The maker school mindset will allow students to use discovery-driven activities to innovate and create authentic learning experiences. Students are given choice and a voice in the process so they take ownership of their learning. Complex problem-solving skills will develop as students learn how to become lifelong learners.
Maker school would take place during the homeroom/advisory time that begins each student’s school day. Over the years homeroom teachers have been given varied directives for the use of this time. Of course there is no perfect solution but to date there has yet to be a proposal that makes the best use of the time for the students or the teachers.
Implementation would initially start on a small scale. Staffing requirements would be my teaching team, the math lab teacher, an instructional aide and our technical staff member (as needed). Technology requirements will be flexible with the planned use of the time incorporating desktops, tablets, laptops, projectors, interactive display devices, circuitry, graphing calculators, or whatever else we have available whether it’s high-tech or low-tech technology. Facility requirements would be the use of the fast math lab, technology classroom, gymnatorium (for knowledge summits and Q & A sessions; coupled with a show not tell curiosity ignition approach), lunch patio and my classroom (or an available room large enough) to host a “working lunch” session.
I propose that my innovation plan to create a maker school using blended learning starts as follows:
- Phase 1
- Week 1: Consist of discussions involving proper technology use as well as digital citizenship. Students will have hands-on exposure to the technology and realistic experiences to problem solve throughout this week.
- Week 2: (Possible topic) Flow 1 – STEAM – Geometry; Art; Architecture; Engineer/”Imagineer”
- Week 3: (Possible topic) Flow 2 – STEM – Programming through circuitry
- Week 4: (Possible topic) Flow 3 – STEAM – Video production, editing; ePortfolio
- Week 5: (Possible topic) Flow 4 – STEM – Programming Languages; “I can code anything”
- Week 6: Consist of discussions and collaboration within their homeroom/advisory time. Utilizing technology to research, show and build on knowledge gained in their chosen flows student can teach other students their discoveries. Students have the choice to further take ownership of their learning and engage others within a “working lunch” setting during the school day, at home and/or before and after school.
- Week 7: Students will select a collaborative group and have the choice to show and tell their homeroom class the information they’ve discovered and any innovations created. Collaborative groups can combine and accept the opportunity to present and voice their authentic learning during a brief knowledge summit within our lunch period to interested peers within as well as outside of their team. Students will be given time for a brief Q&A section as the end of their summit. This break-out session can expose and engage other students to participate in a flow or choose a different kind of flow during the next cycle.
- Week 8: Students are given the opportunity to give praise as well as feedback on the entire cycle. Candid discussions will be had with the students about changes that can be put in place to feed forward the best experience for the next cycle but also constraints that may not allow as much of a change.
- Week 9: Possible cycle changes will be made and preparation for the next cycle will take place so that the cycle can begin again with necessary improvements to make it better each time.
The next phase would be trying this cycle with a second homeroom within my core team (four including myself) of teachers. The second homeroom would follow the same cycle as the first homeroom but they would work concurrently. Once the sixth week is reached the two homerooms would be given the opportunity to blend for further collaboration and discussion. The “working lunch” will be more like a workshop where the students are continuing to learn and creating impactful lifelong learning patterns.
Implementation of phase 1 would occur in the second nine weeks of the school year as to allow the students to become acclimated with their core schedule and 6th grade procedures. This would also allow a break-out from the first nine weeks of homeroom/advisory routines that may be getting monotonous. Going into the winter season the blended learning cycle can assist with engagement and behavior as students tend to become restless right before Christmas holiday break. Students would be able to choose projects stemming from the flows to work on over the Christmas holiday break. Communication and collaboration could continue with provided extension applications that are both accessible and engaging.
The success will not just be measured with assessments that ask answers to questions but by embracing the mindset of “yet”. The question and answer session will a assist in assessing effectiveness of the program as discoveries are made that help to create authentic learning experiences. Problem solving advances can be measured within the realm of the technological concepts but more importantly with the perseverance and originality of solutions to everyday processes or issues. We can observe improvement of problem solving skills in core classes, social situations and personal coping skills that can better help them process difficult or unbearable (even if only perceived) situations that occur within their home or community.
The importance of creating lifelong learners that never stop asking why and will collaborate as well as communicate to create solutions to complex issues instead of accepting inconclusive answers.