Talking Back to the Book: Invent to Learn

 

3d-invent-to-learn hodgson

Over at MiddleWeb, I recently reviewed Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager and found it be such a great resource for wrapping one’s head around where to begin with the move to get kids making things again in a learning environment. (See my review).

But seeing how there will be a book club community around Invent to Learn for Connected Educators Month, I wanted to share out some passages, lines and quotes from the book that really stood out for me as I was reading it. I hope to find time to participate in the book club. We’ll see.

“The past few decades have been a dark time in many schools. Emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, teaching to the test, de-professionalizing teachers, and depending on data rather than teacher expertise has created classrooms that are increasingly devoid of play, rich materials and the time to do projects.” – p. 1

My Response: Yep. And this shift towards numbers, instead of students, continues to grow by the day, particularly as administrators are forced to show accountability and growth in testing. There is no doubt that this move and shift has taken much creativity out of our classrooms. Mine, too.

“Making things and then make those things better is at the core of humanity.” – p. 11

My Response: Yep. We forget that the most precious times of our own learning are when we are forced to dive in and learn how to do something. We make mistakes. We break things along way. We curse. (or I do). And then, when something falls into place, there is that exhilaration of “I did it!” For me, this often has to do with plumbing and fixing something before calling in the expert. Maybe that’s just me, though. A fixed toilet is cause for major celebration in our household.

“The Maker ethos values learning through direct experience and the intellectual and social benefits that accrue from creating something shareable. Not only are there a plethora of high-tech materials available for childhood knowledge construction, but the growing popularity of making things has led to many ‘low tech’ innovations to spice up hands-on learning.” – p. 29

My Response: Yep. (Sorry. I took these quotes out because I agree with them). I like that low hurdles and low or not tech is part of the Maker Movement values. Access and equity are huge issues. And cost of supplies and technology often are a barrier to classroom Make projects.

“When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves. They begin to see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality.” – p.36

My Response: And I would argue that this is true for any educational experience and environment. Or I would hope. But direct instruction, drill and kill skill work and teaching to the test through the year suck all the fun out of learning for so many of our young people. They don’t trust themselves anymore, it seems. They are reluctant to take chances on something new. To fail (the authors don’t like that work) and iterate/innovate (their preferred terms) is part of learning. It’s not the end of the path. It’s the start of a new path.

“Projects create memories for students. Those memories contain the skills and content learned during that project’s development. The best teachers are those who inspire memories in their students, and engaging students in great projects is a powerful way to do so.” – p.65

My Response: Ye.. oh, never mind. I agree that we want learning to extend beyond the classroom walls. Memories are powerful reminders of learning.

“Making things provides a powerful context for learning. An authentic, or real-world audience, for one’s work is a mighty motivator. As teachers, we often promote the idea that process is more important than the end product, yet it is often the product itself that provides context and motivates students to learn. Knowledge is a consequence of experience, and open-ended creativity tools expand opportunities for such knowledge construction.” – p.66

 My Response: This idea of creating things for the world, for an audience, can be transformative in many ways. When we share our expertise, and when we teach others, we are learning even more deeper. That’s why so many teachers are such smart folks, right? And young people have a natural impulse to be part of the conversation with the world. (See the plethora of YouTube how-to videos).

“Re-using materials is consistent with kids’ passion for environmentalism and is an idea of the maker movement.” – p. 83

My Response: I had not really made that connections before. But this is so true. My students are passionate about the environment on many levels.

“Learning to program a computer is an act of intellectual mastery that empowers children and teaches them that they have control over a piece of powerful technology. Students quickly learn that they are the most important part of the computer program. The computer is really quite dumb unless you tell it what to do in a precise fashion the machine understands.” – p. 130

My Response: I suspect this is where we lose a lot of teachers. But we need to dive into these apps and programs that students can use, if only to get deeper into the technology and gain some agency over the devices of their lives. There are now a lot of simple ways to show programming skills and web-based skills. At the heart, though, it is us who are in charge, not the tools. (Although I know some might argue that point.) We control the power buttons.

