A Journey Through Technology

Week 6 Reflection

This week we looked at how we would stock and fund our makerspace. I’ve really been struggling with the idea of a makerspace in my classroom because I want it to be connected to chemistry so my students can utilize it in class, and a lot of makerspaces seem to be better suited for physics or other classes. I think I could stock and create a makerspace that could be used in chemistry, but could also evolve into an all-around makerspace. I am definitely feeling more open to creating and using a makerspace in my class after this week’s question and blog posts.

This week I contributed to the learning of others through my blog post, which Brian commented on. He thought it was interesting that I was trying to create a chemistry makerspace, which I don’t think is actually that much different than a regular, except lab activities could utilize a different version of a makerspace for student-designed labs, another form of creating. I also commented on Brian’s and Jule’s blogs this week.

Brian gave a breakdown of how the money should be spent by category with 40% of the budget being devoted to the major tools. I like this breakdown and will definitely keep it in mind as I work on my makespace plans. Jule’s starting budget of $500 is the same as mine, so I really feel confident that would be enough money to get started. I really liked Jule’s last though in her post, “All that really matters is that students are tinkering and playing in order to develop and create their own projects.” I really need to remember this as I plan my makespace because I really need to make sure that the students are the main focus of this makerspace and that they will be able to create and learn.

My learning was impacted through the readings and resources this week, as well as by reading Brian’s and Jule’s blogs. I am definitely more confident that I can design and implement a makerspace that I could use in my classroom, and that students might actually enjoy creating something tangible in class.

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Week 6: What stuff will you stock your making space with, what’s the cost, and how will you fund it?

I have been contemplating how a chemistry maker space would look since the concept was first introduced to me last year. The idea of a tech maker space is very appealing to me, but I don’t know how it would apply to chemistry, so the first thing I need to decide is what kind of making space would be a good fit in my classroom. “The best way to activate your classroom is for your students to make something. This…might take the form of costumes for a historical reenactment, homemade math manipulatives, a new curtain for the local auditorium, toys, a pet habitat, a messy science experiment, or a zillion other things.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1935) The passage got me thinking that maybe I don’t have to have a high-tech maker space in my classroom.

We do labs in chemistry often, but I would have to redesign them to fit more of a maker space model, and the supplies wouldn’t be much different than what I normal provide students with. The maker project that was inspired through week 4 might just be a good starting place. The idea from week 4 was to have students design and create, using a maker space, their interpretation of an element. This goes well with a project I’ve assigned in the past called Adopt-an-Element, where students pick an element and research a variety of properties and then present it. Adding a maker space to this would give students many more options in how the present their project to the class. So, what kinds of materials would students need to have available for their element interpretation?

According to a “Makerspace in a Box” List by Hlubinka (2013) there are two main categories for maker space materials: reusable tools and consumable materials. I think the goal would be to have as many materials as possible for students to use, but realistically a decent maker space will probably take many years to get to that point. I think the best plan would be to start gathering things as I can get for free. “You can begin with found materials…” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1941) Students always have unused school supplies left at the end of the year that could be used in a maker space. I also probably have things already in my classroom that I can use in my maker space as well. My ultimate goal for supplies will be to try and complete the “Makerspace in a Box” list, also taking suggestions from students to see what they might actually need or want to use.

So the last question is what will it cost to buy the materials and how am I going to afford them? Since I’m starting small, I won’t need a lot of money up front because I want to focus on finding things for free, but eventually I will need to spend some money to purchase better tools, such as a 3D printer or electronics equipment. The actual amount would vary from year to year, but I would say that a good starting amount would be $500, and then go up from there after the first year. In 6 Strategies for Funding a Makerspace (2013), Paloma Garcia-Lopez shares six different ideas for funding a maker space. A few of them really appeal to me, such as applying for scholarships through companies like Lowe’s, and using DonorsChoose.org to request funds. Depending on the financial climate in our state, it might be possible to get funding through the school for my maker space as well.

References

Garcia-Lopez, P. (2013) 6 Strategies for Funding Makerspaces. edutopia. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/6-strategies-funding-makerspace-paloma-garcia-lopez

Hlubinka, M. (2013) Stocking up School MakerspacesMake: Retrieved June 22, 2017, from http://makezine.com/2013/08/21/stocking-up-school-makerspaces/

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

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Week 5 Reflection

This week we compared teaching and learning and looked at the relationship between the two. I found that they are related, and that they should be. Good teaching should lead to learning. That being said, learning can occur without being directly taught (think lecture or teacher-directed lessons), but teaching should be present for all learners.

