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Can MakerSpaces Invent the Future? (Video)

YouTube SpheroExoIt is incredible what kids can do when we believe in them, coach them, and get out of their way! Our students recently participated in a robotics competition that was invented from the ground up by staff and students.  We designed and printed 3D “exoskeletons” that fit over our Sphero robotic droids…and SpheroExo was born.  The rest is history.

Check out the 5 minute video below and prepare to be amazed at what kids can do.

http://tinyurl.com/SpheroExo

We are so proud of our students and all they are creating, engineering, and achieving.  Watch for our students next week as they present SpheroExo to teachers at EdCamp Eau Claire!  Students will be sharing their design process and how they’re inventing the future at #EdCampEC.

I’m not sure that MakerSpaces can actually invent the future, but I’m very confident that cutting-edge tools and a culture conducive to innovation helps.  A relevant and connected pedagogy empowers all kids to create, connect, and dream bigger.

 

Buzzword or Lifeblood?

IMG_5058

Image Credit: Jason Jenkins

I’ve heard some say that “student voice” is becoming a buzzword in education.  I’m hopeful this is not true.  We can’t let it be true.

Student voice should be the lifeblood of our schools.  Our kids’ needs, aspirations, and voices should be predominant in education; from the boardroom to the classroom.  (The same should be true of professional development!)

EdCampEC will be cranking up the volume and amplifying student voice on April 9th.  Greenwood Elementary (MN) students will be teaching teachers through a hands-on and student-led MakerSpace challenge.

Recently, some of our 3rd graders participated in a BattleDome experience using 3D printed exo-skeletons. The exo-skeletons fit around Sphero robotic droids that teams navigated during the competition.  Engineering and collaboration were interwoven throughout the experience, as students added different offensive and defensive capabilities to their exo-skeletons.  Kids were “making” with a purpose and the entire experience was nothing short of spectacular.

You can read more about the experience HERE…OR you can make the trek to Eau Claire, Wisconsin on April 9th to hear directly from the students involved!  They can tell you about their design process, and how different tools from our school’s Mobile MakerSpace fleet were used to unleash creativity and learning.

Student voice is alive and well!  We couldn’t be prouder of our kids, and we look forward to seeing their leadership and communication skills shine at EdCampEC.

If you have questions before April 9th (or can’t make the trip) don’t hesitate to reach out to the teachers who organized the Sphero-Exo event.

Within Reach

Sparkler

The teacher-observation process provides me access and insight into classroom learning experiences that very few people have.  I’m consistently inspired by the relevant and connected learning I observe. Recently I was in a classroom and I didn’t want the lesson to end.  As I was watching the lesson unfold, I knew that what I was experiencing was also within reach of classrooms and schools everywhere.

Here are some of the salient things I observed during the lesson:

  • I observed an elementary Language Arts lesson.
  • A clear learning target based upon state standards guided the learning process.
  • The teacher used one of our Mobile MakerSpace carts to teach students how to create an alternate ending to a text by manipulating various elements of the plot.
  • Students constructed models depicting their alternate story endings using Lego building bricks from the MakerSpace cart.
  • Students were empowered to collaborate on plans for their alternate story endings and projects.
  • Students had opportunities to talk, create, experiment, fail, and redesign.
  • The teacher purposefully connected with individual students and small groups to elicit high-level thinking and scaffold as appropriate.
  • Formative assessment was seamlessly interwoven through the lesson.
  • Students presented their creations to the class near the conclusion of the lesson.  This public speaking provided students time to explain their thinking, and the teacher was able to use some metacognition connected to the learning target.
  • Students used digital tools to curate their work so it could be referenced in the future and shared with parents.
  • As part of this process, students photographed their projects and uploaded them to Google Drive to share their learning with their families.
  • Students did not want the lesson to end.  (Based on what I was seeing, kids would’ve opted to skip recess if given the opportunity.)
  • The teacher ensured that the lesson was led by learning; not tools, technology, or activities.
  • This was an authentic learning experience that was scholarly and highly relational.