“A funny thing happens when you make something, particularly something of  a technological nature. You are inspired to learn something else.” p. 162

My Response: That is so true. Success breeds curiosity which breeds innovation which breeds success.

“Teachers should not be treated as imbeciles incapable of growth or felons who can’t be trusted to show a YouTube video in class.” p. 199

My Response: Can we bulk email this to every school administrator in the country? Tape it up on the walls above the desks of the informational technology officers of every school district? Please?

What do you think?

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Remix this Tube: Where I’m At

Where I'm At Tube Map
During the summer in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, Sara Green posted a “tube map” style illustration of some of her learning. It was very cool. Then, in the spirit of the CLMOOC, Chad Sansing took Sara’s concept and built a remixable Thimble page for anyone to use. I sort of forgot about it (sorry, Chad and Sara) until this week, when my friend Paul Oh shared this over at the New York Times Learning Network post about Connected Educator Month:

I participated in and helped design a MOOC this summer called “Making Learning Connected,” sponsored by my organization, the National Writing Project.

More than a thousand educators signed up to participate, and among them was Sara Green, from the U.K. At one point, she created her life’s learning journey as a London Tube map. One of the MOOC faciliators, Chad Sansing, an amazing educator in his own right, then took that idea and created a Thimble template so anyone with a computer and Internet connection could create their own learning pathway London Tube map. (Thimble is a free tool developed by the Mozilla Foundation that allows you to create remixable open content for the Web while learning about the building blocks of the Web itself.)

Chad’s template, called Tube Map Me, is freely available to use. In fact, a number of people have already remixed Chad’s project to create their own learning pathway London Tube maps. Consider making your own map and connecting with Chad and Sara and the CLMOOC and Mozilla Webmaker communities.

– Paul Oh, from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/what-connected-education-looks-like-28-examples-from-teachers-all-over/?_r=0

This week, I dove back into Chad’s Tube Map Me and started to think about how to map out the connections that I have a writer and teacher. (If you have never used Thimble, Chad has helpfully done most of the work and annotated his code with notes about where you write. It takes a few minutes to get orientated to the set-up – code on the left, preview on the right — but Thimble is a great teaching tool and makes the building of a webpage more visible to the user, and remixer).

The activity was intriguing and enjoyable, although I found at a certain point that there were too many stations for ideas, so you notice a bunch of repeated station stops. I suppose that’s OK since writing, learning and collaboration are frequent themes to the various online networks where I call home. Or virtual home, anyway. I realize now, too, that I could have been a bit more thoughtful and purposeful in where the tube lines connect with each other. Oh well.

Check out my tube map, which I call Where I’m At (and if you hear Beck singing “I got two turntables and a microphone” when you read that title, then you and I are sharing a soundtrack.)

So, now it’s your turn. Go to Chad’s Thimble and remix it for your own connections.  Or heck, remix mine. (See that Remix button on the top of every Thimble page? Click it, and start making.)

Chad Tube Thimble

Where does the tube lead you?

Peace (along the connected lines),
Kevin

 

In the Newspaper: Making Learning Connected

gazette clmooc piece
Our writing project has a sort of partnership with the local newspaper, where teachers have a regular column each month called Chalk Talk. I have been coordinating our end of it but I also write, too. This past week, the first column of the year came out, and in it, I talk about the Summer of Making and the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience.

I decided to make a podcast of the piece, so, here you go:

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

 

Angles of Possibilities: Nurturing Disruption and Breaking Assumptions

Over at the #ds106 Headless Course, there were a couple of videos shared to start the headless adventure. One of them is this wonderful look at creativity and how to begin to break free of assumptions we have about everyday things. In our Making Learning Connected MOOC, we called this “hacking.” Here, Kelli Anderson calls it “disruption.” You might call it “modding: the world. Whatever the term, the idea is to not take for granted the use and function of things around us. Instead, break free of those assumptions and make something new. Re-envision the world.

