Saturday, 23 January 2016

Am I a maker? Maker mindsets need apply.

Am I a maker?

Truth be told, when I was first asked to answer this question as part of my #EDUC5199 course, my immediate response was... no. No, no, nodedy, no, NO!

We run a makerspace in our library learning commons at school and I immediately compared myself to our students. And there is no way that I am as talented as they are...I mean...I can only dream about understanding what the heck they are talking about half the time.  And I felt guilty about that. Why can't I make like them?

Let's take my daughter as another example. She's always making stuff. Out of anything! And she's particularly most pleased when we get cardboard boxes. While her brother is playing Minecraft she's making....stuff.

When did I loose my excitement for making just for the joy of it? When did I become so concerned about what I could and couldn't do? Am I projecting this sub-consciously to the students I teach?

Clearly I am in need of a new maker mindset.

After some more reflection I realized that this wasn't the case. I am a MAKER....just of a different kind.

I make movies and visual aids to differentiate for the needs of my students in order to reach and teach them. If I get inspired by a speaker, or if there is something important I want to say I make an infographic on Canva and tweet it out. Whew...feeling better now.

And I can make some of the things my students are making ... I just have ... a different entry point. Recently I gave up learning how to knit using needles and have discovered finger and arm knitting. I was pleasantly pleased with my first two attempts...and just bought a few more balls of yarn to try my next project.

Attempt #1 

(See? Why did I say attempt?!!? This is something I MADE!!)

Makerproject Extraordinaire  #2

I am a maker.

I can do things.

I can show our students that it's ok to not know, it's ok to make mistakes, it's ok to learn and and that we can go through this together to re-discover making simply for the joy of it.

Because if we're all together in this .... who knows what we can do next!

Next step...get my son to teach me more about Minecraft.


(This one is just because I love Star Wars :)

Maktivists, Hacktivists or a Combination of Both?

One thing that particularly struck me during this week’s readings for my #EDUC5199 course was Steve Mann’s makivists definition: people who “are authentic and committed to making things for social change” (Mann, 2014) and how this relates to the current craze in adopting makerspaces in our schools.

I follow Laura Flemming on Twitter - she’s been running a makerspace in her high school learning commons in New Jersey for several years. She is also the author of Worlds of Making. A lot of people, (myself included) have incorporated makerspaces in their learning spaces that allow students to explore different tools that interest them and that they are passionate about.

This tweet really changed my thinking about our makerspace and what it provided our students.

When our makerspace first opened, instead of honouring our students voices - we set up challenges for them to complete. How do challenges honour their voice and creativity and allow them to authentically commit to the learning process? I would argue that it doesn’t and doesn’t honour Mann’s “learn by being” which I interpret as learning about things by being fully engaged and immersed in the learning process - it’s almost like you ARE the process. Students should be able to make mistakes and guesses without the burden of worrying about whether or not “challenge requirements” are being met. Learn by being means being free to make, mistake, and re-make. And the result? Something wonderful that might not have been discovered before. Our makerspace now focuses on true open exploration, inquiry and tinkering which Mann says that a makerspace “should all be about”.

I found the differentiation between maktivism (the making of physical objects) and hacktivism (the making of digital objects) intriguing. As making evolves, I see these two worlds converging even more in the future so that one will eventually become the making process of the other.

We are beginning to see this approach to blending both maktivism and hacktivism in our learning commons. The Raspberry Pi and Arduino lend themselves quite nicely to this. Students have to actually create circuits, attach wires, cameras, sensors and the like but also have to code a program in order to make their invention work. While only at the beginning stage of our e-textile exploration, we could be soon blending physical making and coding when using the Arduino LilyPad and LED lights as well. (Right now we are only building basic circuits using conductive thread, LED lights and 3 volt batteries)

Imagine if were are able to provide our students opportunities to learn not only maktivism but hacktivism skills? 21st century competencies? What inventions we might see!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Revelations in Making

Over the holiday break, I read a tweet from Laura Fleming (one of my many Maker gurus) that really "challenged" my thinking about our maker space, the language we use and the importance of student voice.

Now, I am no stranger to Laura's planning process for makerspaces and really thought I had considered all aspects in our school's makerspace design. I really thought I had it figured out!

