The Maker Culture – a collaborative project

Everyday that I spend in the classroom, I become more and more convinced that we need to begin changing the way we are delivering our curriculum. Today was no exception.

Wayne McPhail, a Social Media Expert and Journalism teacher from Western and Ryerson University visited my classroom and we engaged in a conversation about meaningful  and experiential learning.

We couldn’t be coming from more polar opposite worlds as it relates to Education – Wayne, an adult learning instructor/facilitator and me – an elementary school teacher. Yet, we found ourselves speaking about the same concepts. Wayne showed me the online classroom management system that he uses with his media course students. I showed Wayne my on-line classroom system (learning.com). Wayne discussed the importance of reflection, collaboration and communication in one’s own learning and showed me how his students use blogs and tools such as posterous to maintain a regular line of communication with and between learners. I showed Wayne my “pipedreams” classroom blog and explained our most recent Skype project – 15 places and 40,000 km’s in three days. We read through a few comments, that spanned from Australia to Arizona.

As I walked through my classroom, showing Wayne the tools that I use, I  continued to maintain that that while the tools and resources are essential for today’s learner -what is most important, is letting the child discover his/her own learning through problem solving and a constructivist approach to learning and that this cannot be done with support and on-going professional learning.

Today, was my first in a series of differentiated tasks that relate to the Olympic theme “The Inukshuk”. Wayne listened carefully as I showed him each lesson, explaining that it is the students that pick their tasks, often relating to their own learning style. One group, for example, spent almost an hour painting small Aboriginal designs on rocks and then used the rocks to create their own Inukshuk display. Another group, using the smartboard, created a concept map based on the events and locations of our previous days lessons and experiences. Another – used local news clippings and begin to write their own scripts based on a series of news stories and began to use the video camera and recording software. I explained to Wayne that it was during these “hands-on” activities that I do my most valuable teaching. I can meet with individual students for reading, writing and numeracy help.

As we spoke about problem based learning and constructivism, Wayne introduced to me an idea that I am now compelled to learn more about. It is the concept of ‘the maker culture’.  I learned that the  maker culture involves growing community of  professionals dedicated to making their own functional devices, whether it be technological gadgets, open source hardware and software.

As I reflected on what my role is in the maker culture, I began to review the information and websites that Wayne introduced me to:

http://www.thingiverse.com/

-is a place where people can upload their own designs in a 3-d format which can be then delivered to a 3-d printer. An open source website that allows digital designs to be made into real, physical objects.

http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome

rep rap is the actual tool that allows you to print your design in 3-d.

Today, virtually everyone in the devleoped world runs their own printing workds, their own photography laboratory, and their on CD pressing plant. Moving from two-dimensions to three, why shouldn’t they also make their own MP3 players, their own coat hooks, and their own car wing mirrors? Andy why shouldn’t they use the machine that does the making to make new improved versions of itself?

As we wrapped up our conversations, we agreed that a partnership between his adult learners, and my student learners would work well. For my students, they will be introduced to the Maker Culture and will begin to reflect on what their role is in discovering their own tools and creating their own discoveries. For Wayne’s students, they will benefit by collaborating with true, 21st century learners – the youth that will be creating the products, designs, solutions, ideas that the Maker Culture will one day be developing.