In my classroom, I try to do this by helping my sixth graders shift from passive users of media and technology into the role of active creators of content. We do hacking activity, make video games, and engage in the world. But even at that young age, they are starting to fall into familiar roles, with assumptions about how things should happen just because that is the way they have always happened. It can be difficult to help them see the world from another angle — the angle of possibilities.

I’ll also note that the students who naturally do this – who see everything from that angle of possibilities — are often labeled “quirky” and “strange” and are all too often undervalued. If recent history has taught us anything, it is that this group of students will be the ones who will change the world in ways we don’t yet know.

I invite you to join the Vialogues of this video. (Vialogues allows you to post comments on videos, with time markers, so that your comments gets linked with a specific time in the video. It’s a neat way to have a conversation about a video.) The more, the merrier, and I would love to know what you think about Kelli Anderson’s presentation and her examples (check out the newspaper one … pretty nifty hack.)

 

Peace (in the conversation),
Kevin

My CLMOOC Badge

 

As I noted the other day, I am a little mixed on badges, so I am exploring their use and creation where I can. Paul Oh has used the badge tool at P2PU to create a badge for Making Learning Connected MOOC. He and Sherri Edwards even posted a Google Hangout about how it works. I went through the process and added a mapping project to earn my badge. While the badge is at P2PU (an open source learning space, which ties in nicely to the MOOC), I found I could also put the badge there into my Mozilla Badge Backpack, which is another place I need to fool around with a bit more.

What I like, and what Paul articulated somewhere, is that the CLMOOC Badge is more than just a stamp of experience; It represents yet another space where people are sharing out and reflecting on some project that exemplifies their exploration in the CLMOOC summer. It’s a way for us to honor what we did and celebrate our own efforts.

Did you make something this summer? Come get your CLMOOC badge.

Peace (in the backpack),
Kevin
PS — Here is the hangout with Paul and Sherri

For Making Connected Learning: A Poem

 

I guess I am not yet done with the Making Learning Connected MOOC. I wrote a poem and then used an app called Tellegami to record it. What I found interesting is that the time limit forced me to do a lot of editing on the original poem. I had to keep narrowing, focusing, removing and reshaping to meet the time requirement, and I think the result is a better poem. Sometimes, forced revision is the best, even if it can be painful.

Here is the poem:

Connected:
We run along rhizomatic strands of learning,
playing in the semi-darkness
inside this digital moment

We watch to learn;
We make sense of this unfolding narrative
inside spaces that don’t exist, yet do.

Always, there is the sense of someone else there:
An echo of light reverberating like
a compass
a computer
a lighthouse;
data points as pulses of experience.

We make to learn;
write to reflect;
share to understand;
We connect.

Peace (along the strands),
Kevin

 

Experimenting with Badges for Learning

This week, the heart of a Twitter Chat discussion with the Making Learning Connected MOOC folks centered on the use of badges in education. I am still mixed and I freely admit that I feel a bit confused on the topic. On one hand, I see the value of validating and recognizing student expertise and growth. On the other hand, it seems like the awarding of badges could be arbitrary or just meaningless bling. I liked how Paul Oh talked about the possibility of badges being part of portable learning documents that follow the student, though, and Karen Fasimpaur noted that employers might find it useful to see the kinds of learning that potential employees might have done.

So, I keep going back and forth. Karen noted that her view of badges began to change when she worked with Paul Allison and others in the Youth Voices camp this summer, where high school students made their own badges for their community. That’s what I want to know more about — how to create the environment where that kind of inquiry work is nurtured and where badges are just one part of the learning equation.

Since I have never used badges before, I decided to start small, creating a few for our ELL Digital Literacies Workshop. Our students are now beginning to create digital portfolios of their learning this summer (we are using Wikispaces), and while there is some criteria for what must be included, we also have made a list of suggested optional content. These four badges are in the “optional” category, but they align to the inquiry work we have been doing the past four weeks around digital literacies.

