Monday, March 1, 2021

#MakerEd and #PBL Together

One of the things that stands out most to me as I work with schools is how easily teachers make the connections to #MakerEd once they embrace the ideas of Project Based Learning. I see a repeat of what happened to me as an ELA teacher 7 years ago. 

I worked with my Media Specialist to construct a Makerspace in the library so students could have access to a wider variety of tools for the different projects we were doing in my classes. I wrote grants and spent lots of my prep time in the space trying to figure out exactly how this whole thing was going to work. At one point, another teacher asked me I was spending so much time working on a makerspace because those are for Science classes. I tried to explain how a PBL approach lends itself to the use of makerspace, but it was hard for them to grasp because they did not practice PBL in their classroom. However, once they took their class down there for the first time to explore the space and see what students could do for their first PBL lesson, it clicked. 

It can be tough to see the connection between a makerspace and PBL right now if you are not implementing PBlL in your classroom. That is why I advocate for taking baby steps. Start with a little PBL and see how students can create artifacts to demonstrate their understanding and your involvement with MakerEd will slowly grow. 

I encourage everyone out there interested in MakerEd and PBL to start exploring PBL and how you can use it in your classes. From there, you will naturally start to see how MakerEd works into your classes. Lastly, when it doubt, do not hesitate to reach out to people who have done it before. I love connecting with educators and working through these struggles. We are all better together and I'd love to chat about PBL and MakerEd with you.

I have received Covid-19 shot and have a limited travel window this Summer, but I am still booking PD opportunities with schools and districts. Slots are starting to fill up, so please reach out and we can make something work in person or virtually. 

On a side note, this is my 1,000th post on TheNerdyTeacher and that is crazy to think about. I've been very blessed to work with teachers all over the world because of this little blog. I look forward to the next adventure. 

- NP

Friday, February 19, 2021

Gamer Fun with @MSMakeCode Arcade #MakerEd #PBL

Hello everyone! I wanted to share a great tool I used in my class this trimester for students to work on their computational thinking through coding. 

MakeCode Arcade is a program that allows users to create their own 8-bit arcade game for free! This Microsoft tool is free to use and does not require any sign up or login. Tutorials are provided and all of the games that are there already can be explored to see how their code works. You can build your game using block code or Javascript. This has been a huge hit in my design class and I wanted to share one project that really stood out and has taken the Middle School by storm. 

The assignment asked students to create their own video game and a commercial to advertise it. One student decided to make a game based on one of our teachers and it is very fun and the commercial is amazing. Here is the video,


Here is the game, 

Shademania!


What is great about this assignment is that the students can make the game as simple or as complex as they want. The commercial has the students explore design from a different perspective. One it is all done, the students have basically created their own game company. I'm a huge fan of MakeCode and think you should give it a try in your class. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#MakerEd Supports #MentalHealth

There are so many different reasons why #MakerEd is important to me and helpful to students. One that stands out to me recently is the value of MakerEd when it comes to Mental Health. I could provide tons of anecdotal evidence on how students creating things improved their moods and brought joy to their life. 

I could also share how the act of making helps me when I am feeling most anxious in a way that my medication cannot. 

I'd like to share an article that links to a variety of studies that show the value of crafting (making) when it comes to supporting mental health. The article, you can find it here, shares the studies surrounding art therapy and how it impacts depression and anxiety. Art therapy is not a new trend. It has been around for decades. It is no surprise that having students create and make will improve their mental health. By removing some of the anxiety inducing elements of assessment and using Project Based Learning and MakerEd in their place, you can engage learners on a level that is supportive a strong mental health approach to learning. 

I hope you will read the article and the research and consider implementing more opportunities for students to make in your classroom. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

N Provenzano

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Give #MakerEd and #PBL a Chance For Your Students #EdChat

One of the things that I have seen while working this year was how important it has been for the student to create things in class and at home. With extra screen time and the inability to collaborate like they are used to, being able to create things has helped students feel engaged in the classroom. 

I spent the past two weeks presenting at TCEA and FETC sharing the amazing things that students are capable of doing when they are given a framework that encourages them to make things to demonstrate their understanding. Students have made digital and physical objects to showcase learning and students at home feel more connected to the class when they can create and share.

My students will be designing mini-golf obstacles that others will be asked to code a Sphero through in the fewest moves. Students will be showing me their design skills and their coding skills for this specific lesson. I am very proud of the work they have been able to do during this pandemic and really want to encourage your to consider giving students a chance to create in your classroom. 

Sometimes, teachers feel the pressure to try new things and think they have to redo all of their lessons right away. That's not true. I'm asking you to consider trying one lesson that will encourage students to create something to demonstrate their understanding of the content. This can be digital or physical. Embrace that it will not be perfect and that you will be learning with the students. Heck, do not even grade it and really let the kids have a go. 

We are in a time where trying new things should be encouraged by administrators and teachers should look at the educational landscape and try something that has always interested them. I'm an advocate for PBL and MakerEd because I see the positive impact it has students every day. I want more students to have this experience. 

If you have any questions about implementing PBL and MakerEd, please reach out and we can make it happen.