I impacted the learning of others through my blog post and resources this week. This week, Douglas, Mariah, and Jule read and commented on my blog post. My learning was impacted by reading the resources this week, as well as reading and commenting on Douglas’s and Mariah’s blogs. Mariah said something that I agree with completely: “Both teaching and learning benefits the learner and the learner should be the focus, not the teacher.” I think as teachers sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in everything we do, and its important to remember that the learner should always be our focus. Douglas also said something that really stood out to me:  “we are doing what we have always done.” I think there are so many teachers that still have this mantra, and that is part of the struggle in trying to make education better. Student-centered learning hasn’t always been a focus, so trying to shift in the direction of what is best for students can be hard when there are those who like to dig in their heels because they don’t want to move out of their comfort zone.

This week really got me thinking about what I’m doing to make sure that the teaching I do connects to the learning of my students. I get the feeling that this will be a constant focus for me throughout my teaching career, and that actually excites me. I love that there is always going to be an opportunity for me to change what I’m doing to be better for my students.

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Week 5: What’s the relationship between teaching and learning?

When I think back on my experiences as a student in K-12 and compare them to my experiences as a teacher, the relationship between teaching and learning doesn’t quite match.  A lot of my education was based on rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, which to me meant I was learning. My teachers “taught” me by presenting me with information and I was supposed to “learn” it, which in most cases meant I memorized it. “Learning is not the direct result of having been taught.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1595)

So what does it actually mean to teach? “Teachers fall back on their own experiences as learners when teaching.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1603) This describes be quite well when it comes to how I approached teaching in my first few years. Terry Heick (2015) compiled a list of definitions for what it means to teach and as I read through it, I found myself agreeing with quite a few of them. Teaching is helping others understand, and to know what it really means to “understand”, and so many other things. (Heick, 2015)

I think that teachers are viewed as people who distribute information, hoping that it would be understood, but through my research and learning experiences in this program, I can see that teaching involves so much more than that. I think it’s easy to get caught up in our identity as teachers based on how we learned in school, so changing that identity presents a bit of a challenge. “[C]ollaborative teacher research…is one possibility for transcending or transforming traditional teacher identity formation.” (Diniz-Pereira, 2003, p.17)

But enough about teaching, what does it mean to learn? “Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us.” (Knowledge@Wharton, 2008) I can “teach” my students to do chemistry, by showing them how it is done, but have they actually learned it? I see students really struggle learning chemistry when they try to rely on what has worked for them in the past: memorization and repetition. The main parts of chemistry really cannot be memorized. Yes, you can memorize definitions, but that won’t help you in understanding how to solve the problems. So, what students really need to “learn” is how to understand how the chemistry works. Traditional “teaching” doesn’t put as much of an emphasis on student understanding what they are doing, but more just memorizing what is happening.

This all boils down to how teaching and learning are related to one another. Does learning require teaching? No. However, if a teacher can change their teaching style to better fit how their students learn, the right kind of teaching can help students learn. In the constructivist learning theory puts “the learner as the center of attention.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1651) “Constructionism is a theory of teaching. We believe that constructionism is the best way to implement constructivist learning.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1651)

As we’ve seen the past few weeks, constructivism and constructionism really help students to get a deeper understanding of concepts, so why isn’t this done more in classrooms? “A key challenge is convincing many faculty…to change the way they teach.” (Brownell, & Tanner, 2012) This is the issue I see with myself and my colleagues. We get comfortable with what we know, and don’t want to change, or don’t have the time or the training to change what we do. Brownell and Tanner (2012) go on to describe the three main reasons that teachers don’t change: lack of training, time and incentives. By investing more into preparing teachers for better teaching, maybe we can make a better connection between teaching and learning.

References

Brownell, S., & Tanner, K. (2012). Barriers to Faculty Pedagogical Change: Lack of Training, Time, Incentives, and…Tensions with Professional Identity?. Cell Biology Education, 11(4), 339-346. http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.12-09-0163

Heick, T. (2015). What It Means To Teach –. TeachThought. Retrieved 16 June 2017, from http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/what-teaching-means/

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’ – Knowledge@Wharton. (2008). Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-objective-of-education-is-learning-not-teaching/

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Week 4 Reflection

This week we looked at how we can design a project to get students tinkering and making in our classrooms. As a chemistry teacher, this really seems to be a daunting task, but I think with some serious thought and effort it can be done.

This week my learning was impacted by doing the readings and research, as well as reading and commenting on Jule’s and Brian’s blogs. Jule mentioned that using a Maker Space in her classroom seems very intimidating and I completely agree! Even if I taught a different subject with easier applications, I think I would be intimidated. Both students and teachers tend to be reluctant to try new things, and a Maker Space is definitely unknown territory that could be scary for all involved. Reading through Jule’s blog also made me think that maybe I could make some sort of variation of maker space that would be suitable for chemistry. Jule also emphasized that maker spaces need to be relevant to students in order to be successful.

