Attending STEAMshop at Drexel this weekend got me thinking again about making, what it is, what it means to me. I’ve long felt that I approach things with a maker mindset. That is, I look at almost anything as a problem to be solved and as something I could dig in and help solve. I rarely approach something new and throw up my hands and say, “Nope. Can’t do it.” The one thing I did do that with, programming, I eventually came around to.
Making in education is closely aligned with things like inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, and mastery based assessments. It is at odds at times with approaches that are concerned primarily with grades or testing, i.e. summative approaches. Making can look messy and challenging and way beyond one’s ability for both teacher and student. There’s a certain amount of loss of control on both sides. Certainly, even those of us who do this work almost daily face challenges. One of my colleagues is ready to throw his 3D printer out the window because it’s often unreliable and using it isn’t supporting the kind of pedagogy he’s aiming for. He’s ready to go old school shop class.
When I used to run the #makered chat on Twitter, we often got questions about what equipment to buy and materials to have. We would often skirt that conversation because for us making was about mindset not about stuff. We would often joke that as long as you had glitter, glue, and cardboard, you were all set. #glitterchat Making for us was about hands-on work, letting students guide the learning, failing and learning from failing, and yet, being driven to succeed. You don’t need a 3D printer for that kind of work. But at the 10,000 foot level, 3D printing and laser cutting are both easy to explain and look shiny.
My colleagues and I are thinking through how to impart this mindset to our fellow colleagues, and partly to allow them some time to explore the equipment and possibilities of using making in their own classes. We’re thinking maker happy hour, but haven’t settled on anything yet.
I also think I need to walk the talk a little more. I haven’t always approached faculty in the same way I’ve approached students, i.e. letting them drive the conversation or generate ideas, etc. To get back to that, I think I just need to get my hands dirty a little. I might make time for my own 3D printing, laser cutting, and cardboard and glitter.