Learning through Making?

‘Making’ a start in school

We’ve facilitated MakerEd workshops in our first school this half-term and, recognising teacher observations and students’ preferred learning methods during the project, made tweaks and changes along the way. Some planned and others less predicted; I’ll explain through later posts!

From the onset my intention has been to use the school-based time to explore what maker education means to the students by ‘doing and making’.

These sessions have been practical and group sizes of less than 10 students have also given more collaborative opportunities which weren’t planned right at the beginning; ideas generated beyond initial individual projects and paired activities and later developed through the wider group.

Students’ understanding of ‘Maker’?

It was apparent from day one that ‘Maker’ and ‘MakerEd’ weren’t regularly used phrases and recognised by the whole group to describe the challenges we were launching.

Rather ‘digital making’ and ‘making stuff with tech’ seemed to resonate more with them and for which generated discussions around how, why and what learning opportunities could be possible with this approach; and also, of course, if any were.

Project tools and Maker resources

In what could’ve been a whistle-stop experience through Maker with these students (spoiler alert – perhaps that’s inference of continuity beyond the project?), resources were selected to facilitate problem-solving, creativity, computing and STEM challenges in an informal way but with inspirational and aspirational opportunities and capabilities.

Of course adding the ‘A’ from STEM to STEAM gave way to a starter to investigate process, design and iteration using electric paint.

That ignited thoughts on learning through making ‘creative’ or ‘art’ circuits, playful electronics and exploring conductors.  Interestingly, this also lent itself to exploring Maker placement across subjects and the students’ perceptions of which curricula areas it ‘fits’ with.

Perhaps notable for some students was the realisation that tinkering can mean getting it right second time around and even not completely perfect after many iterations.

Informal approaches like this have been fantastic chances to explore during the research time, with their teachers, to observe students ‘making stuff’ and talking about their learning experiences.

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Other resources in the project toolbox are intended to support progression of ideas and learning through physical computing devices.  Touchboard and Arduino boards are available for students’ making projects, as are Raspberry Pi.

At times we’ve explored inputs and outputs, using example projects with these devices, as a way to explore maker language and understanding of concepts to support learning if students were seeking clarification.  It’s also given opportunities to discuss skills used through MakerEd from across the curriculum and subject programmes of study; for some knowledge about electronics had come from Science, Textiles, Computing or D&T.

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Wearable challenges

What became apparent with this first cohort of students and their teachers was the intrigue, interest and inventive opportunities around making a project using wearable tech and so they selected the Codebug device to explore.

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And that’s the route that these students have taken.  Their challenge has centred around a purpose, relevant to their own interests, for a wearable technology device to be used as an accessory outside of school.

Designing and prototyping using different materials has seen various iterations and final decisions.  And for me the first rethink in activity choice when I’d planned with their teacher and confirmed we’d allocate a topic to assist with themed creations.  That soon changed!

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From the second workshop, after my initial input and overview, the students started to plan in their own way and style.

That sometimes became practically building code on the computer in creating an algorithm or sketching ideas onto paper.  Some also preferred to model using craft resources and see a metamorphosis of their ideas as a prototype transformed with more tinkering.

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Applications and designs?

There have been a range from the group and for some students a continuum of design themes and outputs; sometimes very different to their original and intended outcome.  Wearable technology as a decorative adornment piece, a communication tool on a bike or a pet’s collar and wearable retro gaming machines were just some of their early ideas.

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We’ll share more creations and wearable outputs at a later date.

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