Chapter 3 Summary by Melanie Ness
Chapter 3 explores thinking and the evidence of thinking. Observation of a child’s making and
tinkering gives clues about what a child is thinking and how they think. Making helps students
learn as they gain knowledge through their own experiences using their current knowledge as a
spring board for learning. This differs from the more traditional school trend of transference of
knowledge and the practice of learning a linear set of procedures or steps.
Several design models from the real world were presented. The use of computers and
technology has helped to minimize the risk of making mistakes which gives freedom to learners
to tinker, explore, and make mistakes without the risk of making dangerous or costly mistakes.
Design models that are cyclical in nature lend themselves well to making. They allow for
iteration and improvement throughout the design process. These models also allow learners to
jump right into making instead of spending valuable time planning. I liked the TMI (Think, Make
Improve) model as it simplifies the process and gives a list of actions that can be used at each
stage. This model will work well in the middle school math enrichment program at my school
and I plan to post it in my classroom this coming year.
Tinkering allows learners to incorporate the arts into their learning in a very natural way. The
addition of art to STEM activities, rebranded as STEAM, allows for more varied results and more
personalization of a product or design. The educational movement is towards students learning
independently via the computer and the ability to reach out beyond the traditional classroom
community. This allows learners to gain knowledge and expand opportunities for collaboration
that were previously unavailable.
Chapter 4 Summary by Melanie Ness
Chapter 4 focuses on the elements of a good project. The classroom experience referred to as
project/problem-based learning or inquiry learning centers around a well-designed prompt. The
eight elements of a good project were given: purpose and relevance, time, complexity,
intensity, connection, access, shareability, and novelty. The reader was cautioned to be sure
that a project is substantial as opposed to monumental.
A good prompt should be brief (should fit on a post-it note), should be ambiguous enough to
allow the learners to express themselves and to respond in their own unique way. The project
or product produced in response to the prompt should not be assessed for formal grade. Peer
review or editing can take the place of a grade. When a learner is provided a prompt that is
thoughtful and in addition is provided with appropriate time, materials, and support, the results
should be remarkable. The reader is reminded to keep thing fresh and interesting in the
classroom by looking for something different than usual, such as which machine is slowest, can
something pull rather than push, etc.
Just when I was beginning to think that this all sounds great, but what about all of the standards
we are expected meet, the book addresses this issue. Teachers can meet standards and help
children make sense of the world through interesting work as long as they are knowledgeable
on their curriculum and standards, can be flexible, organized, and resourceful. I do believe that
continued professional development in this area would go a long way towards helping teachers
work toward this educational transition to raise standards and create enduring projects.
Finally, teachers should be providing the guidance to help students to make memories that will
stay with them through a lifetime. Students will remember the projects and hands on
experience, not worksheets and standardized testing.
Hard and Soft Mastery Reflection by Angela Marshall
The book seems to indicate that soft mastery uses tinkering as an approach to science while hard mastery is linear and analytical in its approach. It was only after reading the entire posted article that I became aware that soft mastery seems to also be painted as feminine and delicate while hard mastery is masculine and straight forward (as least with regard to computer science).
The authors describe how giving human traits to the computer as well as using certain language to describe programs (crashes, executes, kills) can cause conflict among female programmers because they become dependent on the machine but know that “relationships are for people”.
With this in mind, I am reminded of a first grade project in which the students build a shade structure that will keep “monsters” safe from UV rays. I used to have the students work with their table group or pod until I overhead a little boy declare that the engineering had to be completed by the boys while the decorations had to be completed by the girls. It was an eye opening moment. While I would prefer to have boys and girls work together, it seems that mixed groups comprised of six year old tend to align with girls having soft mastery and boys having hard mastery.
Hard and Soft Mastery Reflection by Aileen Shaffer
For week two, I read the article Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert to compare hard vs. soft mastery. My summarized perspective on the two approaches is that hard mastery is more prescriptive and directive while soft mastery allows time for proximity and exploration of the materials. Both approaches are valid and one often resonates more effectively with an individual than another.
In my math classroom, I have many examples of how I have used a hard mastery approach with success. For example, students were asked to make a scale drawing of their dream bedroom. Students were given the flexibility to choose items to place in the room. They were provided graph paper, rulers, calculators, computers, etc. but I consider it hard mastery because they were provided what scale to use and the algorithm to use the scale. They loved the project due to the opportunity for creativity and it was a successful "hard mastery" project. I am giving thought to how this project might be modified to become a soft mastery project and would be open to any input.
