Hooray for group work!


by Erin Riley -

To an educator, summer brings much needed time for slowing down, reflection, and professional development. I had the opportunity to travel to NH to attend a most unusual, “minds-on” institute where you hang out with interesting maker educators and take the time to explore your ideas.

Constructing Modern Knowledge began with a preview of the week’s exciting events by organizer and inspirer, Gary Stager; engaging speakers, a trip to the MIT Media Lab, and project time are what we had to look forward to.  The day before CMK I loaded my car with thrift store finds including wooden tennis racquets, ping-pong paddles, and a guitar, thinking I would make an Arduino controlled noisemaker.  I started visualizing the design—a handmade mish mash of found materials.

After orienting us to the days ahead, we were asked to propose ideas for projects, having the option to work solo or with a group.  I scoped out the projects: a musical instrument, a drawing robot, or an interactive sound sculpture.  I asked myself….”Should I make my project or join one of these groups?”  I decided to team up.  The noisemaker could wait. 

Our group was a diverse bunch of maker teachers: male/female, k-12, from New England to Vietnam, with backgrounds in technology, science, art and robotics. I had never worked with a large team to create an art piece and was excited!

The next fours days brought plenty of “hard” fun.  Members of the team made an Arduino-powered light display, Makey Makey musical keys, worked on building, wiring and circuits and we all had the chance to both share knowledge and learn something new. I am grateful to have been reminded of the power of teamwork.  I look forward to planning a collaborative project this year with my students.  Each individual’s contribution creates the larger whole. Hooray for group work!

With the rest of the summer I look forward to finishing my thrift store pile and will savor every moment of focused time.