(By the way, these were all created with the Big Huge Labs tool shared out by Terry Elliott. It’s easy to use.)
badge remixer
badge gamedesign
badge comic creator
badge word master

I’ll need to talk more about why they would award themselves a particular badge. Maybe that will be one of our “writing into the day” prompts. That will be an ideal time to ask them, what badges are missing? What else can we make together?

Peace (in the badges),
Kevin

 

Making Learning Connected Reflection Flowchart

Before the start of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC), I created a flowchart as a teaser (shared farther below in this post). Making a flowchart is more difficult than it seems, as you have to really think through all of the questions and possibilities and then fit all of those elements onto one screen. But I like that kind of thinking, and reading, and writing, too. Creating a flowchart really forces you to be deliberate in the construction of your writing, and as I work on a few flowcharts this summer, I am also thinking of how I might be able to teach this kind of writing in the classroom. Certainly, it connects to informational text, reading and writing.

Anyway, here is a flowchart that I created this weekend for the MOOC as we enter the final stages of the six week adventure. Since we are asking a lot of folks to reflect, I thought this flowchart might help lead a path forward. It’s not perfect, and it seems to me there are still a lot of gaps — places where people might answer more than yes or no. And I wonder if that limited choice casts a negative light on folks who were not part of the MOOC but still followed along from time to time, or maybe left a comment here and there. We valued people on whatever participation level they chose to do, and I am not sure this flowchart recognizes that.

CLMOOC Reflection Flowchart
And here is the flowchart I created as a teaser way back in June (as referenced above). I seemed to have more room for humor in that one, for some reason:

Making Learning Connected flowchart

Peace (in the chart),
Kevin

PS — I should explain that I used the “drawing” tool in Google Docs to make both of these. While very basic, it provided most of what I needed to create a simple flowchart.

 

Personal Infographic: Quantifying the CLMOOC Experience

CLMOOC Infographic Activity Overview

One of the suggestions for the last cycling of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is to create an infographic of some element of the experience in the online learning community. I blog. A lot. So I spent some time, going back in time on my blog, looking at what it was that I was writing about. The numbers tell the story. I began blogging early, as I am one of the facilitators, and I kept blogging often, once the MOOC got up and running.

The breakdown of themes of post is something I find interesting, as I had a fair balance of cheerleading for the MOOC in my role as facilitator and sharing out activities as a member of the MOOC in my role of maker/creator. I can’t help but notice the lower percentage of reflective posts, but I suppose that is given when you are in the midst of an event like the CLMOOC. (This post should give it a little bump, right?) Even I was a struck by the number of blog posts I have published (57) and I do wonder if I would have served the MOOC better just to be quiet a bit more.

Looking at the chart of types of projects, it is clear that I did a lot of work around video, and I suppose that is true. Whether Vine or stopmotion or documentating the world, I turned the lens of the camera on the make activities. Perhaps it is the visual element and ease of sharing that attracts me to video. I’m not sure. There’s also the “wow” factor when it comes to video.

The top right is a chart pulled from Vizify, and I had wondered if I might be able to find out how many #clmooc-tagged tweets I had done. 550? That’s a lot of tweeting. I can’t confirm that number, though, but I don’t dispute it, either. Again, my impulse is to wonder why I didn’t just be quiet and it spurs a fear that my voice dominated too much. I hope others felt like they had space to write and share. (I wrote about this in Google Plus, too, a few weeks ago).

Speaking of Google Plus, I have no idea how many posts and conversations I was part of. I can’t figure out a way to track that, which is odd, given the Google Analytics tool. Let’s just say … a lot. On Flickr, I posted 30 photos (including some tutorial comics that we used at the CLMOOC website). On Youtube, I posted 10 videos (I think).

In other spaces …. no idea.

