How do Maker Spaces connect to deep learning?

I have been learning about Maker Spaces for years.  I have seen presentations about really effective Maker Spaces in public libraries, through maker groups, in Maker Faires and I understand the excitement around this hands on learning experience. I remember when I heard Neil Gershenfeld, from MIT speak about FAB LAB and I was excited! (video below) It connects to my experience in a big way. I come from a family of trades people who learned their trades through apprenticeship developed by trade guilds in the United Kingdom. Here comes the but…

I am having a problem connecting the wow factor of Maker Space activity to deep, embedded learning that is connected to curriculum with explicit learning outcomes.  There I’ve said it.

I am a Teacher Librarian in a Secondary School and I will be honest, it is challenging to get teachers to understand the value of working with me as a co-planner, co-teacher, collaborative teaching and learning partner. Whenever I get the opportunity to work with my colleagues I must ensure that student learning outcomes, connected to curriculum are being addressed. Yes, Maker Space activities do help to differentiate learning for our hands on learners, but good teachers do this in their classroom practice all the time! I have to wonder why are Maker Spaces now being explored with such urgency and excitement?

Those of you who know me that I am a bit of a tech geek and I have always been an early adopter of technology.  I do have some caveats however, the technology must be purposeful and must fulfill a need I have for my own learning, or that of my students. Do Maker Spaces do this?

I would like to say that the idea of Maker Space has been embraced by effective teachers through time.  Beginning with trade Guilds in Europe, evolving to apprenticeship training, for myself, in education through effective hands on learning experiences differentiated to meet the needs of all of my learners. As a Teacher Librarian, I feel that the same rules apply. I worry that Teacher Librarians are looking for ways to appear relevant in a time when school districts and the province are looking for areas to cut corners. So here I go, tech geek that I am, questioning this very cool idea of the Maker Space.

Teacher Librarians and all educators have the ultimate Maker Spaces, they are classrooms. In these spaces we create knowledge and how we do that relies upon the expertise we have to differentiate learning to meet the many and varied needs of our students.

I like the cool tools and ideas suggested in the Maker movement but when connected to the School Library Learning Commons I need to understand how Teachers and Teacher Librarians work together to develop ideas, use the Maker Space to apply the learning and then help the learners embed this learning in their understanding of curricular outcomes. Without this connection to our expertise as educators, are we not just providing an activity centre?


What Does It Mean to be Digitally Literate?

On my drive to work this morning,  Roger, Darren and Marilyn radio hosts were discussing how the “older” generation folks they have in their lives were struggling with things like Facebook, Twitter, Smartphones and things of this ilk. I found this discussion rather interesting for a number of reasons, first, I wonder if the likes of Roger, Darren & Marilyn might have been familiar with these tools five years ago; second, I was amazed (as I always am) at the speed of change when it comes to ICT; but third, I was pondering this discussion in light of the discussion led by Audrey Watters yesterday evening for #ETMOOC. I found myself thinking does this mean these folks are digitally literate, or are they merely digitally competent? Despite their implied knowledge about the tools they were discussing, I’m going with competent.

Sony TrinitronI don’t know if I can successfully define what digitally literate means for the rest of the world but for me I’m thinking that one who is digitally literate is comfortable negotiating the various types of media and text we are presented in multiple digital environments. I would hope this person can interpret meaning of various forms of digital media to meet the needs of the situation.  This would mean, understanding how to compose an email correctly for specific purpose; understanding how to use text messaging and what happens to this data once we hit send. I would hope that a digitally literate person would understand that “Digital is Different” and that anything shared electronically can be remixed, reused, re-purposed for multiple and varied audiences. I would expect a digitally literate person to understand appropriate use of digital media, fair dealing guidelines and the need to understand Creative Commons licensing for all forms of media. I would also hope that the digitally literate person would take time to consider where the data they create lives, who owns this data and how we might take more control of our data. I would also hope that the digitally literate learner/citizen would understand how challenging and bewildering the rapid change and development in today’s world might be to folks who might just remember their first colour television! (hence the Sony Trinitron above)

The world is shrinking through our connectedness but it is also becoming amazingly more complex in terms of the amounts of information we must process, curate and evaluate. I think that someone who is truly digitally literate, must  understand this and  share the wonder as things continue to evolve. Just some of my musings…..

ASI2010: Creating my reflection now :)

ASI2010I had grand ideas back at ASI 2010.  Yup, I was going to blog every session and idea that occurred throughout the three days.  The one thing I forgot about was the fact that I was an MC on day one, and was presenting three different hands on sessions.  At the end of each day I was exhausted, exhiliarated but in no state to write a blog post!

Now reviewing my cryptic notes, and rethinking the three days I have time to reflect just a month later!  The bonus of being on the program committee is that we get to review the feedback and I have to say it was rewarding to see that our work on the conference was well received.  My intuitive response to how the three days progressed was a very positive one and the data supported my intuition.

All of our feedback indicated that our keynote speakers Alec Couros from University of Regina, Garfield Gini-Newman from OISE and Bill Muirhead from UOIT set the tone for the conference and each speaker built upon the learning introduced by the previous speaker.  We could not have asked for a better combination of speakers or such a positive response!

Things I need to review:  RIP:  A remix manifesto, Eric Whittacre’s crowdsourced music, Why I hate IWB article.

My favorite analogy:  Personalized Learning ….choosing your own adventure!

Need to think more about:  the changing role of the teacher, the need to customize and personalize our learning and the need to respect everyone’s learning needs.  Need to examine how power is shifting with just in time learning that is removing walls, changing the need for timetables and shifting/disrupting traditional visions of educational environments.

David Booth on Literacy

Today was day one of our district’s Literacy Fair, an opportunity for educators in schools across the district to share their collaborative inquiries with other teachers.  It began with a wonderful keynote from David Booth.  Everytime I hear David speak I find him wry, very witty and yet to the point.  His topic was redefining literacy but insisting that we remember that literacy is at the heart of everything we do as educators.  He reminded us that all text forms must be used for literacy instruction and that our job is to help students make the most meaning with every text they meet so that they may use these processes to meet their future needs.  Future needs…meaning that digital literacies are here so embrace them!

Throughout his talk I kept writing down short quotations that were very powerful:

“Technology has given men the freedom to read”  “In gaming, you get better if you practice” Shinizi Suzuki “you’ve got to have a tune” “technology doesn’t dumb us down – it’s changed our minds”  AND he also shared how he “loved teaching in the online environment because everyone has a voice and everyone shares”  I nearly stood up and cheered!!!!!

However, I couldn’t help but hear the repeated theme that I have been hearing in the PQP course, in leadership reading and learning:  everyone has a narrative and we need to learn it.  It’s the relationship that is important, we need to learn about the child to help them learn, we need to learn about our staff in order to learn to lead.  He concluded with the statement that “literacy is about life”.  He really humanized how educators are being asked to approach literacy across all curriculum.

I really hope we see more teachers walking David’s walk, including technological literacy in instruction across curriculum and being non-judgemental about the choices of text that our student’s make and embrace them to engage kids in learning.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Some articles to read:

Newsweek:  Books aren’t dead

Time MAgazine:  How to Build a Student for the 21st C