Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Student Driven Learning in the Makerspace #MakerEd

One of my favorite parts of managing a Makerspace is the freedom it gives me to allow students to explore areas that interest them. I have no idea what might spark a creative fire in them, but I like to leave lots of things out so students can find things on their own.

A perfect example of that is the GoPiGo3 from Dexter Industries. I had the kit in my room for a week or so when a student asked what it was. I told them it is a cool Raspberry Pi powered robot that you can control through coding on your computer through a wifi connection. For a novice student, that might have sounded like gibberish, but this young lady had already earned multiple badges programing the Raspberry Pi. She was strong using Python and had used block coding in previous years. She asked if she could spend her study hall time building it. I was happy to let her dive in.

It is always fun to watch a student explore something brand new. You can watch them encounter problems and find ways to solve those issues. You can watch their frustration turn into joy as they complete one step after the other. There were very few times that she needed my help to move her along. I was very impressed by her grit as a 6th grader having never built a robot before.

During the course of the build, I had an opportunity to meet her parents and they wanted to let me know that she is talking nonstop about the build. Every day she had gone home and filled them in on the steps she has taken to build the robot and she can't wait to drive it. As a teacher, it always warms your heart to hear a student talk so passionately about something to their family. That is always a huge win.

When I sat back and watched her drive the GoPiGo3, all I could think about was that this was because she wanted to do it. This was not a class assignment, this wasn't extra credit to bring a grade up, this was a student who was interested in something, dedicated the time to learn and explore, and then created something meaningful to them that they wanted to share with her family. This is what we want to see from our students and I'm glad the Makerspace is the spot where she could do that.

Sometimes teachers can get caught up in the need to cover the curriculum that they forget that taking some time to find out what interested them can make a huge impact on their learning over the course of the entire year. I know I have been guilty of that in the classroom. That is why reflection time for teachers AND for students is important. Find out what is meaningful to students and see if that can be incorporated into the classroom.

I'm very lucky to teach at a school that is supportive of student driven learning and the teachers here really afford their students the time to explore areas of their content area that interest them. It is a wonderful learning environment and I think the Makerspace adds that extra element that covers the things that classes do not. This is why I think Makerspaces are so important to the educational system.

The young girl is excited to keep coding the GoPiGo3 and see what she can do with the distance sensor. I might have a future engineer in my space on a regular basis and her love this area might have started from just pointing to the GoPiGo3 box and saying, "What's that?"

Thanks to Dexter Industries for sending me the kit. The student loves it and I think I will be creating a special badge just for her to show off the hard work she has put in for the project.

Check out the GoPiGo3 here and see how it might be a nice addition to your Makerspace. 

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