Did I mention that this was a kindergarten language arts lesson?! That’s right…our youngest learners were empowered to innovate, collaborate, present, and curate their work using digital tools.

At one point one of the kindergarteners yelled out in exuberence, “Teacher…we’re engineering!” and her amazing teacher responded, “Yes…you are designing and building.”  Kids were making connections to past conversations about design, building, and engineering.

During our observation post-conference I invited the teacher to share her reflections in a blog post instead of the traditional electronic form required by the district.  I knew that we could meet the requirements of the standard district form by copy/pasting reflections from a blog post if the teacher was interested in pursuing this.  (Stay tuned for her reflections and first blog post…)

I am convinced that a paradigm shift is underway in education because I see it every day at Greenwood Elementary.   A new and connected learning paradigm that puts students in the center of their learning is possible.  Deeper learning that’s both relevant and connected is within reach!

Within Reach

Image Credits:

1.) “Sparkler” photo from Pixabay (Creative Commons)

2.) “Kindergarten Collaboration & Digital Curation” photo from Greenwood Elementary

Are You the next MakerStar?!

Students showcase their Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Students showcase their Sphero Mobile MakerSpace.

Our school is looking for somebody to design the next Mobile MakerSpace cart at Greenwood.  We’ll supply the budget and pay for the materials, but we need kids, teachers, and parents to provide the creativity, voice, and ideas!  Who knows….your class or students just might be the next #MakerStar!  To submit an idea for a new cart follow the rules below:

Rules:

  • Be persuasive…WHY would your idea be great for our students?!
  • Stay on budget with supplies ($750 max.)
  • Stay succinct (provide a focused plan, drawing, or video)
  • Include costs, quantities, and any relevant ordering information
  • Your idea must fit inside (or on top of) the cart pictured below. Shelves are removable.
  • This design opportunity is open to students, groups of students, classrooms, parents, and educators everywhere.
  • Submit your idea to hashtag #MakerStar on Twitter by January 15, 2016.
  • We’ll be empowering our students to make the final decision and to announce the winners!

Maker Cart

Ready to Take the Design Plunge?!

Are you ready to dive in? If not, click HERE to see an inspiring motivational video by Steve Harvey! His “Jump” video applies to many things in life, but it gets me fired up every time I watch it.

Now that you’re ready to jump, just remember to post design submissions to hashtag #MakerStar on Twitter.  Submissions can be in any format (short video, diagram, photo, etc.).  If you don’t do Twitter don’t worry! Feel free to contact me and we can arrange a way for the design(s) to be e-mailed. The video below demonstrates how our students and staff are using some of the different carts, so be sure to check it out for possible design ideas.

Background Information

We currently have a fleet of carts capable of transporting hands-on, collaborative learning tools to virtually every classroom and hallway in our school.  Click HERE to see our carts in action.  A complete list of all our current carts is below.

Cart 1: Cardboard Construction – Makedo Kits

Cart 2: Circuit Scribe – Conducive Ink and Writable Circuitry

Cart 3: Edison Robots

Cart 4: K’Nex

Cart 5: Knitting – Yarn and Assorted Looms

Cart 6: Legos – Motors, Creative Tubs, Base-plates, and Education Kit

Cart 7: Legos – Simple and Powered Machines, Wheels, and Creative Tubs

Cart 8: Lego Friends Kits

Cart 9: MakerBot 3D Printer – with 14 colors of filament

Cart 10: Makey-Makey Kits and Bee-Bots

Cart 11: Modular Robotics – Cubelets

Cart 12: Sphero – 31 Robot Droids, Turbo Covers, and Accessories

**Special thanks to my summer administrative intern, EmaKate, for collaborating with me on this student design opportunity.  We’re excited to see what kids can create!