And let’s face it — being part of the MOOC was beyond numbers and data. It was about connections, and if I could quantify the value of that sense of community and the strengthening of ties across networks, it would blow away all of these numbers. In the end, that kind of “soft data” and personal connections is what the MOOC was all about anyway.

Peace (in the crunch),
Kevin

 

CLMOOC Facilitator Reflection: Priming the Space

(Note: This is part of a series of reflective posts  by the facilitators of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. Eventually, all of our posts will be pulled together into a single resource as a way to share what we learned and to provide a map for others who want to Remix the MOOC. – Kevin)
CLMOOC Teasers

There’s old adage that has often been adapted by anyone brave enough to try their hand at building an online space: You can build it, but will they come? And then there is the ancillary adage: If they come, will they stay?

One of the early challenges we facilitators had with getting the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration up and running in grand style was finding ways to spark interest for participation by educators who might not only have little or no experience with the concepts of a MOOC but also might have very limited knowledge of the Connected Learning principles.

And we wanted to do this before the MOOC was even launched.

As we began planning and brainstorming about how the CLMOOC might begin to unfold, we were also cognizant of some helpful advice from one of the advisors to the project. Paul Allison, of the New York Writing Project and host of Teachers Teaching Teachers, suggested we keep in mind that the MOOC would be running in the heart of the summer, a time of much-needed respite for many educators.

Keep the mood light and keep it fun, he suggested. Come on too strong with Connected Learning principles, or populate the MOOC with too much serious work right off the bat, and we would likely have a small crowd. What we wanted was massive. What we wanted was engagement.

With this in mind, the facilitating team began early on with creating a series of “splash media teasers” for the MOOC that were designed to generate interest and discussions, plus word of mouth, and maybe offer an unusual form of invitation to what we were confident would be an enriching summer experience. In essence, we were engaged in a form of guerrilla marketing in educational social spaces, giving just enough information about the MOOC to intrigue folks so that when the launch became official, it would resonate with some familiarity.

Facilitators also leveraged their own social capital, seeding their own followers and friends in networks with the possibilities of a summer of playful learning.

The splash media teasers, which we began releasing about three weeks before the launch of the MOOC in spaces such as Twitter, Google Plus, and personal blogs, ranged from digital stories of students and teachers in the midst of making (Stephanie West-Puckett) to a video slideshow movie (Karen Fasimpauer) to a music playlist themed around connected ideas (Chad Sansing) to a glimpse of a paper airplane launched in flight (Joe Dillon) to a visually beautiful slideshow of connected images (Terry Elliott) to a remixable metaphorical stopmotion video (Christina Cantrill) to assorted comics and diagrams, and even a MOOC video game (Kevin Hodgson).

In a sense, we were branding the constructivist ethos of the MOOC on the market before the product was even on the shelves. The sense that fun, creativity and collaboration would be at the heart of the experience infected all of the teasers, and gave the MOOC a certain bit of momentum very early on. The first Make Cycle established that ethos in purposeful style as myriads of participants took the concept of “make an introduction” into all sorts of unexpected directions.

While it might be true that the playful nature of the MOOC would have been established in the first few Make Cycles, we believe the teaser campaign set the stage and raised the bar in a way that gave participants explicit and implicit permission to make their own fun, too, and to explore the Connected Learning principles and the Make Cycles on their own terms.

We also benefited greatly from the National Writing Project’s leadership within the Summer of Making and Learning, which was the theme of the newly-created Innovator Educator network. Word about the Making Learning Connected MOOC filtered through the Innovator Educator partners, and offered lines of connection from such previous projects such as the Mozilla Foundation’s Teach the Web MOOC, and the Learning Creative Learning program and the Connected Learning TV network.

Even so, we had our moments of anxiety when we “opened” the doors to the MOOC and crossed our fingers that folks would come see for themselves the possibilities. To our joy and relief, come they did, and in droves, and within the first few days, the range of projects being created and reflected upon validated the promise the teasers.

We were making something special … together. We still are.

Peace (upon reflection),
Kevin