Brian shared his project idea to use in his class and it was a great example of mixing math and making. His project also inspired me to figure out a project for my chemistry class! After reading Brian’s project, I thought up a project where students would design and build a representation of an element, including protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the spaces they each belong. Students could use any materials to build their projects, and I would probably build a supply of materials for them to select from, though they wouldn’t be limited by that. Brian’s blog really contributed to my learning this week because it helped me overcome the block of figuring out my project!

I impacted the learning of others mainly through my blog post this week. Douglas and Mariah read and commented on my blog this week.

This week started out rough for me because I couldn’t think of a project, but after reading through Jule’s and Brian’s blogs, I was able to figure one out. I have my idea and now I need to work on getting the project more classroom ready.

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Week 4: What project could help me integrate my content with making?

This weeks question is something I have been thinking about since this class started. How can I integrate making in a chemistry class? What kind of project can I design for my students to demonstrate learning not only in chemistry, but also using making skills? According to Martinez & Stager (2013), there are eight elements of a good project: purpose and relevance, time, complexity, intensity, connection, access, shareability, and novelty. I will need to consider each of these as I work on designing my project.

One of the goals of making is to help students better understand the content. “We all construct our own meaning of the world around us; Making just gives us a context to construct our understanding in. It engages students’ hands in the work of their minds in order to help them construct deep conceptual understandings.” (Vanderwerff, 2014) My project needs to help students construct deeper understandings of chemistry concepts, and possibly other contents as well.

One possible first step in designing my project would be to contact chemistry industry professionals to help identify an authentic problem to solve. (ConnectEd, 2010, p.9) When I read this, I also thought about a textbook I have at school that I’ve looked at a few times called Living by Chemistry  by Angelica M. Stacy et al. This book takes the high school chemistry curriculum and divides it into units based on real-world problems. I think I could look at these problems to also help me develop a good project.

“The project should be the basic unit of learning.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1490) Over the past year, I have learned quite a bit about project- or problem-based learning, and this could be a good opportunity to start implementing that in my classroom. Right now, I see my project as something beyond a chemistry lab, though a lab could be involved in the project, to help students solve a real-world problem. The project would be rather open-ended, not directing them too much, and also challenging. The project will most likely last for at least a quarter, giving students an opportunity to connect concepts within the curriculum. To start, the project will probably only deal with chemistry, but it would be nice to eventually work with other departments to develop more of an interdisciplinary project. Making could be involved in any part of the project, thought I still don’t really know what that would look like in chemistry.

This is just the beginning ideas for how my project will look, and I’m sure this will change as the project evolves. I hope to make my chemistry class more of a project-based class in the future and I think this will be a great starting place for that.

References

ConnectEd. (2010). Designing Multidisciplinary Integrated Curriculum Units. The California Center for College and Career. Retreived 8 June 2017, from http://www.connectedcalifornia.org/downloads/LL_Designing_Curriculum_Units_2010_v5_web.pdf

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

Stacy, A., Coonrod, J., & Claesgens, J. (2015). Living by chemistry (2nd ed.). W.H. Freeman.

Vanderwerff, A. (2014). Makers in the Classroom: A How-To Guide – EdSurge News. EdSurge. Retrieved 8 June 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-05-14-makers-in-the-classroom-a-how-to-guide

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Week 3 Reflection

This week we looked at the benefits of letting students struggle and figure things out on their own. This topic is relevant to me as a teacher, but also as a parent. My learning was impacted this week by reading and commenting on Douglas and Mariah’s blogs. I impacted the learning of others through my blog post and resources. Douglas and Brian read and commented on my blog post this week.

I was reading through Douglas’s blog and he shared some insights about letting our own children struggle and not always stepping in to help them. This really resonated with me as I have a three year old daughter who already wants to give up when she doesn’t do something the first time. I need to work on letting her struggle so she learns it is okay to fail, and hopefully develops a growth mindset as she grows up.

I also read and commented on Mariah’s blog this week. Mariah talked about how hard it is for her to let her students struggle on a math problem and let them figure it out for themselves. I have this same issue in chemistry. I always want to just do the problem for the students, but that isn’t going to help them learn at all.

The main take-away I have from this week is that the growth mindset is crucial for students getting the benefits of struggling and figuring things out on their own. Tinkering really gives an opportunity for this because there is a lot of trial and error when you are building something. If you don’t keep trying, you won’t get to see a final product that actually works.

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Week 3: To what extent should we allow students to figure things out for themselves?

