Mar 28, 2012

Thinking outside my own box

//Be warned!! It’s a long one…

This shift in focus emerged from a variety of factors. I like to think of it as debugging the delivery process. In a nutshell, I am not completely turning away from my original ideas, but I do think that in order to effectively realize them, there needs to be conversation on both ends. I’ll start with the first seed.

Educator feedback
I sat down with my mom (the VA K-8 history specialist with 20 years of
teaching/professional development experience) and one of her coworkers who is a jack of all subject trades. We walked through the site and they gave me great feedback about what they did understand, what terminology I assumed they understood, how it would be used by teachers, etc. One of their biggest pieces of advice was to further and fully define the term “Maker.” From here, I devoted a few minutes of the presentation to explaining the role of the Make movement in education. This made me really begin to question what was the best way to really get this stuff into learning environments (formal or informal). I of course examined my own work in this context and felt that there was a really, really important piece that I was missing. I didn’t find it until the first workshop “failure.”

The significance of collaboration
Regarding the impact of the workshop, it didn’t stem from what didn’t work, but from how it might not work. That is to say, the second catalyst was running through the workshop and reevaluating the structure, the time constraints, the teaching strategies , etc.

Since none of the participants attended, I went through a dry run with my documentarian. During our discussion following the run through, it was as if a million divergent pieces of information converged to a coherent whole. I began to realize that if the thesis is developing new approaches to teaching and learning computational thinking with craft as the medium, there was still a means of delivery to consider.

While my role as workshop leader is the primary facilitator of information, there are other collaborative exchanges that I want to harness as well. During the workshop, teachers and techs will be paired together to facilitate a fluid role shift between the two (it is balanced for this particular workshop since I believe there is equal distribution of knowledge of soft circuits/electronics. I believe this type of collaborative workshop has big implications for both sides.

By bringing in creative technologists, it contextualizes this process outside of the classroom for teachers and on a simpler level, it is an added layer of inspiration (this is my postulation at least). For creative technologists, I hypothesize that it will make them feel more inclined to participate as leaders and facilitators in other learning spaces.

I want to see what happens when these two cultures come together. I think it will be interesting to see how both sides use the tool and what crossover or influence might happen. Both sides have a lot to learn from each other – in fact there are a few programs already happening very similar to this that have had very successful results:
Digital Teacher Corps and the EdTech Link Program.

The role shift
One of the things I love about workshops is that they are relatively quick, generally intensive periods of learning that make a participant feel a degree of mastery that they may not feel even after a semester long class. In this way, you can frame it as a ritualized period of learning in which that learning has the potential to change the way the participant identifies with what they are learning. This is especially true if there is collaboration between roles.

Regarding semantics then, the transformation from teacher to maker and maker to teacher is something extremely valuable on a personal level of self-identification. Self-identification informs interest and attitude, and is therefore a very important part of my assessment.

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