Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Making as Professional Development



 “The more we can turn the nation into a nation of makers, they will be smarter, they’ll be better problem-solvers, and they’ll be more equipped for the problems of tomorrow."                                ~ Nolan Bushnell


The world is a buzz about “MAKING”  and so am I!  But is it a new ‘trend”?  I think not!   But it is a way of learning that is capturing the attention of many and for me I want to SHOUT from the rooftop -  “It’s about TIME  you notice!”  to anyone who sees this as a NEW TREND. 

I personally  consider this trend to be more than just “making” , but instead prefer to combine the words   “Creating”  AND “Making” which I think helps expand our thinking to more ways to “MAKE”  than we might consider if limited by our stereotypes of who makes and what making involves. 

This summer I created a professional development opportunity for teachers around this concept - called Create Make Learn.   It was the 3rd in a series of PD opportunities that I have designed with this trend in mind.  When I started promoting my summer institute idea last year,  people didn’t quite get the idea of ‘making’  so we played it down a bit and focused on something people were connecting with “mobile learning”  especially how to effectively use the iPads that were being adopted by schools.    So last year, we focused our ‘Making”  to the topic of Making Mobile Media and became ambassadors to use tablets to CREATE not just to consume.    By popular demand we repeated this strand this year and were fortunate enough to convince Wes Fryer to join us in Vermont to continue the important message of  'creating'  media a
s a powerful way of learning.

However this year,  many educators were ready to expand  beyond what they were comfortable with because “making’ has become very visible in the media and has entered the educational jargon.   But the WHY this conversation is causing a stir in education is something that intrigues me.   I think it has given a whole group of educators permission to enter a journey that feeds their soul. 

For several years now,  the creative part of being a teacher has been drowned with the mandates of high stakes testing.  We listen to speakers like Sir Ken Robinson talk about Schools Killing Creativity  and we wonder how to best raise the next generation of creative innovative problem solvers.    Well the answer is not going to come from the professional development offerings that today’s teachers must sit through.   

But the answer ‘might come’  from brave educators like Sean Wheeler  and friends who have challenging a broken professional development model by organizing  “a networked and human response to a systemic and impersonal failure in our profession. We’re carrying the baggage of a fixed mindset, and by putting ourselves in a learning situation that none of us are good at, we aim not to fix the education system, but help it grow and shift into what it, and we, could be”

Sean challenged a group of educators to join him by enrolling in a woodworking class and documenting their experience of engaging in the maker community and also engage in deep dialogue about design process, assessment, feedback, curation and other important educational concepts. 

The Soulcraft Cohort (as they call themselves) was much more organic than what the Create Make Learn Summer Institute I designed this summer, but had one of the same outcomes — teachers connected with learning at a soul level and immersed in a flow of creating and making and learning unlike the professional development they have often been required to sit through.  We were lucky enough to recruit a unique blend of makers from the Generator membership and educators like Wes Fryer, Caleb Clark and Kevin Jarret who understood  how to to encourage teachers to remove their teacher hat and play, create, make to learn.  We used a Google Community for discourse along with ‘walk and talks”   between The Generator (Burlington's new Maker space) and  our Champlain College classroom.    During the week, teachers not only learned by doing and tapped into their own creativity,  but they also continued to make (and document their process) for weeks after our 5 day face to face experience. 

As I read the course reflections and documentations and listened to teachers share their final products during our Google Hangout Virtual Showcase, I knew that we had hit the mark on creating a professional development opportunity that got to the heart of learning. 

As Sean mentions in his blog post “Teachers are not very good at not feeling smart”,  but putting yourself in a learning situation that you are NOT naturally good at offers plenty of opportunity to dissect the learning process from a place of experience which is very different than analyzing data about student test scores. 


I look forward to watching how the ‘maker’ trend plays out in education - and  being a part of a professional development movement that feeds my soul. 

#reflectiveteacher 

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