On January 24th, 2018, we held our 1st Maker Summit. The purpose of the event was to immerse our teachers in Maker-Centered-Learning experiences, which required them to manipulate technologies, tools, and even methodologies, such as Virtual Reality apps and glasses, Osmo kits, Stop Motion and Green Screening video tools, as well as Design Thinking.
Here are some of the things we hoped to achieve with these immersion experiences. We wanted our fellow teachers:
- to have the student experience by diving in the challenges right from the start. We wanted to give them space to tinker, to play with the tools being used in each experience;
- to reflect on the hands-on, immersive experience and the difficulties, challenges, successes, and insecurities that surfaced. We wanted them to connect to those feelings that arose while they engaged in each of the experiences together with their peers;
- to identify possible opportunities for the use of those technologies, tools and methodologies in our language classroom, in the different courses and levels we teach.
Our Reflections on Your Feedback A week after the Summit, the team of facilitators, made up of teachers, innovation mentors, course coordinators, and members of the Makerspace staff, sat together to look into and discuss the feedback provided by you, Summit participants. We would like to share two valuable findings that came from our reflection and discussion of the feedback you gave us about your experiences throughout the Summit.
FINDING #01: On RESILIENCE
We facilitators understood – from both our own impressions and your feedback – the critical importance of being prepared and able to deal with technical issues that hindered the original plan for some of the experiences. We need to plan for the shortcomings, and we need to know what to do, how to adapt the activity we had in mind in case a technical issue occurs. In a few words, we always need a plan B. But most importantly, in our view, we need to learn to ask for help, and NOT to be put down by these difficulties to simply decide that we will never try doing that again ever. Instead, we need to build and model the resilience that we desire our students to develop in the face of adversity and failure. It is our belief that our students greatly benefit from observing how we teachers, grown-up professionals, handle difficulty and failure, and we need to show them that we can be resourceful and that it is OK to fail, as long as you learn from it and grow as a result of the experience.
FINDING #02: On AUTONOMY
Some teachers left comments saying they missed more detailed, step-by-step type of instructions for engaging in the experiences. In fact, there were some complaints about “lack of instructions.” Knowing that we facilitators had deliberately planned to keep step-by-step instructions to a minimum, hoping to enable teachers to have a taste of discovery-driven learning, these comments and complaints got us thinking about how we are all accustomed to learning environments where the teacher is the source of all knowledge and the one responsible for leading the learning, for scaffolding it via step-by-step instructions to be followed by the students. The experimentation and tinkering dispositions, which are dispositions that lie on the core of the Maker mindset, seem to make us teachers a bit nervous and insecure, and understandably so. We teachers have been taught that we need to be in control of everything that is happening in our classrooms at all times. A noisy classroom is commonly considered a messy classroom, making the teacher vulnerable to all kinds of judgement of his/her “classroom management skills.” In other words, we need to come to terms with the fact that learner autonomy may look and sound messy in the classroom at times, and we need to develop new skills to harness this creative energy for learning.
A Few Other Findings
We facilitators also gained the following insights thanks to our collective reflection and discussion about your feedback and our own feelings regarding our experiences putting together and facilitating the experiences:
- We need more preparation time together before the event takes place;
- We want to make the pedagogical gains leveraged by the use of the technologies and tools clearer to teachers;
- We want to keep on building on our strengths and learning from our failures, without being paralyzed by them.
We consider the Thomas Maker Summit the inauguration of Vision 2020. In many ways, this event embodied the core values of the program: