September 12, 2016

Takeaways from the First Run of Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom

As many of you will know, this past summer we launched the first run of Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom, an online course offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Programs for Professional Education which outlines the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning. The inaugural run of the course just wrapped up this week, and we are delighted to see all of the pictures of practice and big takeaways our participants from around the world had to offer.

Sharing Big Takeaways from the First Run

One of the biggest takeaways from the course included a new understanding of the importance of systems thinking in the maker-centered classroom. Regarding her experience trying out the Agency by Design framework in her 8th grade humanities classroom, one participant from a grades 6–12 school outside of Boston, Massachusetts wrote,

I think emphasizing how things work and how different parts interact with each other allow[s] students to focus their problem-solving skills. Solutions become more realistic and nuanced when students can see their idea as part of a bigger system, and the possibility to be impactful agents of change in the real world increases significantly.

Another participant in the course, a middle school teacher—and cricket coach—in South Africa noted that applying systems thinking through the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning helps students see beyond objects and to understand how their actions have impact on others. He wrote,

Systems thinking matters because it allows us to see beyond the”‘object.” It allows us to develop a far greater understanding and appreciation for all people and their impacts—learning to consider one’s actions in the world and the impact these will have on others… It lets us consider others at all levels and allows us to think carefully before acting, therefore, acting in a more meaningful way.

Another big take away from the course was the idea that maker-centered learning is about more than just a designated space or fancy equipment—and that the practices associated with the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning can be applied across content areas. As one participant from a team in New South Wales, Australia wrote,

Maker education is something that can be done anytime, anywhere, in any context and in any room.… [An] aspect of the course that resonated with me was the idea that maker-centered learning can happen outside of a maker-space. Though I am lucky enough to teach at a school that has a designated Maker Space, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take the thinking that happens inside the space into my own classroom. The learning that comes from students having time to stop and think deeply about how things work—whether that thing is a 3D printer or a system of government—is extremely valuable.

A further big takeaway from the course was the impact Agency by Design’s two core concepts of sensitivity to design and maker empowerment in the form of student agency had for participants and their students. Reflecting on their experience working with their students throughout this course, a team of educators from a K–12 school in Victoria, Australia noted,

We watch and admire our students for their abilities to problem solve, experiment, collaborate, design, test, fail, critique and exhibit their learning. The students have established a sense of looking, exploring complexity and finding an opportunity to develop a sensitivity to all phases of making, designing, or redesigning.… We feel they have developed a sense of agency over their learning. They’re in charge, take ownership and have become agents of change. It’s a very noticeable shift in mindset. A more pronounced shift is the “can do” attitude, to have a go, make mistakes, fail and understand that failing is a part of growing as a learner.

Another participant, a science coordinator from a school in Amman, Jordan, wrote of how his students developed a deeper sensitivity to design as a result of the thinking routines and other resources he learned in this course, and then incorporated into his classroom practice:

I learned that the students will always accept the challenge, redesign plans and continue their work with motivation as long as they see beyond what they make to why they make. Therefore, adopting the thinking strategy routines will invite students to understand things in depth, develop students’ skills and enhance their confidence.

Lastly, participants also spoke of the Agency by Design framework’s capacity to support a sense of ethics and empathy amongst their students. As a middle school teacher participating in the course from Queensland, Australia wrote,

Throughout the course I enjoyed the fact that systems thinking and design sensitivity seem to naturally lend themselves to an awareness of sustainability and the practise of being an ethical consumer. I would like to further explore how these topics could be incorporated into a meaningful project where students are engaged in a rich design process.

A participant from an elementary school in Taiwan echoed this sentiment. Referencing her experience introducing her students to thinking routines designed to support an understanding of the various parts, people, and interactions associated with the made dimensions of our world, she wrote,

Moreover, it is important to empathize with various individuals and people connected in a system, not just to focus on isolated groups. The two key insights, empathy and interconnectedness, which provokes sensitivity, were very powerful.

While we are celebrating the great work our course participants have generated during this first run of the course, we are also gearing up for the next run of the course, which begins on September 19, 2016.

Join us During the Fall of 2016!

Are you interested in participating in the most popular and widely enrolled online course at Project Zero? Then join us for the fall term of Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom!

With cover 100 participants working in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and all across the United States, the fall run of Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom (TLMCC) is guaranteed to offer a global perspective on maker-centered learning based on the experiences of maker educators working in a wide array of learning environments.

Founded on the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning, Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom introduces participants to AbD’s core concepts of maker empowerment and sensitivity to design, as well as the project’s three core maker capacities and the thinking routines that have been designed to support them.

Throughout the course, participants tinker with the AbD framework in their study groups—and in their classrooms—to build towards developing a picture of practice that shows what maker-centered learning can look like in action.

Interested in experiencing the course for yourself? Please visit the TLMCC registration page on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s website. We hope to see you online in September!

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