I just got back from Florida and had so much fun facilitating a “Low Floor High Ceiling Workshop” alongside Josh Burker! Josh built this amazing wiki as a resource to which I added ideas for Makey Makey and Paper Circuits.
We stayed true to our maker facilitator background and held this workshop in an open-ended format and let the learners guide their own work. So it was a BLAST! Check out some snapshots of participant’s learning:
Marble runs are always satisfying!
One of my favorite things during the workshop was seeing so many makers make my favorite paper circuit activity from the #bigmakerbook. While makers were attempting this complicated circuitry, I had an a-ha moment. Even though paper circuits might not seem open-ended, it is a great activity to introduce tinkering, problem-solving, and de-bugging. When makers craft paper circuits, they often have only one or two lights that work at first, so this type of making forces them to tinker to problem solve why their connections aren’t creating closed circuits. Plus, even if they are following a template, the nature of paper circuits allows for some open-ended creativity for incorporating light and interactivity. (Check out this birthday card from one of our workshop attendees!) Lastly, this paper circuit can now be animated with Jie’s new programmable paper circuit “Love to Code” board!!!
Our participants even got to see Josh and I go into mad maker mode when he designed a whimsical Makey Makey instrument inside the wind tunnel, and I hacked a computer fan for Makey Makey spin art. Watch the whole Instagram below:
More on take apart and re-inventing here:
The next day I gave my Keynote on Making and Literacy and explained how Invention Literacy can immerse students in the maker mindset.
I also enjoyed attending sessions and getting even more resources for making with cardboard from Kris Swanson and Vicki Spitalnick! (And I’m ever so thankful for Kris showing me this vectorizer so I can get my Watercolorbot to be more functional! )
You should add the Pinecrest Innovation Institute to your yearly conference schedule! The Fort Lauderdale campus is beautiful and there will be great learning for all to enjoy. (Plus awesome maker educators like Diana Rendina and Krissy Venosdale are in attendance.)
As I’m wrapping up the last round of this year’s invention literacy PBL, I wanted to share a visitor’s perspective. New middle school librarian, Kelly Korenek, came to visit during the beginning of our building phase, and she sent me this note after leaving the buzz of Mrs. Feranda’s students prototyping:
Thank you for allowing me to step into your Maker World today. You’ve created much more than a space-you have created a true maker culture at Ryan HS. As I begin my personal journey, I will reflect on all that I’ve learned from you. Here are a few highlights from today:
- I observed most students working collaboratively with partners. Students were engaged, on task, and shared the workload. Several students verbally expressed their excitement about their inventions. Many students were re-creating items that are currently trending, and I believe this had a huge impact on their level of engagement and effort.
- Students could verbalize their plans when asked, describe the materials they had chosen and why, and list specific materials that they were going to bring from home. Initial research and planning on the collaborative Google docs seemed to provide students with a clear purpose and sense of direction. I asked one group of students why they thought they had been assigned this project. Their response was, “So we can learn how to communicate better and work with other people to accomplish something.”
- I was impressed with the level of collaboration between you and the classroom teacher. Your roles were clearly defined, but you worked together and overlapped in many cases to ensure that students had support at their point of need.
- You allowed students to create and learn through trial and error. One group was designing a projector with sound. Rather than directing them to the Little Bits right off the bat, you allowed them to tinker-they thought that they might be able to use the speaker in the old laptop. Even though the two students realized that their initial plan was not going to work, they did not give up. Most students seemed quite comfortable with the invention process. While some students struggled more than others, I did not witness any group “give up.” Students were focused on looking for alternative sources or new prototypes. I witnessed a lot of GRIT!
- As a middle school maker-librarian, I will have to make decisions regarding the types of tools I will keep in my makerspace- particularly those for cutting cardboard. I have to factor in the age and maturity level of my students. Safety training is essential. When students don’t follow the rules, they lose the privilege to use the tools. I heard a lot of complaints during the class in which students lost some of their tool privileges. Responsible making and safety procedures are a must.
- Partnerships were key to student engagement and success with this project. Students whose partners were absent lacked motivation and direction. Students fed off of one another’s strengths, enthusiasm, and energy. They made jokes as they worked, they had fun, and they tossed ideas back and forth until something stuck-then they went for it! PBL is the best way to prepare our students for the future-they must learn how to communicate their ideas, listen to others, solve problems, and learn from failed attempts. It’s a messy process (figuratively and literally!) but it is well worth the effort to teach through an authentic, hands-on process.
- The best teachers I had growing up were the ones who really challenged me. Your students were given the freedom to create what they wanted using whatever materials they deemed suitable. That in and of itself is, in my opinion, quite challenging. Standardized testing has, unfortunately, created a culture of multiple choice solutions. Kids have grown accustomed to learning a strategy to find the “right answer.” So many of our students don’t know how to think critically or reach the conclusion that there may be an unlimited number of “right answers” – an abstract concept that is difficult for many students (and adults!) to comprehend. This invention project was a huge challenge, and because you and the classroom teacher established high expectations from the outset, most students met or even exceeded the expectations. These students will remember you, and they will thank you for this opportunity to learn through making. I want to provide my students with the same kinds of opportunities to learn authentically.
- In any given group, you will always have kids who readily accept a challenge and wow you with their results. You will also have kids who struggle-who have no earthly idea where to begin. Interestingly, the kids who excel and the kids who struggle with a project like this are not necessarily the ones you might expect. A teacher-librarian must be willing and able to support all students. I observed you providing support at all levels. Some students were challenged to add a technological component while others were directed to look at a real guitar for guidance. This kind of support requires the librarian to build relationships with teachers and students.
Building a space, gathering the materials, developing the knowledge, and creating a culture of collaboration is a process. I am so ready to get started! It was impossible NOT to get caught up in the students’ enthusiasm, and I enjoyed observing them learn through a truly organic process. Your makerspace is not the norm, but I believe that your advocacy for makerspaces is making a huge impact on our profession and overall school culture.Thank you again! I’m looking forward to learning more and sharing my knowledge with my students next year!
All the best,
Thank you for letting me share your letter, Kelly! I loved seeing the outsider’s perspective because you noticed so many things I hadn’t even thought about!