T(h)inkering

It was a lovely summer’s evening in Wellington yesterday. As befitting such an evening, we were eating outside, and dining on a nice, light, post-Christmas meal of fish, corn on the cob, and salad. I trialled a new recipe: marinating the fish in some lemon and fresh herbs from the garden. The salad was a tried-and-true: a tasty Nigella number with feta, watermelon and olives. The combination of the salad and the fish was delicious! I was very happy with the feast.

While I was eating and enjoying the fruits of my labour, I was thinking about how I might even further improve on my efforts. Add lemon thyme to the oregano I used in the fish marinade. Make sure I use black olives rather than the lemon flavoured ones currently in the fridge. Definitely don’t marinade the fish any longer than I did – the citrus could easily become overpowering. I wondered what using lime rather than lemon would be like…?

And I realised: I was tinkering. I was reflecting with pleasure on what I had created, and was thinking about what I could do to make it even better next time. While there was obviously an element of judgement involved – how to improve – it was not negative as it was building on the enjoyment from my first iteration.

This is growth mindset. This is a maker mindset. If I’m happy to do this with my cooking, how might I inject this same attitude towards other areas in my life? Suggestions gratefully received!

Bright Ideas

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Yesterday Marsden hosted its very first Maker Party, thanks to Mozilla, Wellington Makerspace and the wonderful Jess Weichler. We advertised the opportunity to our Y6-Y8 girls, and it was almost a full house! Not being at all au fait with Maker Education, it was amazing to see an expert like Jess in action.

The session started with a mini-lesson on electronics. I really enjoyed the way Jess interacted with the girls, speaking in language that they (and me – Science dud!) could understand. Did you know that electricity is lazy and if you give it a shortcut, it will take it? Having said that, Jess also didn’t shy away from using ‘real’ terms like ‘polarity’, which I also liked.

Everything was relevant to the task ahead: making an LED light bracelet. I think the photos below speak for themselves as to how the girls enjoyed it:

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I think one of the things I found most interesting was towards the end of the party when Jess was bravely asking the girls for their feedback and what they thought she could do better next time. A number of the girls commented that it was hard to attach the LED light to their wire bracelet and that Jess should have told them an easier way. However, I completely disagree. I thought it was valuable for the girls to have to persevere with the task. The light didn’t work – try another way. The pipe cleaner is interfering with the circuit – insulate the wire frame. The battery is scratchy – cover it. To me, in addition to learning by making and creating, the real power in this kind of activity is in the tinkering. Having to figure out ways to make it work. After all, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

Thanks again to Jess – a wonderfully enthusiastic and passionate educator – and to one of our Primary staff members for coming along and supervising with me – and to the Marsden Library: great to see an innovative use for this welcoming space. Here’s to more Maker Parties to come!

Marsden Professional Learning Session 10

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Always seeking to improve, in today’s Professional Learning session, I started with a ‘hook’: make a piece of jewellery from two pipe cleaners in 60 seconds. It always amuses me, and it’s something for me to remember, that adults are just like kids: we like to have something to fiddle with, and the soft, pliable nature of a pipe cleaner is no exception. (Next time – note to self – playdough!)

The purpose of this task was to introduce the future learning themes of creativity and critical thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to make passing references to design thinking, and also to acknowledge some of the very recent learning I have been doing about the maker education movement. The accompanying presentation is here:

I felt a bit incoherent today, and I’m not at all convinced that my presentation was as fluid as I would have liked it to be. Luckily, the presentation is freely available for staff to refer back to, and there are lots of hyperlinks to allow people to continue to explore and learn. And also luckily, the next professional learning session in two weeks’ time also focuses on creativity, but this time showcasing examples of it in our classrooms.

The workshop I offered looked at the presentation tool Haiku Deck. The ‘help sheet’ I produced for this is available here. The lovely people who attended were very quiet, so I choose to interpret this as meaning they were thoroughly engaged in playing with the tool 😉 I enjoyed the clear link between the themes of creativity and critical thinking to this workshop. I also liked the question that I was asked as to what a concrete application of Haiku Deck in the classroom could be. I could think of two. This also reminds me, that like the pipe cleaners, all learners like to have ‘real world’ connections.

I would like to acknowledge Steve Mouldey’s work in creativity and curiosity. He is extremely well versed in this area, and I shamelessly plundered his blog (especially this post) for inspiration for this professional learning session. Why reinvent the wheel?!

My ‘Thing’

Since I began this future learning journey, I’ve been wondering what my ‘thing’ is. What would be the particular aspect of future learning that would really capture my imagination, and seem to offer the best possibilities to move forward with future focused pedagogy? It was never going to be just about integrating technology. Jumping on the bandwagon of the shiny new app strikes me as both short-sighted and not big picture enough. I wondered if PBL (project- or problem-based learning) might be the thing. But as interesting as it seemed, it didn’t seem to gain traction in my mind. Ditto SOLE (self-organised learning environments). Linked to both of these was the inquiry process. And I do think this is important, but didn’t seem to go quite far enough for me. It wasn’t going to be maker-ed, although I acknowledge the potential in this.

And then, today, it hit me.

Design Thinking might just be my thing.

Why Design Thinking? Because inherent in this process are the 3 (or 4) Cs of critical thinking, creativity, communication – and collaboration. Because the process requires an inter-disciplinary approach. Because, as the Hobsonville Point team have convinced me, the New Zealand Curriculum aligns beautifully with it. Because it seems to offer the best of what PBL/inquiry/maker-ed calls for. And because I believe it has the potential to dovetail with the values of our school, such as aiming for the highest, service, resilience.

And, crucially, because Design Thinking fits with me.

I’ve always held that I teach because I want to teach not what to think, but how to think. And I believed that English as a subject really had this potential. We read literature in order to be confronted with ideas of what it means to be human. To think about moral, ethics, how to live. But, upon reflection, I think I haven’t really aligned well with my educational philosophy. I have been teaching ‘not what to think’, but not the ‘how to think’ part of the statement. I feel it’s been more like ‘not what to think; but to think’. Which, I now think, is insufficient. However, Design Thinking does offer a concrete solution because it is a process. It is ‘not what to think; but how to think.’

So, I think, I’ve found ‘my thing’.