a constructionist party

One of the conferences I’ve been most looking forward to attending this year is Constructing Modern Knowledge, an annual gathering where educators are challenged to take off their teacher hats, and become learners and makers themselves. This being my first year attending, I only had very vague ideas of what to expect. I knew that day one would consist of the full group throwing out ideas for potential projects and the resulting chaos of 100+ adults signing up for projects they might be interested in working on. Amongst other things (like oh, I don’t know, an incredible cast of faculty and fellows, a ridiculous amount of toys and gadgets to play with, etc etc), I was really impressed by the variety of project ideas and how willing everyone was to work on things they either don’t know anything about or that don’t relate at all to what they teach.

I talk about the two projects I worked on in two other posts: fabric speakers and an interactive neuron. So here, I’ll simply talk about what I took away from these four intensive days of making (other than fabric speaker prototypes, awesome videos and photos, and lots of wonderful new people to connect with):

  • It’s good to give teachers time to be selfish and just do projects for themselves that don’t need to directly relate to their day jobs. (And really, isn’t that true for just about everyone?) Many times, the teachers themselves will find ways to tie what they’re working on back to things they can do in the classroom anyway. Encourage playfulness, whimsy, and controlled chaos.  The question now becomes: How might I incorporate this philosophy into some of the teacher training we do during the school year back at Casti?
  • You need large chunks of uninterrupted, unscheduled time to really get into the flow of making. I know this isn’t exactly realistic for most schools but I wonder if there are still ways to redesign schedules to allow for this type of deep dive every so often. (Related to this, I sure hope I get selected to be on our schedule redesign committee back at school this year because I definitely have things to say now!)
  •  I enjoyed having the freedom to work by myself when I wanted to and want to give my students this choice too. Granted, I also think the ability to collaborate effectively is a critical life skill, so most likely, a balance should be struck: required group work for some projects, optional for others.

My last take-away? I sure hope my school will send me back again next year. There are so many more toys and gadgets I’d love to play with!

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