Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Growth Mindset in #MakerEd

There are lots of people that talk about the Growth Mindset as way to approach learning with students. However, just saying that and then not providing any means for students to see what that means is a waste of time for everyone. One of the things that has been important to me in crafting a class to help students understand the design process and how to improve critical thinking and problem solving skills was making sure the students have an opportunity to see their growth over the course of the class.

It is one thing to say that #MakerEd is all about the Growth Mindset, but it is not without some amount of structure and support from teachers. Here are some things that I have used to support a Growth Mindset in my new Innovation and Design class for middle school students.

  • Reflection space and time - When of the parts that is important in a Growth Mindset is having the time to actually reflect on what went wrong and how the problem can be addressed differently the next time it is encountered. This reflection time can be through a conference with the teacher, but I really feel it is important to give students a space to write and internally reflect before conferencing with the teacher. It depends on the maturity of the students, but time to process and reflect is huge if we really want students to have a Growth Mindset. 
I have created little journals that will be given to students to do reflecting and sketching. Just giving students a box to write in on the assignment sheet to reflect would be a good start for any type of assignment. 

  • Do not grade - This is a tough one for some teachers because they may be required to give students grades at the end of the marking period or have to have a certain number of assessments that are graded and in a grade book. I would suggest looking for ways to create some projects that do not need to be graded. I have found that not grading the projects in my design class has led to much higher engagement and perseverance on the work done in class.
There was one student who had created 5 or 6 different versions of his device to place around a Sphero that would allow it to drive around. When I gave him an opportunity to just post about the failures and what he learned, he refused. He told me that he did not want to fail at completing the task. He felt he was so close and wanted to try one more thing. His mom, who is a teacher in the high school, came down to pick him up a little early and he refused to go until he finished his design. The mom was blown away at the commitment her son had for the assignment. It was a wonderful example that reinforced my belief that a class like this should not be graded because students will try so much harder and take risks because they do not have to fear letter grade failure.

  • Allow students to share their work - This is a big one for me because it is important for students to take pride in their work they are doing, but also see the work that other students are doing in the class as well. By using tools like Google Classroom, SeeSaw, or other portfolio based type programs, students can collect and showcase learning to others. I really like using SeeSaw because it is much easier for parents to jump in and see the work that students are doing and comment on it. It creates a much larger learning community for students to share their work in and that helps students overall. Learning from others who are tackling the same problems and seeing how they found a solution aids in the overall learning of a student.
  • Give students a voice and a choice - Giving students a voice and a choice in their work has a huge impact on their ability to truly embrace a Growth Mindset. To put it simply, the students are more engaged when they have a connection to the work they are doing. When they are more engaged, they will be more resilient when things do not go their way. If a student does not want to make a poster board for their project, but that is what is required in class, they will not put in the effort required and will give up easily if things get too complicated. Allowing students the ability to choose their approach to creating something to address the problem or assignment is a great way to encourage engagement and support a Growth Mindset. If the student cares, they will not give up. 
One of my Seniors is really into woodworking after having a taste of it for a class last year. She built her entire capstone project this year around learning to do basic woodworking and creating a class to propose to the school in the Spring. She is teaching herself different aspects of woodworking with some guidance from me and it not being held back by any roadblocks that pop up. She is currently working on a table top that she is routing out based a sketch she had. She wants to use epoxy and stain to make the tabletop really come to life. She also wants to use a stump as the base of the table because she thinks it will look very cool. Dried stumps can cost a couple hundreds of dollars. Instead of letting that keep her down, she spent hours researching how to dry her own stump in the basement of her house to use for the project. Now she is looking for a stump. She could have quit, but she chose to learn something new and tackle the problem a different way. That is exactly what we want to see from our students. 

When it comes to MakerEd and the Growth Mindset, it is important to make sure we are setting up a framework that will support our students as they design and fail. Those frameworks will help supporting learning that will last long beyond their years in school. 

If you are interested in Growth Mindset, MakerEd, PBL, and other fun and engaging practices with students, feel free to shoot me an email and we can connect and share ideas.  

Thursday, October 24, 2019

More @IAmKidPresident from @SoulPancake! #EdChat

I'm excited to share some more Kid President with all of you! There are two more videos that you have to watch that explore our connections with people all around us. Please take some time to see how you might be able to share these with students in your class to have important conversations about empathy, refugees, and so much more. 