The article pushed my thinking because I could not recall any "soft mastery" type projects within my classroom. The project which comes most readily to mind is my son's mastery of beat and music creation. He developed an interest in the topic by listening to music and began experimenting with different tools and resources on the computer. Through a more organic approach of experiencing the resources, he developed a mastery of the topic.
I am curious to learn if the research which was used for this article has been updated since it was done approximately 30 years ago. As a female engineer who graduated around the time this article was written, I experienced the validity of their findings in my own field. Specifically, their research shows a strong correlation between females preferring "soft" style and males preferring a "hard" style. In the present, I do not currently experience the strong gender based preferences as denoted in the article, leaving me with the question if society and culture has changed in this respect. Is gender the main driver of whether an individual prefers a soft vs. hard style to master a topic?
Future Predictions Reflection by Julie Kelly
In watching and listening to the presentations of Nicholas Negroponte, I was reminded of the movie Back to the Future and felt like I was time traveling. In 1984, the year of his original TED talk, Ebooks, display technology, and using a touch screen were just a vision of the future. A statement from his talk "Good education has to be good entertainment." has caused me to reflect on the definition of entertainment. I believe the definition of the word entertainment should include an element of curiosity and engagement in purposeful pursuits. In listening to the NPR interview, I was blown away by his prediction that in the future, 30 years from now, to learn about a subject, one would ingest a pill. I find that prediction scary. Who would determine what information needs to be contained in the pill? Where does critical thinking come into play? As I reflect on his predictions both in 1984 and 2013, it seems that being able to identify problems that need to be solved and envisioning possible solutions drives innovation. As a teacher, I want to be mindful to develop the critical thinking and questioning skills of our students as technology evolves.
Chapter 1 Summary by Julie Kelly
Since the beginning of time, "humans have been tinkerers" as they have worked to make things better in their environment. Consider Leonardo da Vinci who used his many skills including observation to make many scientific discoveries. Influencers in the field of education include Rousseau, who stressed the importance giving children time to develop freely in nature, Pestalozzi, who believed that the learning results from first-hand experiences and self-activity, Froebel, who designed the concept of kindergarten, and Montessori, who founded the approach of the same name, where children are immersed in discovery through the use of materials. Piaget built upon the work of the above influencers and formalized their work in his theories of constructivism and stage development. Knowledge construction undergone by the learner based on experience and the learner making sense of it through an internal process. Piaget posits that teachers need to know their subject and "approach it from a constantly interdisciplinary point of view." Teachers approaching learning from an interdisciplinary view and keeping student interests in mind aid student's construction of meaning. Thus making, tinkering, and engineering fits with Piagetan theories. Dewey believed that education should prepare children to solve problems methodically through observation and previous experience. Papert, who is also called the father of the maker movement, built upon the influencer's work, and his own experiences with learning through tinkering, both as a child and an adult. He advocated for children to use computers and make things with them via programming. Papert developed the theory of constructionism- learning by actively constructing knowledge through the act of making something shareable.
In 2005, Gershenfield wrote a book, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop- from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. He found that through his work at MIT teaching the course "How to Make Almost Anything" and his Fab Lab, students learning process was driven by the demand for knowledge. When a student mastered a new skill, they were driven to show others how to use it. As new skills were needed, students were driven to acquire the knowledge and then to pass it on by leaving behind the tutorial materials they had assembled during the process. Also in 2005, Make magazine, organized the first annual Maker Faire, where children and adults come together to tinker, craft, invent, and share their making. The maker movement continues to grow just as learners continue to grow by being the center of the process.
Chapter 2 Summary by Julie Kelly
Constructionism builds upon the theory of constructivism. Taking constructivism one step further, with the learner "engaged in a personally meaningful activity outside of their head". The maker movement syncs with the theory of constructivism. The process of making creates student ownership of the project and the steps taken to complete the project. The materials are part of the transformative process of making. The book states that the "computer as material" will be explored throughout the remainder of the book. Tinkering as a mindset "allows all students to learn in their own style" playing and learning as students use their imagination to tinker. Embracing the maker movement will integrate engineering into the curriculum. By looking at learning through the lenses of making, tinkering, and engineering, student engagement will increase.
