After spending the last few weeks exploring the Maker Movement, I believe it is vital to the future of education. As a Special Education teacher I see incredible opportunities for leveling the playing field and getting kids excited about learning again. My students come to me in high school believing they are broken. They know they are not successful at this thing called school and most of them think it is their fault. My goal is to help them rediscover that they have something amazing to offer the world. In order to do that they have to be willing to take risks. By changing the culture of the classroom, from “memorize these facts and regurgitate them back to me”, to a place where students are encouraged to work together and create, I hope to help my students discover what unique skills they can bring to the group. As James Paul Gee stated in the video Grading with Games, “The group is smarter than the smartest person in the group,” (Gee, 2008).
I would love to see the day where my student, who can not write at even the first grade level, could come to the table with other people who have a similar interests as him, and be an equal participant. I believe that the Maker movement is a key to this. The type of maker kit one uses is not important. I explored the MakeyMakey kit for this class and I have plans to use it in an assignment later this semester. However, the first week of school I had students work in groups to try to build the tallest tower they could out of 64 plastic cups. This did not require fancy equipment or expensive computers. It did require the students to work together, to struggle, to go back to the drawing board time and time again. At about minute 5 of their 20 minute time limit, I had one group say to me, “We’re done.” I thought that was the classic example of where their education had gone wrong up to this point. They built a tower with all the cups, so they must have successfully completed their mission. Imagine the shock on their faces when I told them they weren’t done. That they should try again, perhaps leveling their current creation and starting from scratch. While some students had a hard time with this, what I saw reinforced my belief that I was headed in the right direction. Students who are typically disengaged in their educational experience were some of the most engaged in this activity. They were leaders in their group, they were encouraging the others and there were smiles on their faces. That is what the Maker Culture can bring to education. If we get kids to buy into themselves again, to believe that they have value and that time spent in the learning environment is not time wasted, then I think we will be headed in the right direction.
I have been amazed at my experience in this program so far. I swore I would never get a Master’s degree because school was not something I looked back on with fondness. (I know, that’s a funny thing for a teacher to say!) See, the thing is, I love learning. I remember looking through my books and syllabi at the beginning of each semester and feeling excited about the learning possibilities. Each semester my frustration and disappointment would mount as I found myself sludging through research papers and cramming for multiple choice tests. In CEP810 I knew I had found something different. Although I wasn’t able to articulate the difference, I was fully engaged in my assignments, thinking about them even when I wasn’t actively working on them. After taking CEP811 I now have a better understanding of myself and why this program has resonated so deeply with me. The assignments (for the most part) don’t ask me to just read and write about theories. They ask me to play, explore, apply and create. It is these elements, which are such a part of the Maker Culture, that set this learning experience apart for me. It is those elements that I hope to bring to, not just my classroom, but beyond that as well.
Edutopia. (2010). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games . Retrieved from http://youtu.be/JU3pwCD-ey0
McHorney, D. (2014). Cup Challenge [photograph].