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“Educator with a Maker Mindset” by @jackiegerstein

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“When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her.”

Dale Dougherty – Founder of Make Magazine / Maker Faires

Jackie Gerstein during the k12online conference shared a wonderful talk on the mindset for Maker education.   The “Maker education” community seeks to encourage students to be creative, curious, and foster a love of self directed learning that helps students grow their skills.  In this post, I’m not going to claim that “maker education” is the perfect teaching paradigm.   I do believe that Jackie Gerstein provides thoughtful principles that any parent or educator can use to help prepare learners for a future where creativity and adaptability are essential skills.

This talk is very timely.  Thanks to the support of many community leaders, technology professionals, and artists in Macon, GA, we have finally opened Macon’s first MakerSpace: SparkMacon.  We held our very first “Open Make Night” on Nov 7th.   During this event, my friends Cheryl Long, Brent Lanford, Jessie Betzel, Stephen Finney, and I facilitated maker activities ranging from 3D modeling, weapons of mini destruction, a hackathon, Arduino hacking, Lego Wedo, and Makey Makey projects to help the community understand the ethos of maker culture.   I especially want to thank Cheryl Long from the Museum of Aviation for sharing her time and expertise in STEAM education with our community.   We had a great time together!  It felt like a dream come true!

As we continue to grow the culture of SparkMacon MakerSpace, we want to design a great learning culture for our makers (young and old.)  I really appreciate Jackie’s teaching since we’re in the process of designing our workshops and education culture.

In motivating this talk, Jackie encourages us to consider the profound context of learning in 2014.   The web has created a context of information abundance for our learners.   The web has also encouraged a profound culture of sharing and openness. If I need a 3D model of a plant cell, you can probably can find it on thingaverse.com.   I’m still amazed by the variety of software you can find on sourceforge.net .   Thanks to decreased costs in technology, digital fabrication, robotics, and computer programming are become very accessible.

Jackie encourages teachers to consider taking on a special mindset to help our students be creative, be self directed, and be curious.  Here are few statements and questions that I enjoyed from her talk.

  • Build community first: Jackie encourages educators to start by building community among the learners.  There’s a lot of learning that can occur in a peer-to-peer manner.  Are we inspiring students to be kind, concerned, passionate, and compassionate?
  • Are you the lead learner?  Are we teaching students how to learn and critically evaluate information?
  • Student as Teacher: It’s common for learners to consume learning materials.  Do our students also produce learning material for others?
  • Who is working the hardest in a learning environment?  The student or the teacher?  Is learning centered dependent only on the instruction of the teacher?
  • An Environment Designed for Learning: “Does the physical setting of your classroom reflect an information rich, connected, participatory and creative culture?”  “Do you setup the conditions for learners to be great?”
  • PLN’s for students: Do we encourage our students to build a personalized learning network?
  • What is possible? Traditionally, education focuses on “what is.”   Do we encourage learners to explore what is possible?
  • Focus on process of learning: Jackie encourages us to focus on the process of learning and making.   It’s less important to have a perfect and flawless final outcome.  How do we create a culture where learners can learn from failure in a positive manner?
  • Are we encouraging authentic assessments of work? For technology projects, the work either works or it doesn’t.   You also might consider using peer reviews as a way to generate feedback for the learner.

Thanks Jackie for sharing this great workshop.  It definitely gave me many ideas to consider.

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