Spring break is about to arrive! Households all across the province are breathing a sigh of relief! Educators and students alike will be enjoying a much needed respite from school, and will enjoy the opportunity to have some much needed social/family time.
When we heard that the break had been moved into April, we adjusted our spring support series to include three events for the coming week that nicely fit into that social/relaxation/family time.
On Tuesday, April 13th, we will be hosting an afternoon tea. On Wednesday, April 14th, we will be hosting an afternoon wine tasting. On Thursday, April 15th, we will be hosting an afternoon #Family Art/Makingevent with UK artist/maker Darryl Wakelam.
If you have kids or grandkids, please consider registering for the Thursday #Family event and having them join the call to participate with you!
We wish everyone the very best during this long-awaited and undisputedly-deserved spring break. All educators understand the role that the spring break plays in the larger flow of the school year, for educators and students alike!
Your ECOO board continues to explore opportunities to support the membership and Ontario educators. Keep an eye peeled on the ECOO website and upcoming ECOO Updates for additional developments!
1 Session Wednesday, May 12, 2021 7:00 – 8:00 pm ET
In this session, Lesley, Melissa and Andrew will show you how to take your unplugged coding lesson and move it into a plugged coding activity using Scratch. See both sides of the coding coin in this informative workshop. Handouts to help you implement both types of codes will be provided.
1 Session Wednesday, March 31, 2021 7:00 – 8:30 pm ET
Curious about sketchnoting but not sure where to start? Are you stuck because you keep saying “I can’t draw”; don’t worry! Sketchnoting is not creating a lifelike representation of reality, it is a way to embrace all literacies while creating something that makes sense for YOU. Sketchnoting increases retention and focus, improves memory, is a great way to synthesize information and helps with concentration, stimulates neural pathways, and quite literally makes us smarter. Come join a 90 minute hands-on session for beginner sketchnoters.
Participants will need (low tech option) paper and a writing utensil OR (high tech option) a tablet with a stylus.
Session Slides and Recording
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Thinking about a new hobby, now that you’ve perfected your sourdough? Why not try knitting? Join me to learn a few basics (casting on, knitting, and maybe purling, depending on time). I’ll try to point you in the direction of some good resources, and share some ideas about how crafting can help you reduce your stress level. #EDUKnits
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So. What do you need for the workshop? Raid your recycling and pull out those toilet paper tubes, (who doesn’t have a closet full of them?), cardboard, cereal boxes, maybe some paper plates. Grab some tape and scissors and you and your family are set for an afternoon of making and sharing while listening to a quirky UK guy try to figure out how to say masking tape.
Darrel has been providing tailor-made art workshops, projects and staff training sessions for schools, museums, theatres and other educational organisations for almost 30 years and in his words, he says; “I enjoy working with children, I admire their adaptability and resourcefulness, I appreciate their honesty and I am always amazed by their energy and enthusiasm. In return I try my best to match these attributes.”
Come join us for an afternoon of making and enthusiasm.
This is an ECOO family event. Please have your kids participate along with you!
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‘Making’ is about empowering students to ‘make their own minds.’
‘Making’ is about empowering students to ‘make up their own minds’—quite literally—regardless of the artifacts being constructed. This is the view I prefer to take.
‘Making’ should focus on taking charge of, and constructing, your mind—your learning. Making objects and artifacts is a means to that end. ‘Making’ is a central tenet of constructionism, tinkering and inquiry—or ‘tinkquiry’ as my colleague Brenda Sherry and I like to say. But it is not the whole story.
Don’t equate ‘making’ with ‘constructionism’. ‘Making’ ≠ ‘constructionism’— necessarily. One cannot assume that because kids are ‘making’ that they are building new schema—that you are embedding them in a constructionist pedagogy.
Seymour Papert and Idit Harel in 1991 said,
“It is easy enough to formulate simple catchy versions of the idea of constructionism; for example, thinking of it as ‘learning-by-making’. One purpose of this introductory chapter is to orient the reader toward using the diversity in the volume to elaborate—to construct—a sense of constructionism much richer and more multifaceted, and very much deeper in its implications, than could be conveyed by any such formula.” In Constructionism (Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991).
The maker movement has become extremely popular in the last few years and is usually associated with the ‘making’ of things with circuit boards, 3D printers, lego, found materials, wood shops, metal shops, coding/programming and other electronic gadgetry. It’s similar to DIY (Do It Yourself) – and ‘craft nights’. There are countless Maker Faires and Maker studios all over the globe.
But, is it only about ‘making with electronics’ and ‘coding’? No. I don’t believe it should be.
‘Making’ isn’t only about electronics and coding.
Building poems, art, music, mathematical solutions and so on are all part of the ‘maker movement’ in my mind. I think Seymour Papert might agree with me as you will read later on.
Building poems, art, music, mathematical solutions and so on are all part of the ‘maker movement’…
The Critical Part is the ‘Making of One’s Own Mind’.
Indeed, the critical part is the ‘making of one’s own mind’—the constructionist piece—not the nature of the artifact being made. As I suggested, making artifacts is the means to an end, in my opinion. Constructing one’s schema and texture of mind is the end-goal.
Now, of course, here I am telling you what I think about ‘making’ and ‘constructionism’ but I cannot think that you will merely learn it by reading. It will take my provocations and your efforts for you to construct your own understandings of these ideas—these constructs. As Papert and Harel said,
“If one eschews pipeline models of transmitting knowledge in talking among ourselves as well as in theorizing about classrooms, then one must expect that I will not be able to tell you my idea of constructionism. Doing so is bound to trivialize it. Instead, I must confine myself to engage you in experiences (including verbal ones) liable to encourage your own personal construction of something in some sense like it. Only in this way will there be something rich enough in your mind to be worth talking about.”