Mobile MakerSpaces in Action (Video)

The entire concept is really quite simple.  The Mobile MakerSpace carts that line the hallway leading into our Media Center are capable of transporting new opportunities and tools to virtually any space in our school.  Whether it’s high-tech 3D printing and modular robotics or low-tech knitting and plastic construction blocks…the carts contain tools that elicit collaboration and unleash student creativity.

When coupled with our amazing team of teachers the impact is quite profound. 

Click the Picture of our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet above to View Video.

Click the Picture of our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet above to View Video.

Our teachers continue to integrate collaboration, creativity, and ‘making’ into the student learning experience in a variety of ways.  In addition to our Mobile MakerSpace Fleet, new instructional approaches like Genius Hour, flipped instruction, connected learning, and math workshop contribute to a relevant pedagogy.  Best practices in literacy instruction, assessment, and classroom discussions further contribute to meaningful learning experiences.  Staff are engaged in a variety of passions that contribute to a culture of learning and innovative school ethos.

The time, energy, and learning that our team invests into reinventing themselves for kids each year is nothing short of inspiring.

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

We continue to expand upon student opportunities based on input from our students and staff.  This year we’re adding another five or six carts that students will have access to.  Be sure to watch the short video in this blog post to see how our Mobile MakerSpaces work.

Finally, stay tuned for a unique opportunity for YOUR students to design and propose our next Mobile MakerSpace cart!  It’s going to be AWESOME!

And One

Image Credit: imgkid.com

Image Credit: imgkid.com

In basketball, you might hear a player yell the phrase, “And one” after somebody is fouled attempting to make a basket.  If a player makes the basket in the process of being fouled, the referee can award an additional shot attempt.   In other words, “And one” can be unexpectedly awesome because it means that a player made a basket and gets the chance to score again.

Life is full of “And one” opportunities, but you have to be purposeful in creating them. 

University teacher preparation programs play a significant role in education.  Earlier this year, our school welcomed a busload of more than 20 future educators.  The undergrads were taking their first education class.  Our goal in engaging with the university and undergraduate students at such an early stage of their preparation was simple; we wanted to provide an authentic glimpse into the 21st century student learning experience in a way that no single semester-long technology class ever could.

Our students will be better served if we are more intentional about formal & informal induction processes.

Teacher preparation programs must interact with the mind-blowing possibilities that a relevant and connected pedagogy represent.  Technology can be a transformational tool and future educators should be made aware of this expectation early in their studies.  The moment we pigeonhole technology to an app or electronic worksheet we limit student potential.  We need to shine the light on current best-practice!  Hence, our “And one” moment was born.

After the busload of future educators arrived, we started our day by convening in our media center to review the rotations we’d set-up in advance.  Flanked by a few of our Mobile MakerSpace carts we conversed about pedagogy and discussed important “look fors” prior to visiting classrooms.  Then, we initiated some rotations that provided university students a variety of opportunities to observe what our teachers were doing to cultivate skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.  Towards the end of the visit we reconvened to reflect on the rotations and discuss important questions.  The entire experience was an “And one” moment for me.

NW College 1

When we invest in the capacity of others we’re not only living in the moment, but we’re adding value to tomorrow’s generation of learners.

I knew that the 20 or more future teachers on that bus would be profoundly impacted by seeing the inspiring everyday work occurring in our classrooms, but I didn’t expect to be so deeply moved by the experience myself.  I am convinced that schools need to be more actively engaged with universities and teacher preparation programs if we are to collectively rise to the challenges we face together.

What’s an “And one” moment you experienced this school year?  What was unexpectedly awesome and how did you make a difference for kids?

I challenge you to respond by sharing your #AndOneMoment. Then tag two additional educators you respect to add to the conversation!

Mobile MakerSpaces

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

This year we introduced Mobile MakerSpaces at our school.  A team of Greenwood teachers and I collaborated on the concept over the past year, and I earmarked some funding in our budget that we invested into the Mobile MakerSpace fleet and supplies.  Our goal was to create an ethos of innovation and design-thinking.  We wanted students to have the opportunity to create, build, tinker, fail, and think critically from any classroom or hallway in our school.  At our summer teacher workshops we embedded the “welcome back” content into a MakerSpace approach to demonstrate how learning and sharing through creative construction was possible.  Fast-forward to today…

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Our Mobile MakerSpace fleet is one of the many things our students LOVE about school!  Combined with the Genius Hour time that many teachers are doing…I sometimes catch myself wishing that I was an elementary student again!  Students are creating mini-golf courses using coding and Spheros. They are knitting, building, drawing, constructing, collaborating, and communicating their way through the school day.  Students have world-class opportunities and they are learning right alongside a dedicated team of teachers that continues to learn as well.  We even had a group of students lead professional development for some teachers and their principal (me). The student-ownership was AWESOME!

We’ve also had some classrooms start their own MakerSpaces and MakerSpace challenges to continue providing students opportunities to unleash their passions and creativity throughout the day.  During observations, I’ve observed firsthand how teachers are seamlessly integrating Mobile MakerSpaces into the student learning experience using clear learning targets and standards.  The creative materials and opportunities for student design-thinking have taken student engagement to levels I had not previously observed while students were completing worksheets.

Students have responded with a tenacity for learning.  One of our grade-levels schedules MakerSpace time 1st thing each morning, and our students can’t wait to get to school!  You do NOT need fancy supplies or expensive carts to create an ethos of innovation in your school.  (You can use everyday objects and miscellaneous supplies from home.)  However, I am including a list of our Mobile MakerSpace fleet supplies in case you’d like to bring any of the opportunities to your classroom or school.

Cart 1: MakerBot 3D Printer

Cart 2: LEGO

Cart 3: LEGO

Cart 4: K’Nex

Cart 5: CircuitScribe (Writeable Circuits)

Cart 6: Knitting Looms and Yarn

Cart 7: Sphero Robotic Droids

Cart 8: Modular Robotics Educator Pack

Cart 9: Edison Robotics (compatible with LEGO)

Cart 10: Bee-Bots & Makey-Makey Kits

Cart 11: Makedo Guided Kits & Creative Construction Bundles

Please feel free to view the videos below showing our students in action.  To see more of our students’ work, you can go to our school’s hashtag on Twitter #GWgreats.

I’ll Never Forget

Our teachers have been doing some truly ground-breaking work. The level of innovation and passion in our school is palpable.  We have classrooms participating in Genius Hour, coding, connecting with other schools, 3D printing, green-screen video production, flipped instruction, team teaching, augmented reality, and re-imagining learning spaces. I thought that I had grown accustomed to the general level of “awesomeness” in our school…but I’ll never forget what happened last week.

This past week Mrs. Kirchner’s 4th graders had the chance to take one of our “Mobile MakerSpace” carts for a test spin. The cart was loaded with Circuit-Scribe kits that enabled students to draw their own working circuits.  As you can see from the short video clip below…student engagement was off the charts!

The most inspiring part of the lesson was the process that Mrs. Kirchner used to introduce the new technology to students. Students were assigned partners and given time to experiment, collaborate, and fail. That’s right…FAIL.

They talked about why their circuits were not working, compared notes, wrestled with frustration and tried again. It was beautiful. When the guided inquiry time was over every single group had successfully created their own working circuit from scratch. Students drew the conductive lines themselves and created unique battery configurations to power their projects.

I was fortunate to be a part of the experience and it was absolutely amazing. I’m talking jaw-dropping amazing.  It’s one thing to be issued a science kit full of wires and directions. It’s another to see a group of kids wrestle with failure and overcome it using skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

I will never forget the power of failure in the learning process!

Together We’re Better for Kids

I took this photograph of a MakerBot while attending ISTE 2014.

I rely on my PLN to share innovative ideas about pedagogy and opportunities for students. I took this photograph of a MakerBot while attending ISTE 2014.

