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Building A Tinkering Mindset In Young Students Through Making – Alice Baggett

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The most important thing you can do to set up your tinkering space for primary students has nothing to do with the space. Of course you’ll need space for your students to work in, but the physical space for tinkering matters much less than the mental space that you create for young makers.

To be effective tinkerers, students need to achieve a state of mind in which they are primed to play and make joyful discoveries.Young kids who are playing don’t worry about making mistakes. They’re just playing, and the idea that they could make a mistake—that there’s a wrong way to play—doesn’t enter into their consciousness. It’s this freedom that enables the creation of elaborate pretend games and castles built from playground bits. Replicating a sense of play in the classroom is vital to creating a tinkering mindset for children.

One of the most powerful things you can do to set the philosophical tone in your makerspace is to hammer home the idea that taking risks, trying new things, and making mistakes are not only acceptable actions—they’re desirable actions. That’s what you’re hoping for! But telling a group of little kids that it’s okay to make mistakes is not an effective way to deliver your message.

The droning voice of the teachers in the Peanuts cartoons springs to mind! To get kids to internalize your message and truly take it to heart, you have to show them in a wide variety of ways what you really mean.

Here are some ideas for getting across the idea that taking risks, trying new things, and making mistakes are desirable outcomes.

READ STORIES ABOUT MISTAKES

There are lots of good children’s books about mistake making. My absolute favorite is Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops. This short book features mistakes repackaged as something awesome! For example, a torn piece of paper becomes the smile on an alligator. Young children respond to the simplicity of the “mistakes” and the delightful revelation of the reworked mistake into something beautiful and surprising. This book is a wonderful jumping-off point for a bigger discussion about how to handle mistakes and how mistakes can lead us in new, inspiring directions.

I read this story to each of my classes at the beginning of every year, and kids ask to hear it again and again. A few weeks after I read it to a kindergarten class one year, we were working on a challenge in which students were using graphic design tools to draw on a photograph of their faces. One student carefully tried to trace his eye so he could use the paint bucket to fill the shape. He hadn’t quite managed to draw a closed shape around his eye, though, so the paint spilled all over the photograph completely covering his face. Watching from across the room, I braced myself. Sometimes students are distraught when things like this happen. Would there be tears?

This student straightened up in his chair and blurted out, “I made a beautiful oops! I know how to turn my whole page white!” The other kindergartners jumped out of their seats to come have a look at this marvelous discovery. They all wanted to know exactly how he did it so they could go try it out.

Of course, students do not always react to their mistakes this way. However, I have found that deliberately creating a climate where risk taking and mistake making are valued makes a notable difference in the way students handle mistakes.

Frequently reading stories about risk taking, failure, recovery from failure, and mistake making goes a long way toward assuring students that you actually believe in the learning that comes when students make and recover from errors. Check the list of excellent story ideas in chapter 8 for more suggestions.

A graphic showing how play and purpose lead to outcomes when tinkering in class.

ACTUALLY MAKE MISTAKES IN FRONT OF KIDS

Modeling that it really is okay to make mistakes is vital. Fortunately for most of us working in a budding makerspace with young tinkerers, there are many opportunities to publicly fail in front of students. There is so much to know and things change so quickly. Technology’s unpredictability benefits us in this instance! When I’m teaching a lesson and my projector malfunctions, the demonstration program I wrote does not even begin to do what I had hoped it would, or my robot goes backward instead of forward, I take it as an opportunity to model resilience and grit. I let students see me flustered and then (hopefully) recovering. I invite them to help me diagnose what went wrong, which they LOVE.

Taking public risks and making public mistakes not only helps normalize mistake making, it inspires enthusiasm for collectively problem-solving and collaborating. All of this is a desirable part of the philosophical underpinnings of a tinkering mindset. If you are the kind of educator who rarely makes a mistake, you can strategically plan to make errors for students to catch. These preplanned mistakes can still help students see you as a real person who actually makes mistakes and recovers from them

USE VISUAL REMINDERS

Posting quotations about or pictures of mistakes can go a long way toward reminding kids that you’re serious about the value of mistakes. I have James Joyce’s quote “Mistakes are the portals to discovery” displayed in huge letters on my classroom walls, and at the beginning of each year we have a discussion about exactly what the students think that quote means. At each workstation in my room I have a little sign stating, “Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes are normal and we learn from them.”

At an art fair, I purchased a colorful print emblazoned with the phrase “Mistakes Make.” It seems like the artist accidentally got the words in the wrong order. Kids think it’s hilarious! I have a picture of my face posted in a prominent place in my classroom encircled by the words, “Ms. Baggett: Proud Mistake Maker Since 1966.” I have a series of posters I made of silhouettes of heads with famous people’s quotes about mistakes. The visual materials in my room affirm that I mean what I say about the value of making mistakes.

