Cultivating the Maker mindset

I make.  I make to bring ideas to life and its a habit that I do on a daily basis. I bake, play, tinker, break, build, create, crochet and construct.

skull1    jellyfish    lego mindstroms

When I came into teaching I thought my path would be traditional and that in my down time I would continue to make and over time, and with more experience, I would slowly be able to weave it into my teaching practice.  My journey has been nothing like that.

I am fortunate to be in a school that openly celebrates its teachers unique strengths and currently find myself 7 weeks into programs I have imagined, constructed and now run.  I’m not sure how many beginning teachers can say they have been given the same freedom.  Being a technology teacher I am in the position where it is standard that students make and produce individual tactile products however I have seen from the inside during placements that sometimes they are little more than step by step kit-sets where the students have little input apart from maybe the colour in the end.  The focus  seems to be on transferring traditional manufacturing skills – hammering, mixing, sewing.

Looking at technology practice though from a Maker mindset is an opportunity to explore mashups of learning areas enabling students to investigate with genuine interest and ‘make’ in their own way.  Making creates a space for students to learn resilience, problem solving and teamwork within an authentic framework. Its messy and I’ve found many students frustrated that things haven’t been perfect or mapped out for them but in the end they have had breakthroughs.  There truly is no better way to learn than by doing.

As part of my Year 8 Soft Materials course students have been creating soft circuits as part of a bigger gamified quest (blog post to come!) – making wearable tech using conductive thread, LEDs and batteries to create a product that lights up. Mashing some science theory with soft materials skills students needed to design and then create a product while learning hand-stitching skills, the basics of electricity and how to construct circuits along the way.  Then the juicy top layer is the experience of doing something completely new, having to figure out how it works and then spending time to problem solve when it doesn’t light up.  The result were classes completely engaged in the making where the learning was visible

photo 5  photo 2  photo

As part of each lesson I video the responses to reflection questions and then we watch them at the start of the next. Yesterday in my Year 8 Robotics class they are working on a challenge to design and make a bot that could do a dull, dirty or dangerous job for them that needed to utilise front mounted touch sensors.  The students ideas ranged from a bomb disposal bot to a cat entertainer to a bot with scrubbers attached that could clean pots.  

Traditional skills were needed to solder and get the guts of the bots working ( which is based on this beetle bot) and  then students needed to experiment with recycled materials to create working bot prototypes.

 photo 1 photo 4 photo 2 photo 3

After a slightly manic and very messy day where the students were building, making, cutting, gluing, soldering and drawing, we packed up then stopped to reflect on the days activity and learnings.  We chatted about the class in general and their thoughts on what we were doing – most interesting was their thoughts on how they were doing it.   ‘Working together made it easier’, ‘sharing ideas made the ideas even better’ and ‘learning from my mates mistakes’ – are a few of the snapshots taken from the conversation.  The messy act of making working as a great vehicle for promoting life long learning skills.

I’m beginning to discover that my passion to make is naturally morphing into my classroom, and possibly something I could not have separated from my practice.  Unleashing this mindset and making it part of my practice is exciting, its ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ at times but a way of teaching and learning that I’m excited to be part of.

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Images & Copy  Creative Commons – Attribution, Non-Commercial & Share-Alike

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