maker movement

Coding in The Classroom

I will be presenting a Connect 2014 – Canada’s Learning and Technology conference on Coding the Classroom.

Here is a link to my presentation file: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1VfL1HsnXiBtY398fJ140a3NR77UoUfaE9c-nJSt8-H0/present#slide=id.p

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MAET Makers: Round 4: The Final Chapter (…for now)

I just couldn’t let the Raspberry Pi beat me, so I brought it out for one more round to take it down. We have yet to be able to get the Raspberry Pi working despite our best efforts using our “network” to assist.

Unfortunately, I think I discovered my problem was greater than I could fix given the resources I had due to a possibly incompatible SD card, although I was able to assist another MAET student in the online cohort in discovering her problem, and getting her Raspberry Pi working, so all was not lost. As we knew that the problem was with the SD card set up I discovered a wiki that addressed this issue.

SD Card Setup Wiki – http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup

This led me to discover that perhaps the SD card we were using may be incompatible.

SD Card Investigation – http://elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards

After locating this information I feel slightly better in my networked learning journey. At this point I have been able to find information to confirm that challenges that we were experiencing, and it would seem like this is a common problem that occurs. Without the internet, I would not have been able to access this wiki and discover this information and I may have been left feeling defeated and broken; however, now I feel like the problem is resolvable with the proper SD card.

With this information I was also able to assist another MAET student to get her Raspberry Pi working. As this seemed to provide a solution to her problem, it made me feel positively about networked learning, as I was able to continue to pass along the knowledge that I had gained to assist someone else who was experiencing the same challenge. This is the beauty of having a network where you can reach out to other people and ask for assistance, or get new ideas that you may have not thought of. Although I don’t think I will be using Raspberry Pi in my own classroom in the near future,  my Personal Learning Network on Twitter has been a huge factor in my professional growth, as at times teaching in an independent school can be an isolating experience when you are the only teacher in a specific grade level. I have learned about great books to read with my class, gotten ideas for assignments, found classrooms to Skype with, and so much more. It is great to know that you can also find networks online for learning other new skills like Raspberry Pi.

As part of my “maker” journey, I decided to learn how to utilize a new piece of video creation and editing software that we were fortunate enough to be given access to this week – Snag It and Camtasia. I personally find that learning a new piece of software is much easier when you have a meaningful purpose to utilize it for, and I thought that it would be a great introduction. The tutorials that are available on the TechSmith website are very helpful and there is a healthy online community accessible from their webpage. Personally, I know that sometimes I forget what an asset the internet is and how much is available for assist you out there if you are willing to take risks and be open minded to learning new skills.

Please take 4 minutes to watch my MAET Maker Journey that I have documented for all to see. I hope that it will inspire you to want to utilize the “net”work in order to learn something new or share your knowledge to assist someone else.

Reflection on The Anti-Education Era By James Paul Gee

For the MAET Y1 program, we were asked to read The Anti-Education Era written by James Paul Gee. The book is divided into two sections – the first focusing on why humans are in general stupid in the 21st century, and the second provides his ideas on how we can improve the situation. Personally, I found the first section of the book very repetitive and overly detailed, however the idea that we are not utilizing the tools that we have available for us to access to our full potential was my main take away. I found the second section of the book much easier to relate to my professional practice and the other readings we have been examining in the MAET Year 1 course work.

Cover of Anti-Education Era By James Paul Gee

Like every society before us, there are a number of complex problems that we have to face. I would hazard to guess that although the problems people faced before us, may not seem as challenging to us compared to what we face, I am sure that they were equally or more challenging given the context and availability of resources. Today, many problems are considered wicked, or complex in that there is no clear best solution to the problem – such as how do we change education to prepare students of today for the unknown future. In Gee’s opinion the reason that we are unable to solve these problems effectively is due to the fact that we are “short-cicuiting the circuit of human reflective action” (p. 11) through our process of formal schooling that does not allow for students to develop real world experiences and apply their learning in meaningful ways.