I teach high school chemistry, and on a daily basis I see students struggle. Maybe they don’t have enough background knowledge to make connections in a topic, or maybe their just don’t understand what is going on. I distinctly remember struggling in my upper-level chemistry classes in college when the content got too complicated for me to easily grasp. At this point, what should students do? Throw in the towel and raise the white flag? While some may choose this option, a better choice would be to keep on trying and go to additional resources for help. “Students who are less likely to give up are more likely to learn.” So many times I see students give up so easily when they encounter a problem they can’t solve, even if the tools they need are only a little beyond their reach. I rarely see students going beyond the basics when trying to solve a problem in class, and I think if they were to reach more.

But what are students thinking about when they are struggling? Maybe if we can look more at how they are thinking and what they are thinking about, students struggling could be more useful in the classroom. “Tinkering gives deep clues to a patient observer about thinking.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 1066) Allowing students to tinker in class could lead us to understand how they are thinking, which could help us decode their struggles in class.

One way to encourage students to struggle in class is to stop giving them a rigid series of steps to follow. In science, we teach students about the scientific methods, which always seems to have set steps they must follow: observations, hypothesis, experiment, conclusions. “This is not science. Science is about wonder and risk and imagination, not checklists and memorization.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 1100) Reading this passage really put my teaching of science into perspective. Why does chemistry need to be so rigid in how students explore the science? Does giving them a set series of steps to follow actually help them learn? Maybe leaving labs more open ended, encouraging them to struggle, is what my students actually need.

References

Berman, S. (2015) Letting kids struggle in class. Shared by Strauss, V. (2015) What is the value of letting students struggle in class? Teachers answer. Retrieved 5/31/17 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/21/what-is-the-value-of-letting-students-struggle-in-class-teachers-answer/?utm_term=.3984822c0fb1.

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

 

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Week 2 Reflection

This week we looked at the relationship between tinkering, hard play, and the growth mindset. My learning was impacted by reading and researching for my blog post this week, as well as reading the comments on my blog and reading Jule’s and Brian’s blogs. I contributed to the learning of others through my blog post and resources, as well as commenting on Jule’s and Brian’s Blogs.

Jule compared and contrasted tinkering, hard play, and the growth mindset in her post this week. She shared a quote that talks about each of these contributes to not only an educational shift, but a societal shift. I think this is huge because there has been a shift in society as a whole in what it means to work hard and be successful. It would be nice if changing how we approach education could help the rest of society change for the better.

Brian gave some examples of what a fixed mindset looks like in students, and also how a growth mindset looks. So often I see student exhibiting traits of a fixed mindset, and Brian’s post got me thinking about what I can do to encourage students to embrace a growth mindset. I think I will be paying much more attention to student behaviors to try and figure out who is fixed and who is already in a growth mindset, and then work on trying to convert them to a growth mindset.

My reading and research this week shows me the positive impact that tinkering, growth mindset, and hard play could have in my classroom. I look forward to learning how to implement these ideas in my classroom.

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Week 2: What is the link between “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth mindset”?

This week is again focused on constructionism, the theory of learning that is focused on “constructing a meaningful product.” (Papert, 1986, quoted in Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 815) We are now looking more in depth at “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth mindset”, and how these concepts are linked together. “Tinkering is a mindset – a playful way to approach and solve problems through direct experience, experimentation, and discovery.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 839) Tinkering encourages students to approach problems in ways other than the traditional models. (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 954) To me this is a less rigid approach that gives students the freedom to solve problems in a way that makes sense to them, even if it isn’t the “right” way to their teacher. But what does tinkering have to do with play?

“When students play, it unleashes their creative side in a way no other activity can.” (Play and Education2017)  If a student is going to take a different approach to solving a problem, creativity will most likely be a large part of that approach. “Play is not a frivolous waste of time. When children are deeply involved in play, they are learning.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle location 980) Play can be one way that students begin to tinker, as the results of their play may lead them down a new path to problem solving.

The last point of discussion for this week is the “growth mindset.” Growth mindset refers to “the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.” (The Growth Mindset, 2015) This means that the more effort you put in, the better you can become. So often students get caught up in their failures, convinced that they have no hope of succeeding. Growth mindset helps them see that they can succeed if they only keep at it. This week I’m attending some professional development offered at my district, and my presenter explained growth mindset as, “I can’t do it…yet.” He had heard this from another teacher at a different training, and I think it does a good job of summing up growth mindset.

After looking at each of the concepts this week, I think the link between them is that you can’t have one without the others. Having a growth mindset seems like it would be a necessity in being able to both play and tinker. When kids play, they are practicing their tinkering skills. The nature of tinkering is to keep on trying to find something that works, which is the basis of the growth mindset.

References

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

Play and Education|Lansing Christian School. (2017). Lansing Christian School. Retrieved 25 May 2017, from http://www.lansingchristianschool.org/work-hard-play-hard-5-reasons-play-essential-childs-education/

The Growth Mindset – What is Growth Mindset – Mindset Works. (2015). Mindsetworks.com. Retrieved 25 May 2017, from https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Default

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