Monday, April 17, 2017

Maker Mindset

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about makerspaces and asking lots of questions. Where should the makerspace be placed? What materials and resources are needed? How much is it going to cost? Is it in our budget? Who is going to maintain the makerspace? How will students utilize this space? These are certainly good questions, but the most important question that begs to be asked is WHY? Why do you need a makerspace? In reality, a makerspace isn’t a space at all, it’s a mindset. It’s about exploring, discovering new ideas, and creating. It’s about being innovative and creating things that are new and better. It’s about tinkering, inventing, building, problem solving, critical thinking, and taking risks. It’s about collaborating and learning from others. It’s about failing, learning from mistakes and trying again. It’s about finding your passions and sharing them with others. It’s about making!

At Cooper Upper Elementary, we transformed a dreary storage room into a vibrant makerspace that is utilized by fifth and sixth graders. Two of these students, Evan and Robby, were especially energized by this new learning space last year. The doors were not officially opened, but the boys immediately felt safe to share some of the innovative projects that they had been creating at home because they didn’t feel that their passion for innovating had any place at school. Ouch! Talk about a punch to the gut. Up until that moment, our words spoke of innovation, but in the eyes of the students, our actions did not. As your school contemplates the why for a makerspace, there is no better testimonial then that of these two young men. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

When Does Learning Stop?

As a seventeen year old getting ready to graduate from high school, I was on top of the world! Ready to be out of school and done with learning! Although I knew I would be going to college, I was convinced that learning only took place in school. As I was parading around the house celebrating my soon to be graduation, my dad sat in his favorite chair watching and listening. He then instantly deflated my enthusiasm bubble by telling me that my journey had only just begun and that my learning would never end. I laughed. Did he not remember that I would be graduating?

My dad was wise beyond his years and I was a young teenager ready to make my mark on the world. I did not fully understand at the time the knowledge that he was trying to impart on me. I equated my education with school and he equated learning with life! I get it now because I am a life-long learner. After graduating from high school, I went on to get three college degrees. I've participated in every learning opportunity made available to me. I've learned how to parent three beautiful children. I've learned how to maintain a household. I've learned how to teach. I've learned how to cook. I've learned how to drive a manual transmission. I've learned so many things, one of which is that I have so much more yet to learn.

The world is moving at a rapid rate and we need our students to be on board. They need to be prepared for life. Their life, not ours. Learning certainly takes place inside the walls of schools, but a student's education cannot and should not stop at the front door. Because there is no end to growth and learning, we need to embrace this attitude, so we can model life-long learning.

We need to create a culture where our students feel empowered to learn and lead. We need to embrace creativity and the innovator's mindset where we ask the question of what's best for each of our learners and then think differently about how we meet their needs. We cannot keep doing what we've been doing for years and expect to get different results. According to George Couros, innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new or better. If we truly want to move our school forward, we must change and grow alongside our students!