A long time coming!
Well, this kind of thinking and practice has been a long time coming—well, this time around! Let’s face it. Dewey spoke of it early last century when he spoke of experiential learning.
This time, since information technology has been affordable and accessible, it was Seymour Papert and his colleagues who founded this notion of ‘children as makers’ – when he coined the term ‘constructionism’. Seymour studied with, and subsequently worked with, Jean Piaget who was instrumental in the origins of the constructivist learning theory—along with Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky and others.
What is constructivism?
Constructivism is a theory which suggests that people actively construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world and are not merely passive recipients. These understandings arise through experiencing events and then reflecting on those experiences. If we encounter something new, we either assimilate it into our previous ideas and knowledge—our schema—or we must accommodate it by changing what we believe, therefore modifying our schema. Or maybe we just discard the new information as irrelevant.
Regardless, we are active creators of our own knowledge. This occurs through asking questions, exploring, and assessing what we know. It happens through inquiry.
Does this mean the teacher’s role is diminished?
Not at all. A constructivist approach celebrates the active role of the teacher in helping students to construct knowledge rather than to merely regurgitate meaningless facts. In constructivist classrooms, you will see project-based learning, problem-generation and problem-solving approaches, and inquiry-based activities where students are generating driving questions, generating potential solution strategies and digging into investigations.
You will see students making their knowledge and processes visible to the other students where it is all available for discussion and collaboration. Meaningless facts aren’t memorized in a decontextualized fashion but rather a meaningful body of knowledge is constructed and becomes part of the student’s interrelated collections of memories. The teacher’s role is far from irrelevant. It is critical as a facilitator, educator, and co-investigator.
Constructivism leverages the student’s natural curiosity about the world and how things work. Their engagement is invoked through respect of their current knowledge and real-world experience. Their hypotheses and investigative methods are honoured and honed.
Construct ‘a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe‘.
So along comes Seymour Papert – and in the mid-sixties – begins to think very deeply about the role of kids making things——>publicly.
This is, as I said, when he coined the term ‘constructionism’.
Constructionism holds that children learn best when they are in the active role of the designer and constructor. But the theory goes a step further.
Constructionism “is the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.”
Constructionism Relies on Visible Thinking & Conversation. Making May Not.
But it is not merely the act of constructing that is essential. Powerful things happen when that act of constructing mediates deep conversation with others. The very act of articulating ideas, sharing thoughts, confusions, ahas, questions, potential solutions makes knowledge building explicit. Sometimes words are spoken. Oftentimes facial expressions and body language communicate. We might draw diagrams or build prototypes. All these serve to make the thinking visible and, therefore, discussable—not only with others but for oneself. We learn our subject matter well as we think hard about it and are very intentional about constructing not only the artifact at hand but also our knowledge and success.
…constructing, or making, is not enough…
Constructionist learning is very powerful due to the rich texture of this public creation of artifacts.
Let’s look at some of Papert’s work in action.
Alright. So it is clear that today’s ‘maker movement’ has strong roots in Papert’s ‘constructionism’, in Piaget’s constructivism, in Vygotsky’s social constructivism, in Dewey’s experientialism, and in Scardamalia & Bereiters’ theories of intentional learning and knowledge construction.
However, today’s maker movement is nearly always described in terms of ‘electronic’ making—or making with coding or robotics or lately 3d printing.
Making Up One’s Own Mind
But, I maintain that the real focus should be on helping students to ‘construct their own mind’—for to do so helps them to ‘take charge of their own learning’—which is not just a matter of student agency. It is also a matter of intentionality and skill in knowledge construction. The wraparound of a knowledge-building culture is essential in a ‘making’ environment to reach this goal.
So What Do You Make?
As Papert said, and I totally agree, it matters not whether one is making a sandcastle on the beach or a theory of the universe. I think what is important is that we understand the breadth and depth of constructionism and related theories and that we don’t merely equate making with constructionist learning.
So what do kids make? Have them make what moves them. Make something that matters. Make something hard. Have ‘hard fun’ as Seymour would say. But, above all, focus on crafting the surrounds—the culture—that encourages and supports kids in constructing new knowledge. Focus on the building of the mind as they are creating their public entities—be they poems, songs, multimedia presentations, other works of art or indeed more ‘maker faire’ robotics-based artifacts.
Make up your own mind on how to do this best.
There are now many books on the topic of ‘making’—but, these two are deeply rooted in a constructionist approach to ‘making’ because all of these authors have been central to building of this theory as colleagues of Seymour Papert.
“Using technology to make, repair, or customize the things we need brings engineering, design, and computer science to the masses. Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing.”
Jim Cash is a Resource teacher in the Peel District School Board. He is a maker, learner, coder, blogger, podcaster and is driven to share ideas and innovations to help young people develop as creative thinkers, doers and makers.
Jim’s blog, Making Things … Learning Things … shares his learning about coding to learn, constructionism, creative learning, education reform, and empowering modern learners.
Jim also hosts a weekly podcast entitled Empowering Modern Learners. Jim is on Twitter at @cashjim.
As our Featured Blogger during the 2017 Hour of Code, Jim writes, “I am very much hoping that the “hour of code” activities in schools are only the beginning of a much bigger thing… and I am trying to encourage teachers to take the next step with students, and then another….”
We thank Jim for allowing us to share five of his favourite posts here for you.