Christa Flores's Blog

The "Unstructured Classroom" and other misconceptions about Constructivist Learning

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by Christa Flores -

Ask any average kid what his or her favorite part of the school day is and you will probably get the answer lunch or recess. Kids love unstructured time because they have the privacy to fail while taking risks or learning how to be a social primate. At recess, kids have nearly 100% choice over what to do with their bodies, with the safe assumption that in case an injury does occur, an adult on duty will be on the scene in due time. Provide kids with a rich, not necessarily antiseptic space to explore and they teach us a lot about ingenuity, inclusivity and learning through play. Whether passionate about the physics of soccer or the game theory involved in the antics the day of a middle school dance, learning is experiential and self-directed at recess. Regardless of what passion takes over their choice time, we as adults trust them to make safe choices for the most part and we respect their individuality. So why does that trust shift when those same children come into our classrooms?

The Obstacle is the Learning: The Role of Scarcity in a Maker Classroom

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by Christa Flores -

The kind of consumer frenzy that inspires humans to stand in line for hours in order to give someone money for something non-essential to life, has always confused me. There was a stranger juxtaposition that caught my eye that day, however. A few feet from the line snaking out of the Apple store, a mother was sitting on the sidewalk with a toddler in a stroller and a young girl, holding a sign that read “I lost mi job” (yes she spelled my in Spanish)... “I have three children, please help.” Single mothers make up a significant portion of those in poverty, so I am guessing she really did need money and food for her three children. Thankfully someone agreed, and had bought the little family take out pizza, which they were enjoying.  The whole scene was confusing to me and I was inspired to write this blog in hopes of making sense of our current economy and how the maker movement presents us with a potential cure for what seems like an endless problem.

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Maker Portfolios; Authentic Assessment that Tells a Story

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by Christa Flores -

Many argue that grades, especially those based on standardized tests, are limited in the information they provide about a student as a learner. Due to their “snapshot” nature, grades fail to represent a student’s growth over time. In addition, grades tend to be given by a teacher, excluding a student from the assessment process in a manner that can be detrimental to the student’s learning, engagement, willingness to take risks and even self-esteem. The ethical issues of grades aside, summative grades fail to represent the kind of work students do in a Maker Ed. program (STEAM programs in educational settings that employ making or hands on construction). One of the obvious forms of alternative assessment that makers can use to demonstrate competence and growth, is the portfolio.  Below is a summary of what I have learned about portfolios in the arts and engineering fields, as well as my experience using portfolios for a 6th grade science course.

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Alternative Assessments and Feedback in a MakerEd Classroom

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by Christa Flores -

Those working in a makered program, know this kind of work/learning is good for kids, as well as communities and have the energy to fight to keep their programs alive. To support these teachers and to keep makered programs sustainable, i.e. not let them suffer the fate of previous progressive education movements labeled as lacking rigor, we need to be thinking about assessment and we need to be thinking about the following kinds of assessment:

  • Assessments used by students for real learning
  • Assessments used by high schools and colleges for enrollment decisions
  • Assessments used by a community norm system to establish authority or job readiness (badge or certification system)
  • Assessments used to inform the efficacy of a maker program (research)
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What Maker Ed Can Learn from the Mayans

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by Christa Flores -
Diego de Landa burning Maya cult images and codices. Mural by Fernando Castro Pacheco, from Wikipedia

Freire’s model of oppression might be well illustrated by the events of the Spanish inquisition, when ancient knowledge or beliefs collided with the socio-political world of Christianity. The story is more complicated, however and Freire offers this window of hope, “Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.”

Building Mathematical Literacy in a Maker Classroom

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by Christa Flores -

In the two years that I have been testing this curriculum, I have noticed that not only have my students (including the self-proclaimed “bad at math” students), but I too am developing a new love and appreciation of math through the work done in our fabrication lab, or FabLab. Having read Mindstorms; Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas by Seymore Papert I was reminded of my new found “crush” on mathematics.

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