Today I’m blogging from the bustling city of New York. This is my second attempt as my first (very lengthy post I did on my phone never posted.....grrrr). So this morning we (Bruce Jepsen, our Principal and I) visited a central city New York school nestled on the side of the bustling Central Park - Mary Mount School of New York. You could easily have walked past this school thinking it was a stunning 1800's mansion (which originally it was, three in fact). This private, all girls ADS school has 700 students thriving in a multi storied (no lifts!) historical building made up of a warren of rooms of every shape and size, each steeped in history with its first day of education starting with just 2 pupils back in the 1800's. We were met by their Director of STEM education who filled us in on the schools story and answered our questions related to curriculum, student agency, technology, assessment, culture, diversity - all the 'usual' stuff educators want to know. Our stories were aligned in lots of ways. We were then met by a Senior student who took us on a school tour, she answered our questions with pride and a quiet confidence, she had been at the school since kindergarten and new every nook and cranny like the back of her hand. Next we got to spend time with the schools Creative Technologist and to spend time in both the junior and senior maker spaces and ideas lab - I am literally still buzzing! We could have spent days swapping ideas and experiences and even though the research I've done clearly shows that the US is years ahead of NZ in the Maker Movement she felt that we were clearly years ahead of them at integrating technology in these spaces and especially at giving our students voice and choice in the classroom through the use of iPad. She was particularly interested our next community Maker project and wants us to keep her posted with updates as she would like to replicate this initiative in her school. Schools are all so different but I love that when we keep student learning at the centre, follow our passions and strive to stay at the edge of what is possible we form these common threads and links no matter where we are......even in little old New Zealand!
Next week we are attending the Apple Distinguished Schools Global Innovation Summit in Chicago, where Bruce will present a showcase and then we both facilitate a workshop together. This is the first time a NZ school has ever been invited to attend and we are proud to represent our Kura and our country.
We also visit two Chicago schools so I'll keep you posted with more photo's.
Recently I was asked these four questions......I thought you all might be interested in the answers (I have emailed them back to the teacher who asked them)
Are there any examples of how the students have used the makerspace to solve real world problems in their community?
No, at this stage there isn't as we are fairly new to all this (this is our second year operating a Makerspace and the first year in our new home and filtering the maker culture into all classrooms) we have initially only focused on aligning the learning with the needs of the students and the learning in the classroom. This is where we would like to go next in the Year 5/6 team but I see this as better suited to infused through their daily classroom learning eg writing, reading, maths and done as more of an inquiry project where maker and problem solving naturally occurred. Our Makerspace lessons are currently 'student choice and voice' and 'passion' driven. I love that your question has sparked my thinking though and I will definitely explore this further in the future.
Do you use any other sources of literacy works (eg Articles, news items) to stimulate ideas or activities?
I have used video, poems and artwork as stimuli in the past. You could also use the Kiwi Kids news website as a starting point https://kiwikidsnews.co.nz. Actually the choices are unlimited, I have specifically chosen to use a hardcopy resource as our main ignitor to foster a love of reading and to ensure that being a 1:1 iPad school doesn't mean we always choose technology over tradition.
Do you take extension/gifted and talented groups? How do you cater for their strengths?
Yes, I do take extension groups. At this stage the focus of these groups is to either build capacity (eg they become 'experts') to then teach other students in their class or team (year level) or as tuakana-teina (to teach a lower year group) or to extend on learning the class are doing eg to take it to the 'next level'. With balancing my Makerspace facilitation with Assistant Principal and managing the networking and infrastructure there isn't really enough time to cater for this. Our classroom learning is all individualised an d differentiated so every learner is being catered for in their own classroom environment but I do like the idea of 'passion' projects...we have an igloo project and a 'spools' project in the wings at the moment. We've collected the 600 milk bottles.....and for the 'spools' we have the cardboard spills and the timber cutouts to strengthen them and have researched for ideas and inspiration we now just need to 'get doing'.
Do you have a particular process or inquiry cycle that drives questioning/problem solving? Is it consistent across the school?
We don't have an inquiry cycle as such but have a set of TAKP skills and attitudes, which are consistent across the whole school and students self assess these with evidence shared on their Seesaw learning Journals (we also report to these at our 3 way conferences). I will upload a resource that outlines all of this for you to look at into the iTunes U course. In the Makerspace I use the design process "Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create and Improve" (which you would have seen displayed on the walls. In my planning I always include the questioning and prompts to support the book I am using as well as the vocab for each of the STEAM stations which I am wanting to introduce.
We also use our 'wonder wall' to prompt questioning (which was down the lefthandside of the space - I'll add the image below).
When reflecting on the feedback from our first Open Day and PLD last week teachers appreciated our way of delivering both the session and the resources - via an iTunes U course. Many had never heard of the tool before and were intrigued at how easy it was to have a rich 'kete' of learning (either for teacher or student). I have added a 'What's it all about' video to this post to give you all an insight into what makes our Makerspace tick and what my thinking is behind it. After completing my post grad this year and digging deep into the research behind Makerspaces I feel confident and reassured in the direction we are heading. I had some interesting conversations about play based learning with teachers last week. In my opinion (and I have the data to back this up), play based learning alone in a primary school environment is NOT enough. It needs to be more than this, more directed, more supported, with questions to provoke and encourage deeper thinking. I'm not saying there isn't a place for play based learning in the Early Years - just don't throw the 'baby out with the bath water'. Our Makerspace is NOT technology based, it is curiosity based, it is technology enhanced. Pedagogy is the vehicle and technology is the accelerator!
We do things differently...
Our Makerspace Open Day and PLD is on Friday. I have had a few teachers pull out today due to unforeseen circumstances so now have space if you’d like to see and hear more. Message or email me for more info firstname.lastname@example.org
Come and see some of our cost effective ‘hacks’...
I wonder what the kids will call me, today one said "I'm looking for the Apple Teacher"......and another said "Are you Mrs Maker?" ......funny.