Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Developing Maker potential in High Schools

A belated "Hello" from Mount Mansfield High School! As a long-time computer & technology teacher in both middle and High Schools I am constantly exploring ways to leverage our investments in technology to improve teaching and learning. Preparing our students with the skills to move into the 21st century workplace and the flexibility to adapt as technologies evolve is an important part of our mission. Sadly and despite our investments in equipment and infrastructure, my observation is that a large percentage of technology "use" in schools has simply replaced books, pen and paper with word processors and the Internet, and students are still most often reading and writing which is not always engaging. That is not to say that there are not benefits to a digital workflow even if the content and products are more traditional, but as I collaborate with teachers to develop instruction my goal is to find the "value added" that will not only engage students but allow them to explore and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

As a former outdoor educator and Science teacher I have always valued an open ended, project-based approach to learning that allows students to DO things, make connections between content and "real life" and exercise their creativity. When I began to explore the Maker world a couple of years ago it seemed the perfect venue to combine my educational ideals with the opportunity to create more tangible and durable products with our tech tools. It is also a perfect fit for my "inner tinkerer," nurtured through years of bicycle & auto repair, woodworking, DIY home improvement and tendency to fix things before throwing them away. Last year I began to create a Maker Space at our school, bringing in the 3D printers that had been lurking and in limited use in our Science Department as well as a new Shapeoko CNC, a fair supply of Arduino components and misc tech bits including some older computers and other electronic oddities like this beauty.

The space has slowly taken shape over the last year, enough to draw the attention of students and teachers such that we have now integrated 3D printing and Arduino as options in a number of projects and the CNC machine has recently been in use in the wood shop. I know the latter seems like a no-brainer, but integrating new tools into established programs can be a slow process. More than anything else, the visibility of the MakerSpace has brought a collection of like-minded souls who enjoy spending their available moments designing, inventing, exploring and sometimes just BS-ing about geeky stuff. The core students are also members of our rookie FIRST-FTC Robotics Team.

The opportunity to join the Generator community and explore the available tools and resources is tremendous. My initial goals involve pushing myself forward with automation and kinetic sculpture using Arduino and possibly RaspPi, but I am also appreciating access to the laser cutter (on our shopping list for next year) and CNC. Lowering the learning curve by identifying a straightforward workflow for each tool and process is an important part of the support I provide to our teachers and students, and I am also always looking for ideas on how these tools can be applied. Seeing the dynamic and creative culture that has evolved around Generator has already given me much inspiration, and I look forward to continued exploration. Onward!

No comments:

Post a Comment