Tag Archives: #CMK13

The CMK Series – Part 3


To conclude my CMK Series, I wanted to reflect on some of the amazing people and ideas that were a part of the Institute.

There was no shortage of impressive and inspiring speakers at #CMK13. The list included people from a variety of fields, who brought unique perspectives to making and learning. For example, Eleanor Duckworth, an inspiration for all educators and particularly those of us passionate about early childhood education, paired up with Deborah Meier and together they shared their views on discovery learning, wonderful ideas, and democracy in education.

Jimmy Heath and Emmet Cohen

In stark contrast to their dialogue on education, we heard from jazz musicians Jimmy Heath and Emmet Cohen, who spoke of mentorship, improv, and creating something unique that connects with people and speaks to them. At the MIT Media Lab we heard innovative and even mind blowing ideas about what can be done when you invite an entire city to create something together using music and technology from Tod Machover and we were treated to thoughtful and amusing commentary by Dr. Marvin Minsky.

And yet, as diverse as all of the these and the other speakers were at #CMK13, I found that they were all united by three things: storytelling, passion, and courage.

Each person had engaging, personal stories to tell of working on their projects and what they learned from those experiences. Listening to these stories, you could hear the passion in their voices and understand, at least a little bit, why their project was so meaningful and important, even if you had never done anything similar before.

Duckworth spoke of making colored tubes and experimenting with science; Meier spoke of the courage they needed to persevere when Harvard didn’t want to give credit for their course; Heath shared tales of playing in Philadelphia, learning from talented peers and Cohen shared the power of just working together with a mentor like Heath. We were regaled with stories about Machover visiting Toronto and working with thousands of different people to create and capture sounds and in hearing these stories you could begin to understand how the power of their work spread.

As a listener, I wanted to jump right into those projects and I wanted to go out and start researching and learning more about them to see how I might be able to do something similar or recreate them in a completely new way. Their stories were inspirational and empowering and most important, they shared passion and passed on courage to all of us as listeners.

These same concepts – storytelling, passion, courage – united the CMK participants. If we didn’t already, we all now have our own stories to tell from #CMK13 and I think we were all drawn to the Institute by our passion – for making, tinkering, and learning. That passion is what will continue to inspire us to share our stories with friends and colleagues both virtually and in-person so that we might be able to encourage others to dive into this “maker movement” they’ve heard about and bring it to their students too.

Finally, like the speakers we heard, I think everyone at #CMK13 has a good dose of courage that they pull on when they hit funding or ideological roadblocks, when they’re stuck on a project or feeling isolated and even getting pushback against integrating making into the classroom or curriculum. This courage is what will help bring making into professional development and into our classrooms! Are you ready to start? Let’s get Making!



The CMK Series – Part 2

In my first reflection of #CMK13 I touched on the idea of success and how it can change over time. I wanted to return to that idea and focus on how important it was for success to become a more flexible concept during my time at #CMK13.

I arrived at the Institute with the idea that failure was not only feasible but likely over the few days I would be there. I was comfortable with the possibility of getting stuck and having to try again. What I had not considered was how strongly I and others would feel a need to achieve and achievement primarily meant success (everything works perfectly!) … at first.

The pull towards achievement came from being surrounded by peers and experts who had amazing and inspiring ideas. It came from the culture of testing and assessment that many of us work in and the deadline of Friday presentations. It also came from a sense that we had all been transported to a magical world where time stood still for awhile and we had less pressures, so we couldn’t waste that kind of treasure!

Of course, as the Institute progressed, achievement became both simpler and more complex. As I relaxed into the unique environment of CMK, a place where you can sit on the floor and brainstorm with a group of dedicated people you’ve never met before and then began to make and create, I realized we didn’t have to worry so much about wasting time. Researching, learning, trying and doing were all extremely valuable and valued pursuits at CMK. Often, those activities can begin to feel unproductive because they don’t produce an immediate product and they are hard to demonstrate or account for when explaining how you’ve used your time.

Enjoying the Process and Learning Through Doing

Instead, at #CMK13 I could allow myself to enjoy the process and to accept that there would be iteration upon iteration of tinkering with a code, trying a wire, and even breaking a few things (woops … that LED definitely needed a resistor!). And through that enjoyment of the process, achievement became simple. It became something that’s obtained by gaining understanding, having ah-ha moments, and then losing the magic and having to start all over again.

One conversation between Deborah Meier and Eleanor Duckworth at CMK particularly stuck with me … that maybe ah-ha moments aren’t the most important because almost as soon as we’ve had them, they begin to fade away and we’re back to wondering how to make sense of things. Yet, as Duckworth has so eloquently described, it’s the more general having of wonderful ideas that can be so powerful, not just the momentary clarity that comes from gaining a deep understanding of them.

CMK was full of wonderful and powerful ideas. Some of them became projects that came to fruition over the course of the Institute and some ideas were dropped minutes after they were raised, never to be heard again but that doesn’t mean they weren’t wonderful or meaningful. And that’s where the complexity comes into play. For me, achievement began to take shape as a self-satisfied notion, something that only I could truly judge but one that was ever-changing. Achievement meant learning and doing, it was making and creating, sharing and trying and stumbling over both small and large obstacles. At the end of CMK, I felt I had achieved a great deal, not because we had a perfect, finished product to show everyone, but because I had succeeded in experiencing the deep process of collaboratively learning something completely new.

Pouring Over Arduino Sketches - Looking for Bugs

Pouring Over Arduino Sketches – Looking for Bugs

There were a few ah-ha moments mixed in with multiple roadblocks. I had small moments of clarity where I was able to explain exactly what was happening and why, followed by confusion when I added a new piece of knowledge that seemed to destroy the whole schema I had just constructed. Ultimately, I walked away from #CMK13 feeling like I could appreciate a much messier, more complicated, changing definition of achievement, and one that I can’t wait to experience again!

How do you define achievement and success? How do you think your students define those concepts and do they leave room for the slow construction of knowledge through exploration and discovery? Or do other ideas about success overshadow them.