Start with the Teachers

Ts need to learn (or relearn) how to embrace messiness and making mistakes & learning from errors before they can support Ss in being makers

Photo of Jessica Lura
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Teacher credentials programs haven't traditionally taught teachers how to be makers and to have tinkering mindset nor how to deal with the unknown and ambiguity that can come with making. Starting with the end in mind when developing curriculum or project often leads to cookie cutter results--the antithesis of making. Many teachers are used to be THE expert in the classroom because they were taught that is what a teacher was.

Teachers (and administrators) need support in developing the mindsets necessary to allow themselves to take risks, make mistakes, and to learn before they can possibly support students as makers. I have seen situations where the teachers (and administrators) don't have that mindset but use words like "fail fast," "it's okay to make mistakes" and "we are doing a making project." And in all those cases, the teacher's expectations haven't changed. They still evaluate student process and student work off a traditional grading scale, they still expect a certain look to the project, and it's not really okay to make a mistake because there is no time for reflection and iteration. 

Schools can support teachers and all staff members by explicitly given them hands-on making experiences, helping them reflect on the process, and providing opportunities for them to become frustrated, to make mistakes, and to learn. This doesn't just need to teacher-based--ideally the entire staff would participate in building their creative confidence since the entire staff--custodians, office staff, school nurse, librarians, teachers, administrators, etc.--influence students' mindsets and learning environments. Ideally, in future iterations, parents would also be invited to participate and to build their own creative confidence and understanding about the importance of hands-on making in the lives of their children. 

Low barrier, low risk experiences are the best (Creative Confidence has a great section on overcoming phobias that works here), and teachers need multiple experiences to build up their confidence. Ideally, they would also have support in going off and doing similar activities with their students to build up their confidence in teaching hands-on making. Will this immediately translate into a full-blown MakerSpace a la Kevin Jarrett ? No, but the design challenge here is to inspire all students to be makers everyday. And for this to happen, all teachers and staff need to be on board and to embrace their creative confidence.

Staff Workshop (teachers, support staff, etc.)--90 minutes

(should be repeated to build creative confidence and likelihood of teacher bringing it back to the classroom)

Stoke/Improv activity(ies)--at least one on community building

Making/Tinkering Activity (I like to do ones that involve circuits because teachers seem to struggle with them)

Debrief and Reflection

  • What it felt like to do the activity
  • What did they learn about themselves through the activity
  • How might a similar activity be done in the classroom and why

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Photo of PES Makerspace, The Parrots' Point, by: Laural McLean
Team

Jessica,

Thank you for the encouragement.  Our Makerspace is currently doing paper mache pinatas.  If you could only see our classroom...LOL  But, the memories from the past and the new ones being made are priceless!  Take care, Laural

Photo of chris fancher
Team

I really enjoyed reading this and the comments (below).  I've been thinking about getting the creative juices flowing at PD's and I now have some more fuel to throw on the fire. 

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Chris,
Awesome! Let me know it turns out --I am always looking for more ideas.

Photo of chris fancher
Team

My first step, last night - contacted the other design teacher and our theater teachers to get them on board with helping me plan these. We have a PD day this Friday and I have asked to start the day with an activity. I have bookmarked each of the links you put in and, thru Diigo, I've set up to share the folder. 
  Other than that, I'm not doing too much. 

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

That's a great first step! I think that small steps some times are the best. Also, those are the activities that teachers can easily bring back into the classroom and use with their students. Kudos to you!

Photo of PES Makerspace, The Parrots' Point, by: Laural McLean
Team

Jessica,

I enjoyed reading the above and I appreciate the insight.  This is the first year our school added Makerspace to our Global Arts' Team.  I started the year with a bang making robots out of recycled materials.  Our space was a mess and I loved it.  I had other teachers stop by periodically and ask, "how do you deal with the mess?"  My response was, "it's Makerspace, and there is method to the madness."  The paradigm of classrooms are to be structured, clean and organized weighed on me in the beginning, and still does at times.  I am thankful that my Principal lead me to the Teacher's Guild.  It is reassuring knowing that I am not the only "mess" out there!

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Laural,
Oh no, I am right there with you! Enjoy the mess :) Your colleagues will eventually see the value in the chaos. 

Photo of Kevin Jarrett
Team

Hi Jessica! Thanks for the shout-out, too kind of you! Wanted to share my go-to hands-on staff development activity that could makje a great tinkering task, Cooper Hewitt's "Ready, Set, Design" - http://goo.gl/YYARjW. It is WONDERFUL; I've used it successfully with kids AND adults. The materials are easy to come by and the facilitation guide is complete and ready to go. It's fast, it's furious, and if the teams are balanced properly (for that, I recommend the Personality Compass [http://goo.gl/SDrnbz]), it's insightful, hands-on, fun and meaningful learning.  The challenge becomes how to relate this activity to a larger initiative within the school so that it's not happening in isolation. One thing I learned long ago about staff PD is that the first thing people want to know about anything thrown at them professionally is 'how does this impact *ME* and what *I* am responsible for?' We're asking some people to take quite a leap - and transform them from the expert in the room to, at best, a co-learner. This mindshift is *CRUCIAL* for them to embrace making in the classroom. Taking an activity apart and imagining how it might work in their classroom (your last bullet) is super important; even if it's just an element of the whole, getting any piece of the activity to appear organically in a lesson or introduction would be a great first step.

A final thought ... EVERYONE needs to be considered. So, how does the School Nurse benefit from this kind of activity? Or a Health/PE teacher? Or the Music teacher? With a little attention and creative forethought regarding challenge contexts, everyone can feel included and valued, and, boost their own creative confidence in the process. :)

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Thanks, Kevin, for the comment.

I love the Cooper-Hewitt resource--added it to the list above.

And also modified the language of who is geared toward above. I agree--everyone needs to be considered. When we do PD, all teachers, regardless of what they teach participate and spend time thinking about the relevancy to their context and how they can help impact student learning. I also realized that I forget admin who also often need help in actually embracing this mindset shift.