These are the BIG ideas I want participants to leave my workshop with, what I have been calling Ground Rules. These will be referenced and reinforced during each stage of the workshop, and will also be used as an initial framework for assessment.
1. Circuits are systems that we design.
– We can use design thinking to construct a circuit out of different materials.
– Good design requires constant testing to fix “bugs.”
– Electricity has rules that we have to incorporate into our design; for example, electricity follows the path of least resistance.
– For a system to function well it needs strong connections
2. Materials don’t have to be hard.
– Circuits can be constructed from materials other than wires.
– Electricity flows through conductive material.
– Some materials are more conductive than others.
– Materials play a key role in appealing to different learners.
3. Break it to make it.
– A switch is nothing more than a break in a circuit.
– A switch requires input and takes action in the form of output; lighting up an LED for example.
– By breaking the flow of electricity in different ways, we can create different behaviors.
4. Science learning is a creative, iterative act.
– By integrating art into science practice, it helps to contextualize science learning in situations outside of the classroom.
– Innovation happens when disciplines intersect and can exchange ideas, practices, and frameworks.
//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.
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So one of the funny things I realized after this workshop bust is that teachers may be the wrong population to attack at this moment. Instead it might be more important to look at the resources right in front of me: over 150 creative technologists with a diverse set of skills and many of whom are interested in learning more about education and how to teach what they know. I am not saying that my thesis is changing radically because I do still believe that teachers will become more interested in this, but I think at this point in my process and in the bigger picture of Making in education, this could be a phenomenal opportunity to begin exploring what students like us can provide.
I have spent the past week getting stuck in the minutia of my own project, subject to neglecting the bigger picture and my role within it. The most important part of my thesis for me personally is calling more attention to the Maker movement in education and new ways to bring that into different learning settings. While I love working with teachers, it is less about working with them for this cause, and more about diagnosing new solutions to broadening awareness of the problems. The problems being (1) the lack of interest in STEM learning and computer science and (2) the need for more of an infusion of creativity through an interdisciplinary approach. We (MFA D+Ters and the like) do this very well and, most importantly, we are excited by what we do and allow this excitement to infect other people.
Even though it is the end of March, I am reevaluating the lens with which I am approaching my problem. I want my thesis to be a part of the call to arms (thanks Liz) that will help build an army of makers of Makers. All this being said, I am opening the next workshop to MFA DTers.
More reflections to come, but I would really appreciate any comments from yall about this and will probably hunt some of you down for a conversation sometime soon!
Well, for the most part:
I attended the littleBits workshop on Tuesday where I got the chance to test their toolkit and talk to two of the people behind the little scene (bad pun?). It was an informative experience both as a participant and observer of a workshop, especially as I am currently planning my own.
I also had a few conversations with the guys running the workshop regarding current planning to market/implement littleBits’ as an educational tool, which got me thinking about why it might hit a few roadblocks in this domain. It has a very low point of entry to create functioning circuits, but it was engineered to be simple. Its aim should then be to get new learners engaged and excited, but has essentially been designed to be a black box. This is one of the great paradoxes of these kinds of tools that requires walking a tender line. For me, littleBits was designed with novice designers in mind, not novice students. So in this regard it becomes a question of framing: I DO think that this is a great tool to teach interaction, experience, industrial, or product design. It fosters creativity, stimulates excitement, and seeks to engender a sense of community within its users. The workshop is a microcosm of that community, which is pretty freaking awesome.
I had the opportunity to run a second session with the same Short Circuit afterschool group the following Thursday after the ﬁrst workshop. This was the second of a two part activity in which the student worked in groups of two (1) to hack a greeting card circuit and (2) to design an enclosure that would become their own boombox. The lead mentor decided to implement this activity as a new approach to teaching electrical concepts of resistance after the unsuccessful oscillator sound circuit workshop the week before. The added layer of design was key in the success of this workshop and added a contextual element to the activity that was missing the week before.
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Liz Taylor and I ran a soft circuits dorkShop a couple weeks back to introduce beginner p comp students to alternative materials. We had a great turnout and some really interesting projects emerge:
Here is a link to the G doc presentation with materials, notes, etc.
This workshop will give beginner physical computing students an introduction to using soft materials in their projects. They will learn how to make and implement different forms of soft switches and variable resistors in both paper and fabric form using Arduino. This workshop is a great supplement to their current/flourishing knowledge of physical computing: since they will actually be making the components they use on a daily basis, thereby giving them a deeper understanding and insight to the practice of building circuits.
The informal learning dynamic duo at Institute of Play (IOP) held a playtest on Friday of a new program they are piloting for Short Circuit: Green Machine. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to observe their methodology of program implementation and to talk with other informal educators who are focusing on designing programs around technology, engineering, design, sustainability, and more. Continue reading »