Bringing the Maker Movement Into the Classroom (FETC 2015 Highlights – Part 2)

Last week, I shared a few promising tools and apps that I learned about at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC 2015). This week I’d like to shift my focus to the Maker Movement, one of the more popular themes presented at FETC 2015. The Maker Movement is a trend towards do-it-yourself (DIY) projects in the engineering, electronics and robotics fields. The idea behind the Maker Movement (or a “Makerspace Classroom” in education) is that students take charge of creating technology-based projects with real world tools. Students in a Makerspace Classroom have the freedom to explore, be creative, set goals, and learn from mistakes. Overall, the emphasis is on self-directed learning and not about students following specific instructions set by the teacher. Think of the teacher doing the large brushstrokes (i.e. – set learning objectives, making sure students are on-task) while the students seek out the details (i.e. – research, creating).

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I believe one of the main benefits of a Makerspace Classroom is that it has the potential to help teachers develop “real life” learning situations in a math or science classroom. It’s an approach that helps students learn authentically and looks like Project Based Learning (PBL). If you’d like to see a great video overview about the Makerspace Movement in education, be sure to take a look at the following clip from Edutopia:

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While I’m excited to learn more about the Makerspace Classroom, I still have questions and concerns around evaluation practices. In a self-directed, creative project, what do we evaluate? More specifically, how would we as Quebec General Adult Education (FGA) teachers tie our curriculum and end of course outcomes to a Makerspace Classroom? At the end of the day, would this approach help FGA students to be better prepared to take their final exams?

I’ve reached out to the Makerspace experts on Twitter (hashtag #makered for those of you on Twitter) and was provided with the following articles on evaluation practices in a Makerspace Classroom.

So, here’s my perspective. One the main tenets of a competency-based approach is that we’re supposed to evaluate students as they learn and progress, i.e. – evaluation in support of learning. However, the reality is that we still need to give our students a passing or failing grade at the end of each semester. One possible solution provided by the Makerspace experts is for students to utilize electronic portfolios to document their learning. In turn, these portfolios could help demonstrate how students tackled specific learning objectives set by the course. Would this solution work in FGA? That’s the feedback I’d like to hear from you!

For those of you would like to learn more about this topic, I’ve been told that Sylvia Martinez’ book is a must-read for any teacher wanting to learn more about the Maker Movement. I’ve also included a link to a online video of Sylvia Martinez’ very informative Maker Movement session that I attended in-person at FETC 2015. If you are an FGA math or science teacher (or a ped consultant) who would like to further explore the possibilities of the Maker Movement in your FGA centre, please contact me.

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