And.....,no. No, I didn't.

We had created a virtual space to support our physical one so that students could access resources, share and contribute ideas and continue to make in and outside school hours. While all of this sounds great, there was one thing missing,

And that was their voice.

Even though students were (and still are) free to choose the resource they'd like to explore, I had created "challenges" for them to complete. How was I honoring their creativity and imagination by directing them this way?

I wasn't.

Upon returning to school after the holiday break, we sat all our makers down, talked with them about the space and their aspirations for it. We cleaned up all the "challenging" language and activities in our virtual and physical spaces with a focus on open exploration using the language "What do you want to make?"

While I don't believe that our journey will ever be over, I do believe we've taken a step in the right direction. 

It is my hope that our makerspace will always be a "work in progress".

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Five of my favourite things....

What?!? Only 5?!?! Ok, well here goes nothing....

All of my favourite things have to do with my favourite thing .... which is making!

1. QuickTime:  I love how I can record screencasts using QuickTime on my Mac. I actually didn't know about this feature (I'm a little slow on the uptake at times) until last year and it is a LIFE SAVER! Library in a Minute, anyone?

2. Doink: Our makerspace has a green screen for students to use - our favourite way to record (and it is the easiest by far) is to use the Doink app!

3. Sphero and the Tickle app. (That's not cheating if they're in the same photo). I love myself - I won't lie. So I bought myself a Sphero for Christmas last weekend .... and I just couldn't wait to give it to myself or let the kids try it at school. It's certainly garnering a lot of interest as we've placed two mazes on the floor of the learning commons and are challenging students to "code" their way through!

4. Book: 3D Printing in the Classroom. I've been thinking a lot of about 3D printers and how they can be effectively used in the classroom/makerspace. This  book is a great resource - it will tell you everything you need to know about 3D printers in schools, what to look for, what to buy as well as sample projects. For me, a worthwhile purchase.

5. Book: Finger Knitting Fun. Our knitting makers started off this year knitting with needles. We soon found this to be quite a difficult and time consuming process. Students were getting frustrated (knitting is HARD) and couldn't see results that motivated them and made them feel successful. Since  then, we've started a few projects out of this book and the students have a new vigour and enthusiasm for creating knitting projects! Some of the samples we've tried so far!

And last of all, my MOST favourite thing to do after a hard day of making is to put my feet up and enjoy a nice cold Coke Zero. :)

One #6 never hurt anyone....

Please read on to check out the favourite things of our  other #peel21st blog hop colleagues!

Link to December blog hop post
Jason Richea
Heather Lye
Amit Mehrotra
Jason Wigmore
Melanie Mulcaster
Jonathan So
Jim Cash
Tina Zita
Maggie Fay
Sapna Gandhi

Pam Taylor
Gina Loutrianakis
Laura Smiley

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Best Learning Moment 2015 Blog Hop

My most memorial learning moment in 2015 is still happening.

The Valleys Snr Public school is running a makerspace during the lunch hour in the learning commons using a mix of digital and non-digital tools.

This year we added a sewing, beading, knitting and crocheting component. There are three different teachers who assist students in learning how to knit, sew and crochet, but sadly, the "beaders" are stuck with me (not a beading bone in my body).

And this turns out to be the best thing that ever happened.

At our start up meeting in September, I made it abundantly clear I had no idea what I was doing. Immediately after the meeting, a student stepped up and said that she had some ideas and would lead the group.

I haven't looked back since - every week she comes to beading club with a pre-made sample project. She then proceeds to teach the group how to make various beading projects.

So far we have made rings, three different types of bracelets, and ladybug bead pets. We plan to put our products on display at our first Maker Faire in April. The group is tickled pink.

She is also toying with the idea of filming her tutorials and uploading them to a YouTube channel. (with her parents' permission of course ;) Why shouldn't we share her talents with the world?

I am astounded every day with the potential of our students given the right opportunity to shine.

I can't wait to see what comes next.

This post is only one in a series of  blog hop posts by our amazing #peel21st colleagues! 
Check out what they have to say below!

