What learning is supposed to look like

My teaching goal is always to eventually have students working fairly independently, creating things they’re inspired to create, figuring out what they need to figure out as they need to.   Especially in my Maker-oriented classes, where students are working on their own things, I really want them to find their own solutions.

There’s a lot that goes into getting to that point.  There’s laying enough foundation, so they’re not totally starting from scratch. There’s getting them used to exploring on their own, and not asking for help all the time or asking if something is right or good enough.  That second piece is harder than the first. And there’s getting them to work even when the reward is a long way away.

I was rewarded yesterday for all my hard work in building up the foundation (some of which continued today).  I walked around the room, checking on projects, asking if help was needed, and after one circuit, no one needed anything, so I sat and watched them.  It was weird, and honestly, the first time that’s happened in 5 years.  It only lasted for about 5 minutes, but hey, I’ll take it.

For context, here’s what my students are working on:

  • A cardboard dollhouse with lasercut pieces
  • A board game
  • A mini wooden townhouse with lights
  • An arc reactor a la Iron Man
  • A photography portfolio page
  • A robot that avoids walls

They all came up with these ideas and designed them themselves, and then had to execute the design themselves.  Each one involved learning new things: learning new software, learning to solder, learning to program.  Just by going through the process of figuring out what you need to know in a couple of smaller projects, they kind of had a handle on how to proceed for this bigger one.  I think they have had fun.  They’ll finish up on Monday.  Here’s some pictures that capture the essence of a) middle school and b) #makered.

Creative Computing


Board game

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