Next stop: the beach! Robby and Brad find themselves at a retreat for families who have a child that’s been diagnosed with cancer. Robby immediately befriends a group of kids to jump in the pool with, play ultimate frisbee on the beach, and launch into fierce card games. Yet, underneath all the joy, is the discovery that they’ve all been closely affected by cancer — either themselves or a sibling. Two sisters share their story of remaining hopeful and keeping each other strong, in spite of all that’s come their way. Archival clips include moments from ’Letter To a Person on their First Day Here’, the parade thrown for a postal worker, and the oft-quoted Kid President phrase “Treat Everybody Like It’s Their Birthday”. Brad and Robby are part of throwing a huge birthday party for every kid there with cake, music, and of course dancing. Brad even pulls out his ‘karaoke backpack’ to help celebrate.

Robby and Brad visit a town that’s been called ‘the Ellis Island of the South’. For more than 20 years, Clarkston, GA has served as a place of peace, community, and healing for refugees from all walks of life. They visit the Fugees Academy where they meet Luma Mufleh, who founded the organization shortly after fleeing to the United States from Jordan when she was 19. Three young refugees from completely different cultures are highlighted. Though they’re from entirely different backgrounds they’re all best friends and they don’t refer to it as ‘Fugees Academy’ but as the Fugees Family. Archival video includes the Pep Talk from Kid President To You, Kid President playing baseball with a young Muslim girl, and other select clips focused on unity, teamwork, and Robby’s love of athletics. Robby joins the Fugees Family on the field for one of their practices.


The Pressure of Failing #PBLChat #EdChat

One of the things I have learned over the years with project based learning is that some students are willing to take a risk and try something new to demonstrate their understanding of a topic and others will play it safe and stick to tools and resources they are comfortable using. There were many factors that contribute to playing it safe or taking a risk, but in school, being graded has a large influence on these decisions. Since removing grades from my new elective, Innovation and Design, I'm starting to see how much an impact grades were having on trying new things.

Students have been working to create prototypes of objects from the story, "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury. A student was very frustrated over the amount of time it has taken him to craft some type of cover for a Sphero so it could drive around easily and look like a mouse from the story. Time and time again, the student has failed, but gets back to the design and tries again. At the start of class I asked the students why they are willing to keep trying over and over again and they simply said because it wasn't going to hurt their grade if they tried something and it didn't work. They still have a deadline, but they can try crazy ideas that might work without fear of getting bad grades.

Giving students a space to try and fail without punishment is so important for students. They are given the opportunity to push themselves, explore new concepts, and see what they are capable of at the end of the day. A 6th grade student spent five 75-minute class periods figuring out how to use to design 2D images for the laser cutter to create a windows that could stay opened. After 5 or 6 failed prototypes, she was able to get the right size for everything she needed and then decided to add acrylic windows. Here is a shot of her work.

Kalie expressed some frustration that it took her 5 class periods to design something and cut it on the laser cutter in one day, but I told her she spent those days learning how to do something and then she did it. That's exactly what school is supposed to be about. As a 6th grader, she is now able to design to use the laser cutter and then set up the machine and cut on her own. This was all driven by her want to design the windows from the story. She was not chasing a grade and probably would not have chosen to learn an entire new program if there was a grade at the end of the project. This is the example, along with many of the other projects in the class so far, that shows me the extended value of Project Based Learning and a grade free environment. 

My new class still needs some fine-tuning, but I am confident the basic structure of PBL and no grades is going to create some amazing opportunities for student learning moving forward. 

If you are interested in connecting about bringing PBL, Design Thinking, and more to your school, please feel free to reach out to me at

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

@iamkidpresident visits Selma in new episode of Are We There Yet

I'm excited to see another episode live on YouTube from my buddy Brad and Kid President. In this episode they are visiting Selma, AL to see some kids doing awesome things in their community and to chat with Joanne Bland. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and was arrested 3 times by the age of 11 when she marched to Montgomery with Dr. King.

I think this video is important to show students because there is this belief that you need to be an adult to make change in the world and we are seeing that is not true today with Greta Thunberg, but child activists have a long history and I love that Brad and Robby are recognizing someone that many people never learned about in History classes.

Check out this video and consider sharing with your students.