Blog Hop Post
Jason Richea
Jonathan So
Amit Mehrotra
Tina Zita
Jim Cash
Melanie Mulcaster
Heather Lye
Erica Armstrong
Matt Fletcher
Jason Wigmore
Shivonne Lewis-Young
Matthew Forestieri

Sunday, 2 March 2014

World Read Aloud Blogging Challenge Week 3: Snapshot of my reading life.

This picture is important to me for a number of reasons:

1) The picture at the top is of our library shelves. Looking at our library shelves makes me happy. I love seeing the books we have in the library.....I often scan the shelves and mentally check off in my head the number of books I've read. Check, check, check! Chapters has nothing on us! (@chaptersindigo at Square One did adopt our school and is the reason why our shelves are so full this year. We are eternally grateful!)

2. Our school is running the Forest of Reading program. We are trying to spread the word about our reading to the world and have begun our own Twitter campaign. Check out the #valleysforest hashtag to see what we've been up to! We want to give our all students a chance to access  the texts and participate so we're running a part of the program as a read aloud. Every two weeks, each class gets a new book, which their homeroom teacher reads aloud. We've invited three Forest of Reading authors to our school for World Read Aloud Day next week....will keep you posted!

3. I think this generally sums up my life in reading. "Happiness is a new book". No matter how bad of a day I've had, I can always lose myself in a book. Books just make me happy. Period.

4. This is a snapshot of what's on my ipad. This also a pile of books that lies beside my bed that I have yet to read. Books are stacked all over our house - my husband is always saying "NO MORE BOOKS" (never, ever go into a bookstore with me)  - bah, books are like black pants. You can never have too many!  I read what the students at my school read. And I really, really enjoy it! I don't know who gets more excited about new books coming out - our students or myself. And that is just pretty darn cool.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

World Read Aloud Day Challenge - Week 2

Ladies and gentlemen...welcome to the first two consecutive weeks that I have ever blogged in my life... EVER!

Again, I give thanks to @LitWorld and @MatthewWinner aka The Busy Librarian for continuing to provide my muse. (I can be so poetic when I want to be!) :)

Q1: I think everyone in the world should read....

Well, I think the students of my school are the best to answer this one for me. Of course it's THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES. Violence aside, this series really spoke to me on a personal level. These books basically are all about our humaneness and how important it is to value and treat everyone in the manner they deserve. I am still not over Rue. And Prim...WHY PRIM?!!? And I love Peeta. If I was a teenager, I'd totally want to marry him.

Q2: If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be.....

Mo Willems. I was familiar with the pigeon series so I bought them for my children at Christmas. The package I bought from scholastic also came with a DVD that animated some of Mo's work with him providing the voice overs.  I fell in love. I don't think I've laughed so hard. (Ok, well, I have to admit THE LEGO MOVIE was pretty good at this too). My children and I have just discovered the "Piggie and Elephant" series....I would LOVE to hear those read aloud too!

Q3: When I read aloud, my favourite character to impersonate is:

Well, any character from a Mo Willems book actually. They just have so much character! I can feel their emotions emanating off the page for heaven's sake! The man has a gift for bold, giant, italicized font!! What else can I say!?!?!

Q4: The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is:

Well...I just noticed that a lot of my sentences begin with well. I'll have to work on that. Well...HA HA...just kidding.

I'm a middle school teacher librarian so most of the books on my bookshelf are young adult fiction of the dystopian sort. World collapse due to unnatural disasters, man created world plagues and the zombie apocalypse also fill in a few of the available spaces. I'm a sucker for anything the kids at my school read. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em ....right? (YA fiction is SO much better than when I was young...and we had to read uphill BOTH ways!) (I hope people really get that joke)

Q5: My fav part about reading aloud or being read to:

I'd have to say (notice that I didn't begin that sentence with well) that my favourite part about reading aloud is looking at the looks of wonder on my students or my children's faces. I love reading their expressions to see if :
- they're enjoying the story
- they're getting what I'm reading
- I have to stop and explain (because they're looking lost or confused)
- we can make personal connections to the story
- I've spit accidentally on their faces. (Yah, it happens...sometimes I get excited when I read!)

I hope you'll join the world on March 5th and lend your read aloud voice to raise awareness for global literacy. More than ever, I am believing that words can change worlds.