The Conditions for Invention… Not Just a Room Full of Stuff

Irole1‘ve been searching for excellent articles on the implementation of makerspaces in schools.  My search has led me down many dead ends.  Lots of articles on the makerspace in the library.  Many articles on stuff and things to stock the spaces with.  What’s missing in the articles?  The heart of it all. This quote refocuses my attention on what I love about making and on what I think it offers schools and classrooms:

This quote from Seymour Papert: “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.”  It says it all really.  We don’t need to spoon feed kids. We need to provide opportunities for them to explore, tinker, dream big, fail, bounce back, and repeat. Over and over.  The highs and lows of that will be a bit like a rollercoaster. Great learning really is.  A great classroom is built on the very thing that feeds those conditions…

Community.   Getting kids to help each other, rely on each other, be a team. The kind of community that has give and take and supports each other.  Community takes practice and constant work to build and generate, but it can happen at the youngest levels of learning.

Deep Thinking.  The grueling and exhilarating process of figure out what works from testing, trying again, and trying one more time. Improvements that come from experiences and ideas born out of collaboration.

Growth Mindset: We’re not just reaching for a grade, we’re reaching to improve ourselves.  Not understanding it today just means that you have some learning to do.  The only REAL way to experience growth is to experience REAL learning. Authentic learning is at the heart of growth mindset… or maybe growth mindset is the heart of authentic learning.  Either way, the two are connected.

Challenge:  School *needs* to be hard.  Kids crave challenge. They thrive on it.  It’s fun for them and it’s often like play.  When they overcome? Nothing beats that kind of joy and pride. Real experiences.

Creativity: When we talk so much about kits with instructions, we fence kids in. Yes, we need to help them understand the basics. But, the beauty in the open ended-ness of kids designing and inventing? It has to be at the forefront of it all.

When I think of these aspects and how they become threads that sew the makerspace into the school like the arteries that lead to a heart to make it beat, I get excited in thinking about what school can become. Those conditions for inventing? They have to be present, or the makerspace is just a room full of stuff.  A MakeyMakey might excite students for a day, or a week, but after that? The real work of challenging them, supporting them in growth, pushing their creative thinking, asking the right questions so they can dig deeper in their thinking, and fostering the sense of community…. that work begins. It’s hard. Grueling. And will make you question your own ability to really teach. And that’s when you’ll know something special is happening.  Because if you’re not willing to push your own limits, how can you expect your students to?

 

 

 

 

Teaching Them to See With Their Hearts

IMG_3528I’ve been thinking about our youngest students and empathy.  Last week I spent a few days at a super awesome Stanford dSchool workshop on Design Thinking and my head is still kinda spinning… in a good way.   There’s a reason we have the word EMPATHIZE so huge on the wall in The Launch Pad.     It’s that critical first step where design becomes all about thinking and feeling for someone else.  Not feeling sorry for someone else, but actually putting yourself IN someone else’s shoes by hearing his or her story.  Brene Brown said it best, “Empathy is about connection. Sympathy is about separation.”

So how can we start the conversation and thinking with our primary and elementary learners?  I’ve been thinking of some ways to build their skills and have some fun along the way.

Source: Pixabay.com

1.) Pictures.  A site like Pixabay has wonderful searchable images with a variety of situations.   These could be printed out for students to examine, write on, displayed on a large board for students to write ideas on Post-its and stick on the picture.  By thinking deeply about the photo, students might begin to understand how to dissect and take apart the story of another person to help improve it.

2.) Charity Projects.  Just about every school has a charity or collection of some sort at some point in the year.  Whether it’s can goods for Thanksgiving, pennies for sick children, or even collecting supplies for local pet shelter, these projects provide great jumping points for discussion.  Sometimes we ask kids to bring canned goods, but we never stop to talk about where those canned goods end up.  Maybe a Skype call with a volunteer from the charity, pictures from social media of the organization that show real families being helped, or even a story about a student receiving help at a local charity.

