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robertogreco : christaflores   4

Making Science
"A book about constructionism, science literacy and making the world a better place."
making  markers  science  education  christaflores  friends  constructionism  learning  howwelearn  sfsh 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The "Unstructured Classroom" and other misconceptions about Constructivist Learning | FabLearn Fellows
"Ask any average kid what his or her favorite part of the school day is and you will probably get the answer lunch or recess. Kids love unstructured time because they have the privacy to fail while taking risks or learning how to be a social primate. At recess, kids have nearly 100% choice over what to do with their bodies, with the safe assumption that in case an injury does occur, an adult on duty will be on the scene in due time. Provide kids with a rich, not necessarily antiseptic space to explore and they teach us a lot about ingenuity, inclusivity and learning through play. Whether passionate about the physics of soccer or the game theory involved in the antics the day of a middle school dance, learning is experiential and self-directed at recess. Regardless of what passion takes over their choice time, we as adults trust them to make safe choices for the most part and we respect their individuality. So why does that trust shift when those same children come into our classrooms?

In the three years that I have been teaching science through the lens of making or inventing and problem solving, I have often heard the iLab, referred to as “unstructured,” by some well meaning adults. This harkens back to the discord between what we know progressive education can be versus what we envision when we think of a “progressive classroom.” When I worked at Calhoun in New York City, we were considered a progressive school and we often had the debate about what we mean by the term “unstructured.” The debate would invariably follow a conversation with a nervous parent that would go something like this, “Its good for some kids maybe, but my son doesn’t do well in an “unstructured” classroom.”

Student-Centered means having access to the tools and knowledge needed to set and reach learning goals. In this simple example, having tools out for a help-your-self community workshop feeling does the trick.

If that child struggles in his or her academic classes they may have an Individualized Learning Plan, which often involves the suggestion to write every instruction down for the child and to be explicit regarding the modes for success in your class. In other words, the best thing for the student to be and feel successful is to tell the child what and how to learn, as much as possible. While at first glance, this kind of teacher-led structure, which we want to spare high achieving kids from normally, seems like good teaching. We even have the perfect safe sounding term for it, its called scaffolding. My concern is that some scaffolding is tantamount to helmet laws which may be teaching us to be less safe in the end. Having had the gift of watching students learning in a student-centered classroom, however this translates to me, as nothing more than a lack of trust for children’s innate desire to learn what matters to them and an equal instinct to find importance through autonomy and risk taking and helping others. Thankfully, I am not alone in my uncensored trust of children as progressive playgrounds in Europe and Berkeley Ca, are beginning to prove.

By its own existence, a pre-set school curriculum assumes that children can not be held responsible for their own learning. On the one hand we as adults who work with kids, know kids do not always know what they do not know. Learning how to learn means seeing the stepping stones between just an idea and an idea that works. The skills of research and the use of tools for learning in general, are sometimes better taught step by step in the same fashion for most. On the less optimistic hand, cookie cutter curriculum also allows for some ridiculous falsehoods that many adults live in fear of. For instance, most adults worry children would not learn to read, or write, or to do math, left to their own devices and need the structure of school to make those skills materialize. Thank god dire circumstances still allow for disruptive questions to be asked, such as those asked by Dr. Sugata Mitra, allowing for a more diverse picture of who we are as a species, one that engages in learning for the sake of learning.

