Tag Archives: Philadelphia

The CMK Series – Part 3

CMK_Wordle

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!

 

Making New #MediaLabCourse Creations!

One of the things I was really excited about when I learned of the Learning Creative Learning course through MIT was the list of activities students would be asked to complete. Since I have just started exploring Scratch with the Super Scratch Programming Adventure! book (I’m only on Stage 3) I appreciated the opportunity to try using Scratch for a different purpose through this course. Likewise, I had emailed the creators of TurtleArt earlier this fall to ask for the software after seeing some project examples at a conference and I was excited to have a reason to try out the programming.

For the Scratch activity, we were asked to “create a Scratch project about things you like to do, then share it” in the course gallery. Below is my very quick attempt at sharing some things I like (technology/computers, beaches, playing and playgrounds).

Scratch Project

Learn more about this project

In week four, we were asked to “Create a project with TurtleArt, and reflect on any “powerful ideas” you engaged with in the process.” I spent some time exploring different TurtleArt commands but all of my creations felt pretty basic. Next, I considered starting from an existing project and then re-mixing it to make it my own, something that could tie into this week’s topic in both this course and #etmooc of Open Learning. I ran into some technical issues and wasn’t able to import any projects so I took some more time to just explore. Then, I decided to use the TurtleArt Cards to mashup some of the different projects into a new creation. I experimented with adding my own ideas along the way and eventually came up with what I called a Garden Maze.

TurtleArt

As I sat outside at a local park and finished reading Papert’s paper on idea power, I took in my surroundings – children laughing and climbing on various structures, sun shining brightly onto my iPad where I was reading, and city sounds whizzing by on either side. Ensconced in this little spot of nature within the busy streets of Philadelphia, I reflected on how valuable these safe spaces for play, exploration and discovery are for all of us in our development as thinkers and idea constructors.

To me, the idea of these spaces is powerful because they remain valuable across domains and it’s an idea that’s also fairly easy to understand, since most people have been exposed to some type of space like this during their lifetime. And of course, this idea is personal because it is something I have discovered through my own experiences. When I have the ability to help create a safe space for play, exploration, and discovery on my own (which for me, involves both quiet and noise, warmth and sunshine, people and solitude, time and a sense of freedom – to try, to learn, and to fail), I consistently engage with ideas in a more meaningful way. I am able to push myself to try new things, to test out Scratch and TurtleArt, even when I feel like I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.

park

Throughout my lifetime, there have been a range of people who have helped expose me to these types of spaces and scaffolded my understanding of them so that I could begin to construct my own understanding of what was necessary to create these spaces. Certain environments, like parks and playgrounds, have supported my experience in learning what these spaces can look like and the different components they often entail. When I think about Papert’s quote, that  “when ideas go to school they lose their power,” I think of the need to change schools and make room for the spaces I spoke of above.

Luckily, I seem to be one of many people who have seen this need and found power in the idea of safe spaces for exploration, discovery, and play (work) because the Maker movement is already working to bring Makerspaces to schools and communities. Hopefully, in time, these spaces will become more accessible and equitable so that all children can have places in school where they can play and explore resources that facilitate the empowerment of ideas again. Just as Papert was a proponent of integrating computer programming in school to help children carry ideas, I think it would be powerful to integrate makerspaces or any space that is safe for children to explore, discover, play/work, fail and try again.