I start my year by having the kids do a scavenger hunt to become familiar with the room. One of the items they are supposed to search for is something that lets you know it’s okay to make a mistake. One year, as the kids were searching for all the items, I heard one girl say, “There are so many things in this room that let you know it’s okay to make a mistake, but I can’t find the specific one for the stupid scavenger hunt!”

HIGHLIGHT BOTH EPIC FAILS AND SPECTACULAR DISCOVERIES

To further develop the idea that risk taking and mistake making can lead to something positive, I created an Epic Fails and Spectacular Discoveries bulletin board in my room. I wanted to create a place for students to share their highest highs and their lowest lows, the idea being that the more kids talk openly and honestly about their successes and failures, the more normalized the idea that we all have highs and lows when we’re problem-solving becomes.

Students who want to participate can fill out a slip of paper (or ask me to fill it out if they’re still learning to write) that asks them what their epic fail or spectacular discovery was, how they happened upon it, and what about it made it an epic fail or spectacular discovery. Then they post their slips on a bulletin board so that other students can read them. Kids love reading what other kids have to say, and I often have to encourage them to go back to working on their projects instead of spending all their time reading the board.

One year after I finished introducing this idea to my students for the first time, a little hand shot up with a question. “But Ms. Baggett,” the boy said, puzzled, “how do you tell the difference between an epic fail and a spectacular discovery?”

I adore this question! It gets at the fundamental nature of process -based, inquiry learning. Failure and discovery are so closely linked, so connected and interrelated, that it is very hard to distinguish between them, especially when failure leads directly to discovery and vice versa.

EMPHASIZE THAT A MISTAKE IS NOT THE END

I have all sorts of old projects lying around my room. Students love to look at them, but they also find them intimidating because most of the projects are physical objects in a final state. They look perfect and finished.  Students have a hard time envisioning the steps that led up to the final object’s creation: all they see is the incredibly cool final iteration.

To help students understand the messy process of creation, I ask students to track their progress during any project (much more about this in chapter 6). Tracking a project’s progress helps illuminate the many mistakes along the way. Students looking at old projects can look up the reflection and documentation fellow students did on a given challenge to get a fuller picture of what happened along the way.

It’s fun to see how many challenges a student has to overcome to complete a project. Students have the chance to internalize the idea that continuing to work even when a seemingly insurmountable obstacle presents itself is vital to learning and growing.

TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS

Kids enjoy sharing what is happening with their work on a project, and it’s great for other students to hear their peers talking about all the different challenges and successes they’ve experienced. Peer-to-peer sharing also opens the door for collaboration and collective problem-solving when a student is unsure of how to move past an obstacle.

I regularly invite students to teach their classmates. Students address their peers, explaining and demonstrating their mistakes and discoveries. It is not unusual for them to have so much to say that I must gently help them wrap things up. Talking about the messy process of making is thrilling to students, who although they cannot always recognize why this appeals to them, appreciate the focus on their learning process instead of their final product.

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Education Can Change The World (5 Ways Tech) – Tae Yoo

Twenty years ago, Cisco recognized a shift toward a knowledge-based economy. We felt it was important that everyone have an opportunity to participate in this economy—and that education, combined with technology, would have the power to achieve that. From this, Cisco Networking Academy was born.

What began as an act of community turned into a global movement as schools, students, and teachers were inspired to harness the power of technology to provide the skills people and businesses need to thrive in the digital economy.

Today, we look back at how this IT-and-career-skills-building program has reached 7.8 million students in 180 countries since 1997 and highlight best practices and lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1. Adapt to technology trends and ensure programs are digital, flexible, hands on, and relevant.

Technology is transforming the nature of jobs and continuously evolving the needs of today’s employers. New technologies are connecting everything, intuitively adapting, and better protecting users and their data. Research from Gartner shows that 1.4 million full time employees will be needed to deliver application and business services for the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, and education programs must prepare students for these changing needs.

Today, we provide students a more personalized and flexible education experience, as well as the opportunity to build deeper knowledge through collaboration and experiential learning. In addition to classroom-based, face-to-face instruction, we also offer a portion of our curricula directly to students for those who want to learn at their own pace.

From the start, students are encouraged to solve real-world problems on their own or in groups, just as they will in the workplace. For example, Cisco’s Packet Tracer, a network simulation and visualization tool, allows for student-directed, open-ended network building.

It facilitates the teaching and learning of complex technology concepts and promotes the development of essential career skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Additionally, hackathons and hands-on lab challenges allow students to create solutions together.