3.) Connecting Through Social Media.  I’ve always believed in the value of connecting your class with other classrooms around the world.  When kids connect with others in their state, country, or world, it allows them to understand their differences, appreciate the cultures of another, and develop global thinking that, to be honest, is just part of our lives now.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 11.21.32 PM4.) Books & Characters.  A good story is a great tool to start with.  Common Sense Media has an excellent list of books to use as a starting point.  Getting to know a character and thinking deeply about who they really are is not only an excellent exploration into literacy skills, it’s a stepping stone to developing empathy.   Stories online, like Scholastic’s Immigrant series, can be powerful tools, too.   I created these character cards as discussion starters, and you’re welcome to use them, too.

5.) Partner Up.  When kids are learning to use digital storytelling tools, we typically do a project where they tell about themselves.  After watching this video, My Friend Isabel, I realized it might add more to the project if kids tell about each other.  They could compare themselves in the story, taking turns and working together, and learning what it’s like to be someone else… practicing empathy.

 

Teaching empathy doesn’t have to be “one more thing to add” to class.  It’s easy to tweak questions add in short discussions and work toward fostering skills throughout the year.   It brings learning back to the real world where it belongs.   It can lead up to powerful design projects where kids can meet users and design for them. I’m really excited about this aspect of the design process and I think the real power in designing is when kids think deeply about someone else.  That will take practice for our little ones.  Before we start designing, we’ll be learning to see with our hearts.  And that is a view that is going to help build strength, confidence, kindness and caring, so it’s definitely time well spent.

Teaching Them to See With Their Hearts

IMG_3528I’ve been thinking about our youngest students and empathy.  Last week I spent a few days at a super awesome Stanford dSchool workshop on Design Thinking and my head is still kinda spinning… in a good way.   There’s a reason we have the word EMPATHIZE so huge on the wall in The Launch Pad.     It’s that critical first step where design becomes all about thinking and feeling for someone else.  Not feeling sorry for someone else, but actually putting yourself IN someone else’s shoes by hearing his or her story.  Brene Brown said it best, “Empathy is about connection. Sympathy is about separation.”

So how can we start the conversation and thinking with our primary and elementary learners?  I’ve been thinking of some ways to build their skills and have some fun along the way.
2.) Charity Projects.  Just about every school has a charity or collection of some sort at some point in the year.  Whether it’s can goods for Thanksgiving, pennies for sick children, or even collecting supplies for local pet shelter, these projects provide great jumping points for discussion.  Sometimes we ask kids to bring canned goods, but we never stop to talk about where those canned goods end up.  Maybe a Skype call with a volunteer from the charity, pictures from social media of the organization that show real families being helped, or even a story about a student receiving help at a local charity.1.) Pictures.  A site like Pixabay has wonderful searchable images with a variety of situations.   These could be printed out for students to examine, write on, displayed on a large board for students to write ideas on Post-its and stick on the picture.  By thinking deeply about the photo, students might begin to understand how to dissect and take apart the story of another person to help improve it.

3.) Connecting Through Social Media.  I’ve always believed in the value of connecting your class with other classrooms around the world.  When kids connect with others in their state, country, or world, it allows them to understand their differences, appreciate the cultures of another, and develop global thinking that, to be honest, is just part of our lives now.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 11.21.32 PM4.) Books & Characters.  A good story is a great tool to start with.  Common Sense Media has an excellent list of books to use as a starting point.  Getting to know a character and thinking deeply about who they really are is not only an excellent exploration into literacy skills, it’s a stepping stone to developing empathy.   Stories online, likeScholastic’s Immigrant series, can be powerful tools, too.   I createdthese character cards as discussion starters, and you’re welcome to use them, too.

5.) Partner Up.  When kids are learning to use digital storytelling tools, we typically do a project where they tell about themselves.  After watching this video, My Friend Isabel, I realized it might add more to the project if kids tell about each other.  They could compare themselves in the story, taking turns and working together, and learning what it’s like to be someone else… practicing empathy.

 

Teaching empathy doesn’t have to be “one more thing to add” to class.  It’s easy to tweak questions add in short discussions and work toward fostering skills throughout the year.   It brings learning back to the real world where it belongs.   It can lead up to powerful design projects where kids can meet users and design for them. I’m really excited about this aspect of the design process and I think the real power in designing is when kids think deeply about someone else.  That will take practice for our little ones.  Before we start designing, we’ll be learning to see with our hearts.  And that is a view that is going to help build strength, confidence, kindness and caring, so it’s definitely time well spent.