Invention Literacy Research – Part Two


This is the second post in a series describing the Invention Literacy Research Project that I worked on collaboratively with one of my English Teachers last school year- April Feranda. About 6 months ago, I watched this video by Jay Silver defining the term. I immediately loved this concept because it perfectly describes what I’ve been attempting to do in my library makerspace since May of 2013.  After writing lessons for Makey Makey last year, I realized I went through the ultimate training on Invention Literacy. I wanted to share that journey with you to help you become invention literate as an educator. April Feranda and I would love for your students to become invention literate. Therefore, we are putting this out there for you to hack and personalize and make your own. Read post one here.

Driving Question

“How does ______  work and can I make my own version of it?”

Before students could create their own invention with recyclables, they had to research how the original invention works and do a little investigating surrounding the invention’s history.

Traditional Research

  • April and I really wanted to cover traditional research by having students search authoritative sources like databases for information. Since students needed to find out the historical context surrounding an invention, we pointed them towards our favorite databases and advised them to take notes either in a Gdoc or in their maker journal. 

Crowdsourcing Research

  • Students search the Internet all the time! So we wanted to take this time to teach evaluating sources and finding credible and reliable sources. Students searched crowd-sourced sites like Instructables and Youtube to look for other versions of the invention they wanted to re-create.
  • As students evaluated these projects on crowd-sourced websites, we worked on teaching students how to decipher projects that they can make with their skillset and resources available versus what projects were not doable for them (because of a skill need or lack of resource. Some students did learn new skills through this project though! But they needed to recognize whether they wanted to learn a new skill or if they needed to find a new way to make something).
  • One of my favorite ways of crowdsourcing research is to contact experts. Midway through our inquiry, we had kids create questions for The Tinkering Studio.  Our students are new to making, so we Skyped these experts to find out how we can develop tinkering mindset, discuss inventing and playing, and much more. (See Youtube below and full set of questions here. )
  • For next year we are adding more aspects to our research:
    • The importance of Reuse/Recycle
    • How to look at the world as your toolkit

Prototyping /Inventions

For the student prototypes and inventions, we focused on these things:

  • Focus on design process. It is pertinent that students draw designs, and reflect on prototyping during their making process… Here are questions to guide your students:
    • What is going right?
    • And what do I need to change?
    • What do I need to research to make this project function better?
  • Have students incorporate this design process into their Maker Journals and make this a part of the final grade (if grading is needed.)
  • Utilize Spin turntable to document student invention iterations (See our Student work here.)
  • Build out of recyclables and everyday stuff
  • Incorporate tech like littleBits and Makey Makey if you have it, but you can still make amazing prototypes out of TRASH!🙂
  • Students should attempt to make prototypes functional, but it’s okay if they don’t work as long as students are actively trying to create something awesome. Failure is part of the process and if the final invention doesn’t work, it is okay! You never know, you may have kids take inventions home over the summer just to get them working. (We did!)

More Resources

  • Read Jay Silver’s blog post on Medium.
  • Read my article on the Demco blog discussing some quick and easy ways you can facilitate invention literacy at your school.
  • Read post Invention Literacy post one!
  • Read  Invention Literacy post three!

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