In the book, Gee argues that in order to face these complex problems we need to utilize collective intelligence or a “Mind of minds”. Gee states that “we humans think and act better when we do so by getting the help of others and giving help to them” (p. 164). He promotes to use of affinity groups and affinity spaces to serve as a way to bring together individuals who share a common interest or passion, but have varying levels of expertise and a variety of backgrounds (Gee, 2013, p.174). Through the use of this collaboration, a wider variety of ideas, opinions, and thoughts can be brought into the wider forum, where they can be analyzed, synthesized, improved, and re-imagined into a better solution than could be thought of through only one perspective or outlook.

The description of affinity spaces found on pg 175-177, reminded me very much of the maker movement and maker spaces. Thinking about how we can broaden this concept so that as a society we can be collectively more intelligent, I automatically think about politics and the role that politicians play in solving problems that they often are not really passionate, knowledgeable, or interested in. How could something like the maker movement or maker spaces be utilized in government to utilize the interests of passionate and motivated citizens? How can we utilize affinity spaces and groups in schools to promote change from the bottom up and develop policies that are meaningful for the people who are working on implementing them on a daily basis?

When I look at the ‘wicked problem’ of meaningful technology integration, I think affinity spaces could be a valuable tool in creating a school culture that is exploring what technology integration looks like in a meaningful way. Take for instance that every Tuesday after school from 3:30-5:00 any teacher who was interested was welcome to attend the “technology integration space” in someones classroom. Here they could share tools they have been using in their classroom, look at new tools and brainstorm how they could be remixed into the classroom, create how-to video tutorials explaining what they are doing. Then they could utilize an online platform to store and share their discussions and allow other teachers to become a part of the conversations. Over time, their interest may grow and they may become “experts” at a specific form of technology integration. Also new members may join, after seeing the organic nature of the development and been interested in exploring technology in a non-threatening way. The important point is that all members of the group are valued equally and the individual development is based on the needs and interests of each person,  not the same goal for each member.

I think that affinity spaces and the maker movement provide an interesting approach toward developing solutions for problems that challenge us both inside and outside of schools today. The importance of being able to recognize ourselves as learners and continue to challenge our own understanding and thinking is a critical component of developing meaningful solutions for the future.

Reference:

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

MAET Makers: Play Day

Building, making, creating, inventing, re-imagining, exploring, discovering, re-purposing.

These are all words that come to my mind when I think about the “Maker Movement”. To begin exploring what the “Maker Movement” is and what it means for teaching and learning in the 21st century, each person shared a resource/reading related to the the “Maker Movement”. This was done in the ‘slam’ style, meaning each person had 1 minute and 30 second to give the audience a overview of the main ideas and highlight any important information they located with that resource.

Through examining a wide variety of resources to gain a ‘big picture’ of what the maker movement is we were exposed to a variety of sources – from magazines, to YouTube videos, to websites created about kids. To me, the big idea is moving from a ‘consumer based’ society – where you have to go and purchase everything you need, to a ‘maker-based’ society where you can create and design everything you need – based on other improving other peoples ideas or inventing something new. It is encouraging a movement of DIY’ers (Do-It Yourself’ers) to utilize technologies that have previously been too expensive for personal use, such as C and C machines or 3-D printers, to challenge the traditional economic patterns. The movement is highly collaborative – with physical and online ‘spaces’ to encourage the sharing of ideas, specialties and resources and the partnering of people with similar interests in building and creating that may not have known prior.

One misconception that I had regarding the maker movement was that the people who were involved were traditionally trained designers and creator such as architects, artists, and engineers and it was a more structured process. In actual practice, the members of this maker movement come from all spectrums of society in a very free flowing, interest based involvement.

