Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Invent to Learn

Sharing a few select highlights from Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering In The Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager.  

While school traditionally separates art and science, theory, and practice, such divisions are artificial. The real world just doesn’t work that way! 

Making is a way of bringing engineering to young learners. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts. For older students, making combines disciplines in ways that enhance the learning process for diverse student populations and opens the doors to unforeseen career

What is needed at both the university and secondary level are teachers who indeed know their subject but who approach it from a constantly interdisciplinary point of view – i.e., knowing how to give general significance to the structures they use and to reintegrate them into overall systems embracing the other disciplines with the spirit of epistemology to be able to make their students constantly aware of the relations between their special province and the sciences as a whole. Such men are rare today.

digital fabrication had the potential to be the ultimate construction kit, a disruptive place in schools where students could safely make, build, and share their creations. I designed those spaces to be inviting and gender-neutral, in order to attract both the high-end engineering types, but also students who just wanted to try a project with technology, or enhance something that they were already doing with digital fabrication.

Now you can make the actual thing you are trying to test. Best of all, gone are the days of helplessness, dependency, and consumption. Making lets you take control of your life, be more active, and be responsible for your own

From constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product. 

Tinkering is what happens when you try something you don’t quite know how to do, guided by whim, imagination, and curiosity. When you tinker, there are no instructions – but there are also no failures, no right or wrong ways of doing things. It’s about figuring out how things work and reworking them. Contraptions, machines, wildly mismatched objects working in harmony – this is the stuff of tinkering. Tinkering is, at its most basic, a process that marries play and inquiry.

We teach children science and math so they can make the world a better place, not so they can pass tests. Edith Ackermann says: In the practice of design, the purpose is not to represent what is out there (or model how things are) but to imagine what is not (or envision how things could be) and to bring into existence what is imagined. Creators are fabricators of possibilities embodied: They both make and make-up things!  

“I’m done” are two words you should never hear in the maker classroom! When a student (or team of students) thinks they are finished, they should seek opportunities to improve