Here is my response to the claim that a maker classroom is unstructured. There are skills to be gained in any maker style curriculum on a spectrum from totally student driven to totally teacher directed. In my classroom I lean more towards student-directed with a game-like structure. For any given unit, either patterns, structures or systems, I give a simple prompt which allows for the most diverse range of solutions for students to discover. In game like fashion, there are rules about deadlines, teams and rules about when and how long play takes place (thats built into the school day schedule). There are “levels” of achievement and complexity of learning embedded into the system to be mindful of safety, and to allow for a mentoring system so knowledge is democratic and passion-based. Allowing students to chose the complexity with which they want to solve a problem is a side of autonomy that we cross our fingers over, but in the end, even when kids pick hard problems, they are experiencing something of value in that path full of potentially frustrating dead-ends. A list of such values we have all seen in our own ways teaching this kind of learning style. This past weekend at FabLearn, Sylvia Martinez, of Invent To Learn and Constructing Modern Knowledge, put it succinctly when she compared the kind of work kids can do in a fabrication lab environment to little league baseball. The authenticity of the work that kids do in an environment of constructing, allows kids see themselves as real inventors and engineers in the fashion that a little league player can imagine being a professional baseball player. It feels real and its age appropriate."
christaflores  2014  education  teaching  learning  schools  constructivism  unstructured  student-centered  fablearn  pauloblikstein  making  progressive  sugatamitra  responsibility  unschooling  deschooling  howwelearn  ilab  pedagogy  formativeassessment  paulahooper 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Self-Directed Learning: Lessons from the Maker Movement in Education
"Learning through the making of things is a concept as old as education. As psychologist Jean Piaget argued, knowledge is a consequence of experience. But somehow, with the exception of a small number of schools and vocational education programs dedicated to experiential inquiry-based learning, our nation’s schools strayed from this hands-on approach to education, spending much of the past 50 years focusing intensely on the memorization of information. Information matters, of course, but a growing number of schools and educators are reclaiming our educational roots, aiming to help kids learn by making stuff — but this time with a technological twist.

This new “maker movement” in education is an offspring of a broad cultural maker movement, spurred over the past decade in large part by Internet connectivity and affordable computer software and hardware. Guided by the shared philosophy that, if it can be imagined, it can be made, makers are popping up everywhere. They are do-it-yourself global entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, craftspeople, and inventors. In 2006, the first Maker Faires (yes, they use the Middle English “e” to give it that geeky panache; it’s also the French word for “to do” or “to make”) were organized so people could demonstrate their inventions, prototypes, and other creations, whimsical or practical, and otherwise learn from each other and delight in human inventiveness. The faires have been described as “the world’s greatest show (and tell)” — attracting hundreds of thousands of people annually. In 2013, there were 60 Maker Faires worldwide. Meanwhile, an increasing number of successful websites are dedicated to the movement. Etsy (, for instance, has more than a million artisans selling their wares to the world. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter also make it possible to get funding for larger self-starter projects. A recent article in The Economist described the movement as the “third industrial revolution,” focusing particularly on the rise of customized, small-batch manufacturing.

In education, the maker movement owes much of its impetus to the professionals at MIT’s Fab Lab, Stanford’s FabLab@School program, Make Media, The Maker Education Initiative, and other educational institutions with fabrication labs on their campuses. A fab lab is a low-cost digital workshop equipped with 3D scanners, computer controlled laser cutters, milling machines, and other equipment that allow users to build most anything. These labs, previously only found at elite engineering schools, are now popping up in urban settings as membership-supported maker spaces, as well as in innovative public libraries and a fast growing number of public and private schools — including Marymount School (New York), Castilleja School (California), and Hillbrook School (California) where I work.

Other schools are undertaking similar efforts, focusing on the infusion of design thinking and, more generally, problem solving and experiential learning into the curriculum.

“Making,” in education, refers to any form of construction that allows students to exercise their creative license to invent things. The making can involve analog and/or digital tools. It can be done in art, science, humanities, math, or any other subject, given the correct supplies. By its very nature, it employs the constructionist approach to learning, allowing each child the opportunity to construct new knowledge and skills while literally designing and building a physical object or digital entity.

The movement is predicated on the belief that students learn best when the learning is self-directed, when it arises from genuine interests, concerns, and questions. Educator Gary Stager sums up the maker philosophy succinctly: “Less us, more them.”

For students who learn through the making of things, the reward shifts from the successful demonstration of learned facts (i.e., tests, essays, lab reports) to the joy and earned wisdom experienced through exploration and discovery. Growing evidence indicates that this process provides students with a deeper understanding of the way things work, as well as a stronger sense of purpose and autonomy. It builds confidence, fosters creativity, and sparks a deep interest in learning."
christaflores  2014  making  education  democracy  learning  howwelearn  divergentthinking  convergentthinking  passfail  self-assessment  assessment  self-directed  self-directedlearning  empowerment  optimism  garystager  sylviamartinez 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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