2. Continuously introduce new digital skills.

Changes in the technology landscape mean students need to continuously master new digital skills. Technical education programs today must include areas of study such as security, machine learning, and programming, and evolve as technology does.

We partner with in-house experts, governments, educational institutions, and employers, and use research to ensure our curricula portfolio remains relevant over the long term. Networking Academy builds a solid digital foundation through courses like Cybersecurity Training Essentials and Programming Essentials in C, and students can also acquire career-ready skills that prepare them for entry-level jobs in networking and cybersecurity.

We regularly develop new courses that cover big data, analytics, and device connectivity, some of the fastest-growing job areas. Our learning portfolio strategy, the material we create and teach, has recently been broadened to include cloud security, automation, and machine learning to better prepare our students for today’s digital workforce.

Additionally, Networking Academy builds the capacity of instructors through instructor training centers and ongoing professional development. Based on survey feedback, instructors said that their involvement with Networking Academy has helped them become better educators, broaden their careers, and develop professional relationships.

3. Build an inclusive program.

By leveraging both traditional and non-traditional education channels, education programs can reach a more diverse set of students. Current education cost models can be prohibitively expensive, and we must focus on programs that provide affordable and accessible education to all, regardless of socio-economic background, geographic location, gender, or life stage.

Networking Academy courses are offered at high schools, universities, and community colleges, and through partnerships with governments and ministries of education. We target individuals looking to launch their careers, re-skill, or find new jobs.

We reach traditionally underserved communities such as remote populations and people with diverse abilities. Over the past decade, more than 3,000 students with disabilities have benefited from Networking Academy courses.

4. Scale impact through public-private partnerships.

Effective and strategic public-private partnerships between business, government, and academia are critical in providing access to and support for instructors, reaching students at scale, and ensuring curricula is providing relevant skills for today’s workforce.

While educational partners can provide instructors, classrooms, lab equipment, and help attract students to the program, business partners can enhance the program with curricula, online assessments, a learning management system, hands-on labs and competitions, instructor professional development, and connections to job opportunities.

Networking Academy’s global reach depends on the 22,000 instructors at more than 10,400 educational institutions who deliver our curricula worldwide. Our partners are at the forefront of new teaching methods and resources, delivering not only technical training, but also the problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills students need to get a job or start a business.

Technology—specifically a cloud-scale platform—has been critical to achieving a wide reach as well. Using the latest technologies and architecture drives performance and provides a rich experience for students, instructors, and administrators.

5. Set students up for career success.

There is currently a mismatch between the skills employees have and the skills companies need. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.7 million people across the country are unemployed, though 5.8 million unfilled jobs were available.

Nearly half of U.S. employers can’t find qualified candidates, with many citing a lack of technical skills as a top reason. In the IT industry that number is worse, with 86 percent of hiring managers challenged to find people with the right skills. Connecting student to employers is a vital step in closing this gap.

Networking Academy provides students with a range of career support services—from webinars to career advice to career-pathway options. Cisco has a strong ecosystem of 60,000 global partners, and for the past 20 years our students have found jobs with many of them.

We recently began pilot testing a talent-matching engine to more easily connect students with partner employment opportunities. More than 70 percent of our students who complete advanced courses go on to obtain a new or better job, increased responsibilities, and/or higher pay.

Networking Academy not only equips students with digital skills, it empowers students to become global problem solvers. Our program is designed to enable students to innovate as technologists, think as entrepreneurs, and act as social change agents. They are prepared to help businesses grow and flourish, but also to start their own businesses or address pressing global challenges.

We hope that our students’ inspirational stories incite others to harness the power of technology and become global problem solvers.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

The Best Pathway for Connecting to Learners Right Now

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How we practice connecting to learners right now informs not only how well they learn, but how well they’ll continue to learn. As a busy teacher, you can benefit from a resource that helps you continue reaching students long after the lesson is done.

Now we explore those possibilities in depth in our latest book Future-Focused Learning: 10 Essential Shifts of Everyday Practice, available for pre-order now. It’s the clear pathway for connecting to learners and providing them with the best classroom and whole-school environment possible.

Future-focused learning is a holistic (school- or system-wide) approach where learners strive together to find and solve real-world problems that matter, with a focus beyond the curriculum to the goal of encompassing and interlinking real-world education, and cultivating capabilities essential to ensure the learner’s success both in and beyond school.”

—from Future-Focused Learning: 10 Essential Shifts of Everyday Practice

Connecting to Learners of the Future Today

When educators embrace student-centered learning, classrooms transform, learning comes alive, and outcomes improve. Future-Focused Learning is a culmination of Lee Watanabe-Crockett’s ten-plus years of work with schools around the world.