Being connected on Twitter, Voxer, etc. has been a powerful supplement to the relationships I cherish with the dedicated teachers in our school.  In fact, the connections we’re cultivating that started out on Twitter have had a direct impact on our students.

Our school has had a core group of teachers collaborating the past year on 21st century learning spaces to promote student engagement, creativity, and innovation.  Staff have conducted site visits at other schools and met after school to collaborate on a regular basis. Their work has been inspiring, and I could go on for days about how phenomenal our team is.

As part of our conversations we have discussed bringing a MakerSpace to our school.   The purpose of these conversations and a potential MakerSpace has been centered on cultivating an ethos of student learning made possible through passion-based learning, experimentation, creation, risk-taking, failure, and design iteration. I learned about the MakerSpace concept via my Personal Learning Network (PLN).

My connections on Twitter equipped me with additional research on MakerSpaces and 3D printers to contribute to the conversations. Drew Minock, a friend in my PLN that I met via Twitter, took time to explain how he wrote a DonorsChoose.org grant for a 3D printer in his classroom.  We spoke a couple times via the telephone until I was ready to work with teachers interested in writing a grant in our school.   We submitted a grant and our project is now fully-funded!  Members of my PLN helped spread the word and retweeted project information.  We even had several people that I only know through Twitter donate to our students.  The process has been humbling!

Twitter has been a game-changing tool that empowers educators to forge supportive, student-centered relationships with one another from anywhere on the planet.   Twitter was the primary tool I used to connect to research about MakerSpaces and 3D printers. Twitter was how I learned about DonorsChoose.org. Twitter connected me to caring parents and educators across the country that also wanted to support students and our 3D printer project. However, this story isn’t really about Twitter; it’s about what some of these connections will mean for our students. When school starts this fall, our students will have an unbelievable opportunity to innovate using cutting-edge technology.

Together we are better for kids, and our students are the ultimate winners when educators collaborate within and across classrooms, schools, and states! Our MakerSpace project would not have been possible without an AMAZING team of educators at Greenwood Elementary…and the positive power of PLN.

11 Questions We Need to Ask

3d 2

  1. What are the chances that our children would choose school over another preferred activity?
  2. What are the chances a student will always love school? (Not just tolerate it…but literally LOVE it.)
  3. What should we do if a child is not captivated by school now?
  4. What if we gave our kids more opportunities to create and engineer in elementary school?
  5. How might we amplify student voice and foster a deep appreciation for authentic learning that transcends age or grade-level?
  6. Better yet…how can we make learning in school MORE authentic now?
  7. What if school was less about worksheets and filling in bubbles and more about creating and inventing?
  8. What might we have to give up to make school more student-centric, and are we truly willing to take that risk?
  9. Can students learn as much through experimentation and failure as they can through traditional means?
  10. How might we create a more personalized student learning experience where critical thinking and “dreaming big” were the norm?
  11. What would the dinnertime conversation feel like if you were able to ask your child, “What did you invent today and what challenges did you persevere through to make it happen?

The best part about education is that not only do WE get to ask the questions…WE get to answer them because WE are part of the solution! You can be part of a pilot project that is part of the work we are doing at Greenwood Elementary. Teachers are doing some amazing things and truly intent on fostering conditions that support an AMAZING learning experience for kids.

Will you help us usher in a new era of learning that builds upon the tradition of excellence in our district? We refuse to accept a disconnect between “real life” and school. We want our students to have limitless options and access to cutting-edge technology in a safe and supportive environment.

Will you please consider supporting our MakerBot 3D Printer for a new Mobile MakerSpace project on DonorsChoose.org?

If you donate by June 18, 2014 your contribution will receive matching funds. (Use the promo code INSPIRE to have your donation doubled!) If you know of anyone else that may be interested in supporting this project please pass this blog post along.

 

Image Credit: MakerSchmitt.blogspot.com

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