Erin Riley's Blog

Launching Boats

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by Erin Riley -

I once heard teaching compared to the act of launching boats.  I love the visual evoked by that metaphor. Could we think of the work we do in our makerspaces a similar process to preparing for, and ultimately taking off on a self-guided journey? Students captain the ship and teachers watch from the shore.

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What do people learn from using digital fabrication tools?

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by Erin Riley -

In response to the question of what one actually learns from 3D printing, I thought more deeply about the work we do in our school. While I know conceiving an idea and shepherding it into a tangible form is significant, it is important to be able to articulate its value within an educational setting. It’s also important to reveal the many stages in digital fabrication, especially illuminating the often hidden design process where much of the learning takes place.

What can these scraps reveal?

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by Erin Riley -

Twice a week I coach an Odyssey of the Mind team.  All week I collect scraps, recyclables and cast away objects to bring to meetings for them to peruse.  The process of searching through these materials inspires the gadgets they create, the props they invent, and costumes they fashion.  Through the practice of re-purposing and upcycling, the team engineers through both limits and possibilities.  The raw material is limited; what they would normally use to solve a problem is not always available.

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Sequencing activities to support discovery

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by Erin Riley -

In the quest to create an authentic student-driven learning experience I find myself thinking a lot about the role of a maker educator as facilitator.  If I were to distill what that ideal is for me, it would be to provide an environment where students could find their own way creatively, all the while gaining skills they could take into the world to make new things.

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Where the circle overlaps, thinking about the "A" in STEAM

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by Erin Riley -

I have been thinking about STEAM. STEAM supporters believe STEM should be updated to include creativity, innovation and aesthetics. Are we thinking of this like a Venn diagram, merging form (from the artistic side) to function (from the scientific side) or an extra component to add to the mix, enhancing work in STEM?  Either way, arts are valued as the components that “round out” the technical.

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Drawing: a visual language for Makers

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by Erin Riley -

Drawing is like writing, using pictures instead of words.  It is a form of communication that can be useful, expressive, descriptive and observational.  It provides form to visual ideas.  Including drawing as part of the process of making things is fun and provides a good framework for understanding 2D and 3D design.  

Enclosed is a list of drawing approaches that are used most in the Engineering and Design lab.

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The power of Making what you can Imagine

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by Erin Riley -

Several years ago while while teaching an upper level drawing class I noticed that some of my students were struggling to understand 3D space on the 2D drawing plane.  In an effort to help these and future students, I reimagined a way of keeping track of studio projects based on where they might be organized by their 2D-3D “ness” on a spectrum, and identifying the sorts of visualization that would be involved as they cross into other spatial forms.

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