Our newest book details 10 core shifts of practice, along with simple activities—”microshifts”—you can use with your students right now, no matter your curriculum or pedagogy. These shifts strive toward connecting to learners by taking the great work you already do and making it exceptional.

  • Study 100 specific examples of classroom microshifts that make the larger shifts in practice simple and enjoyable to achieve.
  • Connect the Essential Fluencies to the shifts of practice for developing learners’ skills and higher-order thinking capacity.
  • Explore topics in student-centered learning competencies such as project-based learning, essential questions, STEM education, and digital skills.
  • Learn why connecting to learners through improved emotional connections and clear learning intentions improves student-centered learning outcomes.
  • Improve formative assessment practices to be more mindful, and further student engagement by involving them in the assessment process.
  • Access an exclusive online bonus chapter that examines the value of Solution Fluency across a range of applications.

About the Author

Lee Watanabe-Crockett is coauthor of Growing Global Digital Citizens, Mindful Assessment, Understanding the Digital Generation, The Digital Diet, Living on the Future Edge, and the bestseller Literacy Is Not Enough. He works with educators and corporations in several countries, helping them make the shift to regain relevance and establish a culture of excellence. Joyful curiosity is the foundation of his approach to creating healthy learning environments for groups around the world.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Get ready to begin using these shifts of practice for connecting to learners and transforming their classroom experiences like never before. Pre-order your copy of Future-Focused Learning: 10 Essential Shifts of Everyday Practice below from Amazon.

By

Why Playing is Essential to Achieving Effective Learning

imaginary-rocket-ship

Why is fun and play crucial to achieving effective learning? It’s true that learning is important, but it doesn’t have to be dead serious. Everyone who desires to learn should be open to the idea of playing. It knows no age, subject, or grade restrictions. It encompasses endless notions and possibilities because it is driven by imagination. Play belongs in our learning and certainly in our classrooms, which is where we strive for achieving effective learning.

Think about your experiences growing up at home and in school. At what times did your most significant growth and progress take place? The answer is probably when you were at play. In such cases, you were relaxed and content and open to new ideas. Additionally, you favoured the use of imagination to take you where you needed to go.

You took risks and stretched yourself in the way that was best for you, and felt safe knowing the destination was a good one. In short, you were having fun learning, and as such your best learning happened.

Fun is a relative term, of course—what’s fun for some may not be for others. For instance, some folks enjoy getting up and exercising to have fun. Another’s idea of fun is sitting and doing a sudoku puzzle. It’s the word “play” in our question which is the more important idea. Achieving effective learning means getting your learners’ minds into the same space they are in when playing. When that happens, the barricades are removed and curiosity takes hold. That’s when learning takes off into the stratosphere.

Why Should Learning Be Fun?

When you subscribe to the idea that fun and play are crucial to achieving effective learning, preconceived notions can arise. One of these is that you automatically feel learning must be tailored to fit every child, which although possible is a tall order. Another is when you decide that teaching should be fun, you’ve got to be able to entertain everyone. Thankfully, this is not necessarily true.

Play in learning isn’t suggesting you throw all organization to the wind. You still need to have impeccable class management skills and consistency. No one is saying go against your own personality, either. Even if you’re an introvert, know that you have a place in the classroom.

running-and-playing

Let’s talk about the “play” aspect in achieving effective learning with a real-life example. Fred Rogers used play extensively in his Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood series. He knew that imagination and make-believe was a safe place for children to engage and learn about themselves. Additionally, The Child Life Council has this to say in their document on play in emergency room situations:

“Children from all cultures play. Even in cultures where young children are expected to assume adult work responsibilities, anthropologists cite examples of how children manage to integrate play into their daily tasks. This suggests that play is not only universal but essential to human development.

“Indeed, research has repeatedly shown that the benefits associated with play are profound and wide-ranging. Following a meta-analysis of 800 studies, … there was cogent evidence for the positive impact of play on children’s developmental outcomes.

“Play was found to significantly promote cognitive and social aspects of development and these effects were magnified when adults participated in play with children.”

It Makes Sense

Play is multi-sensory and it is tailored fit to each child. In achieving effective learning it is also a means of feedback. You can learn much about a child’s development by observing how they play.

As we stated earlier, we never lose our desire for playing regardless of our age. Our experiences will change over time and our imaginations will tend to be more geared toward our life situations. Nevertheless, it is playing and connecting to what is familiar and safe that can be a bridge to achieving effective learning. In this way, learning will never cease to be fun.

by | Feb 2, 2018

 

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