we enhance our curriculum with maker education?
  • You need to take it slow.
  • Not all students learn best by tinkering.
  • How do you balance exploration and content?

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