Design Thinking as Constructionist Learning, Lessons from a Spring Hard Problem
In previous blogs I have addressed the role of co-teaching in a maker classroom, as well as the intersection of Reggio Emilia practice and working in a makerspace in hopes of redefining the role of teacher in a Constructivist learning environment. Lately, the FabLearn cohort has also been discussing the essay written by Paulo Blikstein and Marcelo Worsley, soon to be published in Project Zero’s Makeology book. In this chapter of the book, the power of the culture of making is said to be highly dependent on the pedagogical style and attitude of the teacher. Fostering a constructionist learning environment is no small charge, as it turns out. Once established, however, this environment offers a world of learning experiences that are pitted to challenge the status quo teaching and learning we see in most schools today.
Much hype has been made about incorporating Design or Design Thinking into education, but what is design and why is it “suddenly” a valued 21st century concept in education? Anyone who has taken a Design Thinking workshop knows that little is gained from a one hour design cycle, especially those based on product development that may or may not be a sustainable use of resources. On the other hand, understanding the actual process of design through first hand practice requires time, a lot of time. Years in some cases. That being the case, are schools that are pushing design into their programs allowing students to know more than the terms of design (brainstorm, iterate and empathy) or are they truly teaching the value, and intricacy of the design process? Inspired by Paulo Blikstein’s contribution to Agency by Design’s Makeology book (in press), I am focusing this blog on the importance of “fostering a culture of deep projects” as it relates to the design work that I do in science with my 5th graders.
Our task is to prepare children socially, emotionally, intellectually and morally to further the advancement of our culture: a righteous and heroic task! Countries such as the oft-cited Finland (there are three different links here), and methods such as the Montessori Method (only one link) involve would-be teachers in a rigorous selection and training process. The teacher must be a perfect observer, attuned to the interests of the student and their developmental needs, ready to deliver the gift of an appropriate learning prompt to each student or student group. The teacher must also be a skilled documentarian, documenting and assisting the child to self-document the learning process. Sufficiently thorough documentation of learning in process can be one way to lead away from direct assessment and avoid a bias toward focusing on the product or artifact.
In part 2 of this blog we discussed the accuracy and payoff of using alternative assessments in a MakerEd context. In this blog we will get down to business looking at how to use self-assessment in real world project context. Nina Rodriguez, the coordinator of the Innovation and Design Lab at Downtown College Prep (San Jose), will be joining this conversation to talk about examples of self-assessment used in her classrooms.
In part one of this blog, we discussed what self-assessment is, and the relevance of using alternative assessments in your MakerEd program or school wishing to usher in more student choice into the curriculum. In this blog, we will do a shallow review of what has been written about self-assessments. This will include work being done on the frontlines by teachers (blogs and articles), as well as published studies from academia about the efficacy of self-assessment. We will focus our discussion of efficacy on two parameters, accuracy and return for time invested.
The purpose of teacher driven assessment is to measure whether a student is ready to move on to the next topic in a given curriculum. Often this translates to the next chapter of a text book. If the student passes the teacher’s assessment, the next step in her education is given to her in lockstep manner. This approach to learning and assessment, while comfortably quantifiable, unfortunately fails to approach the full spectrum of learning that modern day education has to offer children and adults. Throw MakerEd spaces into the mix, and you have a recipe for a revolution in assessment, beginning with handing the right and responsibility of assessment, over to our students.
Toy companies riding the wave of interest to close the gender gap in STEM have seen some success in sales, but simply adding storylines, and product lines which “feature girls in settings including a shopping mall, a beach house, and a pet salon” feel bereft of the kind of substantive changed needed. Getting more women to participate in the creation, versus consumption of their lives, through STEM careers is a conversation that can be easily lost in arguments for economic success.
http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/steam-de-trojan-horse-making-%E2%80%9Dinclusivity%E2%80%9D“...in the real story of the Trojan horse, it wasn't the horse that was effective, it was the soldiers inside the horse. And the technology is only going to be effective in changing education if you put an army inside it which is determined to make that change once it gets through the barrier.”
- Seymour Papert
Making can be a highly differentiated learning process for students. At times, the adult in the room may feel pulled in 10-20 different directions, if instruction needs to be one-on-one. Rather than viewing the individual learning needs and passions of my students as too daunting of a task to undertake in my curriculum, or an obstacle to a “successful” learning environment, I began to see maker projects for their potential for serious and effective co-teaching.