Tie And Jeans

Why MakerEd ? Faculty PD

I’ve been working on some better standard answer to the big questions about MakerEd, FabLab Learning, Design Thinking or whatever you want to call the weird niche I’ve been exploring for the last few years.

What do MakerEd experiences offer faculty?

Ok, it’s nice to say that kids of 2015 should be familiar with the new century’s broad range of tools to design make build and dream. That means that some classroom somewhere might need to integrate those experiences, but what makes MakerEd valuable for teachers and faculty as a whole? Is there any relevance for a teacher who’s not planning on running MakerEd projects in his classroom?

Honest answer: That depends on what each class/subject/teacher is trying to accomplish in a given lesson/year/cohort… Trying to identify one or two specific ways that the broad universe of FabLab tech will interact with the similarly sized K-12 universe is equivalent to asking what “the world wide web” has to offer for K-12 classes in 2002/1998/”the long long ago.” At whatever interval you choose, the best answers were tangible and hyper specific. A decade later they’ve grown into vast forests that bear little resemblance to their early forms.

Flip answer: Don’t know, don’t care. But those the Maker Culture/Mindset that surrounds these technologies has everything to do with anchoring and modeling the learning process. This is a case where the new-ness brings a tangible benefit. With few exceptions, we’re all beginners here, approaching something that didn’t exist for us a decade ago. For teachers who spend their careers in steadily shrinking boxes of specialization – 4th grade or Algebra or HS History – the opportunity to build new skills and new knowledge outside those boundaries is a tremendous opportunity.

All this tech-stuff and your pitch is “because they can learn something new?”

Don’t dismiss the freedom that comes with novelty. Almost a decade ago, Shelly Wille organized a team building exercise for our K-8 teachers at a culinary academy. Like great MakerEd activities, that experience had potential to reframe discussions about how we (teachers, students, humans) acquire new skills, cope with each other in moments of tension, and respond to sudden setbacks. But along with out aprons, everyone was wearing an identity shaped by a lifetime of experiences with food, kitchens, cooks and cooking. The richness and complexity of those associations anchored my experience in the content, rather than providing a neutral(ish) framework for reflection. When a event triggers long established emotional reactions, it’s almost impossible for individual teachers to both invest in the moment and stay grounded enough for discussion and metacognition.

MakerEd events for faculty should throw everyone into equally unfamiliar territory, and allow each individual to find a productive path in to the heart of the challenge.

Simply, MakerEd experiences should present an open and inviting puzzle, where all faculty can learn something new and powerful, together. That’s something that should be common in a community of life-long learners, but I’ve found conspicuously absent from (my small anecdotal slice of) the culture of faculty meetings and professional development.

One of Gary Stager’s Twitter optimized maxims is that teacher’s can’t prepare 21st century learners unless they’ve learned something in the 21st century. The power of Constructing Modern Knowledge comes from the heat, fission and reflection of 150 educators all striving, pushing and learning at their best pace. We make better decisions about how to teach, how to support learners, when we’re flush with the experience of learning ourselves.

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