Then the fun began! We were able to explore four different “maker kits”. Each maker kit contains a various assortment of hardware (circuit boards, wires, components), that allow you to remix the pieces to create new uses for the materials. Each kit is slightly different in its components, which provide the parameters for what you can create.

LittleBits – This kit contains various electronic modules which clip together. The different modules are color coded to assist with the creation process. Each module seems well constructed and would pass the “kid test” of not breaking too easily. The system is powered by a USB which can either connect to a charger or a computer. With the 10 minutes that we had to explore, we were able to create 2 different systems using a light, motion sensor, and fan! The entry point on this maker kit is fairly low, as it is very graphical and the instruction set included in the box was very helpful to get started. The extended kit cost $149 + shipping/taxes, but would provide endless hours of creative energy.

Electronic Modules That Clip Together

Electronic Modules That Clip Together

Easy To Snap Together and Create

Easy To Snap Together and Create

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makey Makey – This kit contained a MaKey MaKey (computer board), alligator clips, and USB cable. It allows you to create touch buttons using house hold items to control items on your computer. The entry point for this maker kit was low – the instructions included in the box were straight forward, and we were easily able to construct a controller to play a computer game using the contents of the kit and some coins. The kit sells for $49.95 + taxes/shipping, but could provide hours of enjoyment and re-purpose some household items!

Exploring the MaKey MaKey Kit

Exploring the MaKey MaKey Kit

Raspberry Pi – This kit was the most intimidating to open as there were no instructions and the box was jam packed with electronic components that weren’t labelled! With a little exploring, we managed to put a few pieces together and navigate to the homepage and watch a few YouTube videos. As we were tight on time, and did not have a USB mouse and keyboard, and hdmi video screen what we could physically explore was somewhat limited. The kit will cost you about $35 + tax/shipping, plus the cost of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor if you do not have access to one already.

Raspberry Pi Components

Raspberry Pi Components

Squishy Circuits – This kit contained a motor, a couple of different buzzers, and LED lights of various colors. Users have to make the conductive (salt based) and insulating dough in order to complete the kit. The entry point is fairly low – some basic knowledge about circuits and you are good to start creating. We did find the kit a little finicky to get the electricity flowing through the circuit from the battery pack. The kit costs $25 + tax/shipping, plus the cost of materials to make the dough.

Squishy Circuits in Action

Squishy Circuits in Action

After lunch we went downtown to visit Galway’s Maker Space 091 Labs. This space has been around for a couple of years, with the mission of providing a shared working space for ‘makers’ working on any creative project. Through this, members are able to share, collaborate, and learn from each other in a very friendly and supportive environment. Members pay a small monthly fee to utilize the space and participate in the monthly events that the space organizes. The space has a variety of resources including 3D printers and electronics equipment that are a shared resource. Although the members where mostly assisting us, it was easy to see how this type of open space could help people create, invent, innovate, and make new stuff as the energy and excitement in the space was palpable.

At the maker space, I was working on getting the Raspberry Pi module up and running and there was one member who was somewhat knowledgeable about this process. We worked on installing the operating system to the mini-SD card. One challenge we ran into was locating a monitor that would hook up to the Raspberry Pi. Quickly, we learned that there are many YouTube clips available to assist with learning the basics of the Raspberry Pi that will be helpful as soon as we are able to see what the operating system looks like.

Photo Credit: Chris Sloan Twitter: @csloan

Photo Credit: Chris Sloan Twitter: @csloan

One area that I am interested in exploring is the relationship between the ‘maker movement’ and ‘design thinking‘, specifically the prototyping phase. I feel like this would give some context to creating something, and might be a good way to develop initial understanding of what the kit contains. It would also help students to understand that there is a process that goes into inventing something, and help visualize their thinking.

In my class, each unit of inquiry (there are 6 per year), contains a summative task where students are assess on their ability to explain their understanding of the central idea. Many of these assessment tasks involve students creating or making something. I am wondering which of the maker kits might make sense to use in one of my summative tasks for a unit of inquiry.