A few weeks ago I was honored to moderate a panel at the CISC conference (Curriculum Instruction Steering Committee for CA’s school leaders) with amazing Sonoma County educators! We discussed the emerging K-12 maker and maker educator movements in the North Bay. The conference theme of, “What if…” was apropos seeing that all of the speakers (listed below) embodied the imaginative and creative approach to leadership that is currently required in K12 education. Melissa Becker and Gina Silveira were inspired by the maker talks and events they attended and then discussed to create a makerspace and run a maker camp at their sites, respectively. Mickey Porter and Casey Shea joined me with creating the first-of-its-kind Maker Certificate Program at Sonoma State.
When I first told my students what their next challenge would be, the children fell into two categories. They were either very excited to get started or overwhelmed by the task. For the 100th day of school I asked my first graders to create something by using 100 items. Over the course of two days they would get 100 minutes to plan a design AND create their one of a kind item. They would then share what they made with their fourth grade reading buddies.
I found myself on the floor of The Exploratorium at 9:30am on a Tuesday morning in September, paired with a high school engineering teacher and armed with the task of making a marble go as slowly as possible. It’s not often that I find myself on the floor engaged in a learning activity for work. I have two small children so I am often on my knees or laying on the floor playing with them or frantically searching for a missing Lego piece or a morsel of food that my daughter threw to the ground.
On this Tuesday morning though I was on the ground for my own learning and I was invigorated: I had a partner, I had a goal, and I had the resources of The Exploratorium to create a marble machine that would require us to grapple with gravity, slope, velocity, angle, material precision, and create a system designed to slow down a marble. I, of course, didn’t realize these curricular connections at the time. I was just simply excited to tinker, build, and test materials that could assist in challenging a marble’s natural inclination to roll down an incline.
By Guest Blogger Jennie Snyder, Superintendent, Piner Olivet Union School District, Santa Rosa, CA
“Meaningful change ain’t gonna happen for our kids if we’re not willing to invest in it for ourselves first. At the heart, it’s not about schools…it’s about us.” — Will Richardson, “No Quick Fix,” October 4, 2011).
There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a seismic shift in the field of education. The rapid rate of innovation in all human endeavors, especially science and technology, has called into question the relevance of the industrial model of schooling based on the transmission of knowledge. Students entering college face the obsolescence of the body of knowledge within their chosen field even before they graduate. Author and consultant, Bruce Wellman summed our current context up well when he said: “At this point we appear to have a 19th century curriculum, 20th century buildings and organizations, and 21st century students facing an undefined future.” Given our current context, how then do we create educational experiences for students that are meaningful and that prepare them for success?
As educators, we often cite the need to cultivate the habits of lifelong learning as critical for our students to successfully navigate this unknowable future. Yet, as Will Richardson suggests, if we are not willing to invest in our own learning first, the change needed to make our schools more relevant and responsive to the needs of our students in the 21st century, isn’t going to happen. In short, change begins with us.
Where to begin…
By Guest Blogger Melissa Becker, Principal Meadow Elementary School, Petaluma, CA
Congratulations on an amazing undertaking that will transform the way your students THINK, PROBLEM SOLVE, and LEARN. Maker Space allows students to take risks while trying something they have not tried before, thus igniting a possible passion or curiosity. Students have the opportunity to engage in a project that is “real” and tangible that they have to work as a team to solve. Lessons start with “free play,” building and exploration so that students can discover how materials work together.
Wondering if the new Maker Educator courses and workshops offered through The Startup Classroom at Sonoma State are right for you? Casey Shea, Maker Educator and one of our course instructors provides a preview to what you can expect:
Several of the activities that we will do in the Maker Certificate course involve modern electronics and the amazing ways that we can use them. Examples include soft circuits, or wearable electronics, which use conductive thread to sew circuits. Paper circuits use copper tape or conductive paints and super small LEDs that you can even put in a notebook.
The tiny size of these and other components makes it difficult to see what is going on. To get familiar with some of the basics of circuitry, we will experiment with Squishy Circuits (conductive playdough) along with our version of Circuit Blocks, a project from the fine folks at the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium.
Kids have amazing imaginations. How as a teacher do you embrace your students creativity while also following set standards?
This is a big year for me as an educator. I’ve crossed the 25-year yard line on the teaching field and am pleased to find myself feeling as invigorated as I did when I began at age twenty-three. I’m a middle school math teacher but I start each day by teaching a class called Inventor’s Lab. For me, it’s something of a learning laboratory where I can try out anything I want without worrying about which standards I am covering. The only requirement is that the kids are engaged and happy.
So, we spend our mornings designing tee shirts and key chains to print on 2 and 3-D printers, programming EV3 Lego robots, and creating speakers out of paper cups. The kids are most certainly engaged and the most common refrain I hear from parents is that my class is what motivates their child to get out of bed and off to school. It’s a lot of fun, especially since I am lucky enough to team-teach the class with my co-conspirator Nate.
(EU1) is simply defined: You are your own business. You are your own personal brand. Today's fast paced and ever changing world demands individual asset attention that embraces entrepreneurial concept and application, and whether your vocation is in the arts, education, business, technology, legal, government or other, ongoing investment in that asset is not just optional, it is mandatory.
And contrary to many of the investment pontiffs, YOU are your biggest asset; it’s not the equity in your home, savings in the bank, stocks and bond, or a 401 k plan. Your biggest asset is you. No one in the world has your unique personal brand, and no one has your unique purpose and service ability to the world.
This genesis of EU1 began formulating back in the early 1990’s, when a whole new breed of worker steamrolled onto the scene. “Independent Contractor” utilization was growing exponentially, most pronounced in many of the high tech companies down in Silicon Valley, and contrary to popular belief at the time, this new breed of “economic unit of one” were not just technologists. They were marketing specialists, recruiters, accountants, educators, doctors, engineers and countless others. These EU1’s were calling their own shots, demanding accelerated pay and in many cases exorbitant amounts of stock options, benefits and variable pay. In some cases, these EU1’s were working for multiple companies at the same time, navigating from world to world, garnering unique experiences and opportunities that would prepare them for their next assignment, the next project, or their next company.
There are endless possibilities for helping us build up The Startup Classroom. Here are a few ways you can get involved.
Build Bridges between education and business
Learn Together with innovative professional development and collaboration opportunities
Stay Connected in a personal and online network that shares and learns and works together
Learn more. Read beyond the headlines. From the Common Core to the Maker movement, there is more going on in education than ever before. And its future is in our hands.
Start a conversation. Open the door. Ask deep questions in the spirit of inquiry, not judgment. Talk to a teacher, your neighbor, your kid, a college student, a politician. Or join a ongoing conversation. Teachers are on Twitter like no one else, so find a few. Eavesdrop at first if you must, but we know eventually you’ll raise your hand.
Connect with your local school. If you have school-age children, you probably already are. Take another step. Approach a different school or teacher. Bring what you’ve learned and find out how it applies (or doesn’t) to that particular school or those particular students.
Offer your time. You’re picking up speed. Ask how you can help. Really. Maybe it’s being in the classroom to do whatever needs doing. Maybe it’s more. Can you be a mentor? For students or for a teacher. Invite them into your world and spend time in theirs.
Host a group. At your business or at your home. Bring a whole class or invite a few teachers and business people to share a meal and ideas.