Friday, March 26, 2021

Makerspaces in a post COVID world #MakerEd #PBL

As March comes to a close, some schools are starting to think about what the 2021-2022 school year is going to like for their students. One of the things that I hope sticks around is how many teachers embraced Project Based Learning as a strong pedagogical approach to learning during the pandemic. I have been lucky to work with different teachers across the the country that have embraced PBL and have seen the benefits it has for their students. The big questions is, "How do we maintain this positive movement into the next school year?" I think this is where an investment in makerspaces can be a great idea. 

If your school has embraced PBL, focusing on creating a space that supports these teachers and students is a wonderful way to keep the momentum. With teachers and students being able to work more closely next year, there will be a surge in possible project ideas that need to be supported. Having a dedicated space that would allow for a wide variety of projects would be great. By adding tools to a space, teachers will be able to expand the possible project offerings to students. If students have more freedom to choose their projects, having access to a larger variety of tools will help bring equity across the board. Having worked with schools that have built spaces to support PBL, I know what it is like to see students and teachers become more engaged in the process of learning with the addition of these learning spaces and the tools in them. Striking while the iron is hot is crucial. 

If you are a teacher that is excited about the strides you and your colleagues have made during the pandemic and you want to keep the great work going, I suggest you explore the plausibility of makerspaces in your school. There is so much that can be done to support students and their ideas when they have access to a makerspace. Some schools will look at the 21-22 school year as a chance to return to "normal". Other, more progressive schools, will look at the 21-22 school year as a chance to fix some of the problems that became glaring during the pandemic. Dedicating time and resources to support a positive change in instruction and learning is the best thing we can do moving forward. I have seen what a makerspace can do for students pre-pandemic and I know it will be a difference maker post-pandemic. 

If you are interested in exploring makerspaces and have questions, I'd love to connect and help in anyway that I can. If you have worked on setting up makerspaces, I'd love to connect and see what we can learn from one another. 

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Minecraft and Literature #MakerEd #PBL

 I wanted to share a fun project that I created for my students when I had to be out of class for a couple of days. My middle school design students were working on a Design Thinking project, but could not work on it because the world was with me on my computer. I needed something for them to do that would have them think and create. It came to me quickly and I think it is going to turn out wonderfully. 

I gave students links to "The Raven" and "A Tell-Tale Heart". I like Poe and these were chosen for that reason and that they are both very short. I wanted students to be able to listen/read them in class. I used the YouTube videos of Christopher Lee reading them and you can find them both below. 


After reading/listening to these two pieces, students have to choose a scene from each that stood out to them and design a version of it in Minecraft. Students would start with a paper design and then move to Minecraft Education Edition to fully flesh out their design. They would post their design and multiple images of their completed build in SeeSaw with explanations of why they chose the scene and how they built it. Here is the example I created for the students to see what I was looking for from them. 

My sketch is very rough, but it conveyed the idea I had. 

I really thought I did a good job showcasing the eye here. 

The full scene from afar. 

If you want to see my SeeSaw post, you can check it out here. 

These students are very gifted builders and I can't wait to see what they can create using Minecraft Education Edition. I think this is a great way to allow students to demonstrate understanding and meaning of texts in a way that is comfortable to them. Imagine students building entire towns or homes of characters and explaining their symbolic value in the story. Themes, motifs, symbols, characterization, and much more could be discussed in depth through their creations. I think there is so much here worth exploring and I would love to hear how other ELA teachers are using Minecraft to connect their students to the reading. Tweet or tag me @TheNerdyTeacher and we can connect!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Is Maker Fatigue Real? #MakerEd

There has been something that has been eating at me for a few weeks. It is this idea that you can just be worn out from creating all of the time. Constantly trying to create something new or solve another problem can be exhausting. I call it Maker Fatigue. I searched the term and could not find it anywhere, but it is possible I've heard it somewhere. 

There are times where I feel just spent after building something that the last thing I want to do is think about the next project or problem. That feeling has me thinking about the way that we do projects in my design class. Am I jumping from one project to the next too quickly? Do I need a class period to let the kids reset their minds and decompress to get in the right mindset again? I think it is possible to do too much making and there needs to be a time to all the students to just consume something for a little bit. Maybe I am way off on this though. IDK. 

What do you think? Is it possible to do too much making and become fatigued? How do we address this for our students? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


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