Play Reflection by Melanie Ness
From my experience, I believe that for young children play is accepted as a very powerful way for children to learn. It is a natural way for a young child to make sense of the world. Young children test boundaries and learn responses by playing. Play is serious work for children. It can be difficult and sometimes frustrating, but will result in added skills and knowledge as children persevere in their pursuits.
I have been blessed with several grandchildren over the past couple of years. It is such a joy to watch them play. It is so rewarding to provide opportunities for them to explore using blocks, playdough, paint, or just going outside to play and explore the natural world. The growth and knowledge that they gather from these experiences is amazing and essential.
I am concerned that too many programs focus on academics and devalue play. Expecting children to read too soon, or memorize facts can steal the joy from learning. As children get older they are expected to complete their work before they play. Turning to tinkering and making in the classroom can bring back meaningful playing to the classroom and beyond.
Today, when I was thinking about this question I saw an adult wearing a T-shirt that read “Work Hard, Play Harder”. I think this sums up the answer that humans need to play at all stages of life. Play allows for creativity and freedom in thinking. It can also be a very cathartic activity for adults who are stressed out and need a different perspective.
Favorite Learning Book Reflection by Julie Kelly
My favorite learning book is Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences That Connect, Inspire and Engage by Victoria Halsey. The 70/30 principle which she describes in the book guides my thinking when planning because how we teach is as important as what teach. Learners should spend 70% of their time actively engaged in practicing/exploring/designing and 30% of their time being taught. The 70/30 principle also applies to the social emotional aspect of learning, as great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction. Learners should spend 70% of their time engaged in conversations surrounding the content, and 30% of their time engaged in active listening. The 70/30 principle guides me as I design lessons.
Favorite Learning Book Reflection by Deigh Young
A few years ago, I was introduced to one of my favorite texts, Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades 3-5. The text was part of a math course I attended. I have to say that the text just makes sense. I love how it explains what the students should be able to do in order to attain the concept being introduced. There are even notes about why some concepts, such as fractions, are difficult for children to understand. Within each chapter, there are several hands-on or real-world activities for the students to explore. Whenever I use activities from the book, the students will refer to the names of those activities in the future. For example, on tests, they'll say things like, "This reminds me of when we made angles with pipe cleaners and straws." That makes me realize that they've made personal connections with the concepts.
Favorite Learning Book Reflection by Aileen Shaffer
For the week one assignment, we are asked to share our favorite learning book. I hope it is acceptable to share an article instead. The article is "Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say" by Steven Reinhart. I read this article several times a year and find it completely consistent with the concepts of maker space and responsive classroom philosophies which I continue to aspire to implement.
I find this article inspiring because its title summarizes an entire mindset for reaching students and teaching mathematics. During each lesson I can evaluate my pedagogy to reflect if there is a way for the student to construct, invent, or discover the concept or solution of the day's problem. On days when this is accomplished, the lesson resonates a deep connective level and enables a depth of learning that is not possible from teacher led instruction.
The body of the article provides concrete pedagogy to use to accomplish the goal. I continue to gain experience in applying these principles. Even lessons that seem prescriptive can be flipped to be a constructivist approach. This past year I revised the unit on simplifying radical expressions. I had students invent their own system, justify their choices and teach it to their classmates. Collectively they derived nearly all the "rules" for simplifying radicals and could apply the rules with mastery. The students were inspired and I was excited to create more such experiences for the class.
Enjoy the article!
Making Today vs. Yesterday Reflection by Angela Marshall
The ideals of the maker movement (sans computers) are on par with my educational experience as a student in the 70s. Having said that, I acknowledge that my experience is probably unique regarding this question.
I attended a Catholic elementary school in the Philadelphia area. The principal was quite progressive and came to an agreement with the public junior high school that allowed my classmates to attend the public school for science. We built telescopes to explore the night sky as well as devices that measured distance. Additionally, the girls were able to attend cooking and sewing classes while the boys attended metal and wood shop.
It was a wonderful opportunity and I am able to look back and realize how fortunate I was. The program encouraged asking questions, critical thinking and working collaboratively. It provided me with a solid foundation of science and life skills. It is only recently that I have been able to label the experience as “make, tinker and engineer”.
"If every child were to be given access to a computer, computers would be cheap enough for every child to be given access to a computer."
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