When I was in the fifth grade, my class took a field trip to a hundred-year-old one room schoolhouse. We marveled at how desks were arranged in an evenly-spaced matrix, drew on a dusty blackboard at the front and flipped through readers that were primarily used as a learning tool at the time. Yet the classroom we returned to at the end of the day was not that different, nor are classrooms I visit across Michigan today. Students still are often made to sit so they can focus on the instructor at the front of the room. Only recently have chalkboards or whiteboards been supplemented with interactive smartboards, many of which are used only as expensive whiteboards. Textbooks, pencils, and paper are still the primary tools used by many students.
Circuit design is a popular type of project in the maker movement. During our time creating Maker Faire projects, we experimented with creating circuits using conductive thread, play-doh/squishy circuits, copper tape, conductive ink, and littleBits that use magnetic connections. Having all these different approaches for lighting up LEDs, activating motors, or powering any other component makes circuit design accessible to students of many different levels of ability and interests. Yet if we are to encourage students to move towards becoming expert learners, it would be useful to have a path available to students who would like to pursue circuit design further. Teachers may not be experts in this field, so allowing students to turn to their personal learning network is an attractive choice. Since circuit design lends itself well to open inquiry, a wealth of resources would be needed. As I pursued my learning project on circuit design through CAD programs and printing inexpensive circuit boards through OSHPark, I found there was a plethora of videos and forums available on just those topics. This process of learning from people with similar interests, including taking part in what Gee (2013) calls an affinity space was well suited for my learning goals, as my video on networked learning explains.
In my experience, teaching can often feel like you are working within a bubble. While you may discuss your teaching practices with coworkers at short meetings, there is little chance during the day to truly share your ideas, including those on effective use of tools within the classroom. To alleviate that sense of isolated teaching, I prepared and sent out a survey to my colleagues at the Cranbrook Institute of Science on how they use technology to support learning. Seven of the educators, or just over half, responded to thirteen multiple-choice questions, and while the sample size was small, there were a few questions where there was a clear consensus which could be useful. I don’t see our workplace as having cutting-edge technology nor do we often consider how to effectively use what we have at our disposal, so I see this survey as a starting point for further discussions on integrating effective tools for learning in our programs.
Our #Innovation group has explored the nature of innovation these past couple weeks, and while our discussion at times went in many different direction, this reflected the wicked nature of the problem: how do we have schools value innovation in their students? Wicked problems were proposed by Rittel and Webber (1973) as problems that are so large and complex that they cannot be completely described, can be seen through very different yet equally valid viewpoints, and have no definite solutions.
Temperatures 1880-2000 to 2100 by Alexander.stohr is under public domain.
I’ve been in an information rut for years. I get my news from the same sources everyday, visit the same blogs, check the same forums. Several of those sources can be described as affinity spaces, where people and tools are “networked in ways that make everyone smarter” (Gee, 2013, p. 174). I’ve realized that most I use are related to hobbies, such as MountainBikeReview and BoardGameGeek. I discovered these resources early on when starting these hobbies and they provided an accelerated method for getting familiar with terminology and making informed purchases. Some do feed into my teaching, such as joining the i3Detroit hackerspace. These led to ideas and activities for students I would have never considered otherwise. For instance, when I was first touring their space, I mentioned that I didn’t have any experiences with surface mounted device (SMD) soldering, and a long-time member gave me a chance to try it out. It’s that open sharing of information that is a vital aspect of affinity spaces.
While exploring resources for my networked learning project on designing and printing a circuit board, one of the first links I came across was a post from Reddit on a fairly new subreddit /r/PrintedCircuitBoards titled: Teaching Circuits to high school kids: Bread board the only option? Responses listed several choices such as Eagle, which I used briefly to teach an activity for summer camp last year, but it was clunky in many ways and interest seemed to be turning to some of the newer programs. I decided to learn KiCad, as it is open source, under active development, and is increasing in popularity.
Can visitors of all ages start to code in a Maker Faire/festival style environment? A group of MSU MAET students known as the Pinball Wizards tackled this challenge and presented the result at the Michigan State Mini-Maker Faire on July 2, 2014. We felt this was a particularly relevant time to attempt this. Many students have been introduced to computer programming this past year thanks to the Hour of Code initiative, and Google has recently begun an initiative to get female students interesting in coding with the Made with Code program.
I’ve devoted significant thought to the revision of a lesson plan called Folds & Fractals. I began by examining the relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy knowledge within the TPACK system. Next, the lesson was viewed from the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) vantage point, looking for ways to fundamentally address the needs of the diverse group of learners teachers serve. Finally, I examined how both my and students’ personal learning networks (PLN), those people and resources we turn to when seeking out knowledge, can assist with learning in the context of this lesson. I think the unique constraints that outreach education works within require specific solutions to achieve effective learning in diverse environments. I identified several opportunities for improvement within the lesson plan.