Maker Camp: Diving In

creativity, Failure, innovation, Maker Camp, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, Motivation, STEM

So let’s begin this first post on Maker Camp with a camp tradition:

The spooky campfire ghost story.

One day, two crazy educators bravely decided to host something called Maker Camp with only two weeks notice. So they cautiously entered into the abandoned school (Ok, it was summertime. But if you’ve ever been in school after hours by yourself, you know what I mean- it’s enough to give you the goosebumps). They entered with no budget, a cry for volunteer help, over 100 students and families registered and the hopes and dreams of inspiring and encouraging creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking in students, staff and the greater community.

To see how this story ends, follow my posts about our Maker Camp experience. These posts are written reflectively quite a bit later than I would have preferred but better to reflect late than never.

Still fresh and new in my role as a Technology Integration Specialist with my district, I was looking for a way to use the summer to continue to build relationships and bring awareness to technology integration and instructional design to our staff, students and community. Cue my colleague, Beth, whose mutual interest and passion for the Maker movement and its impact on education became our initial bond. We began looking for ways to introduce making and the Maker movement to our students, staff and community. But of course this was about more than just the Maker Movement. Our district, as are many others, is working hard to shift towards more project based learning and active learning pedagogies along with technology integration. The 2016 Horizon report identifies accelerating trends in technology adoption in education and Maker Spaces, a shift to deeper learning approaches like project based learning, a shift from students as consumers to creators and a rise in STEAM learning as key trends and important developments in K-12 and higher education within the next 1-5 years.

In my
experience though, systematic change is often slow-moving and complex. Transformations in pedagogy like that don’t happen overnight. Which is frustrating for someone who is passionate about instructional design and technology. I just want to jump into classrooms and shout LET’S DO THIS!”. But it was important for me to pause and recognize that successful change is about feeling and not about thinking. I can tell teachers about the Maker Movement and get them thinking about how it could impact their classrooms, but that will never live up to them seeing that student that they have been struggling to engage all year suddenly engaged and enthusiastic and creating SOMETHING. That’s feeling and that is why we do what we do in the end. And that is what gives us the motivation to change.

“The deepest problem for us is not technology, not teaching, nor school bureaucracies, it’s the limits of our own thinking.” – Sylvia Libow Martinez


CEP 813: First Minecraft Experience

Assessment, Failure, Gamification, Minecraft

Over the last few days, I have spent a few introductory hours exploring a Minecraft world created using a MSU MinecraftEDU server. My previous experience involves watching students play Minecraft and listening to them talk about Minecraft, but I have never played myself. Below is a short screencast in which I introduce the greatest challenge that I faced during my first Minecraft experience. I’m looking forward to exploring Minecraft further and finding new ways to incorporate it and game-based learning in the classroom.


Wicked Problem: Failure as a Learning Mode

Failure, MAET Year 1, Wicked Problems

Allow failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success.

2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communiqué
“Learning is all about risk, but learning institutions are anything but risk tolerant. There are good reasons for that, except when it comes to learning. We deceive students when we do not make it clear that not all knowledge is absolute. Truth is the result of generations of exploration, of refinement, of pushing the boundaries of our experience.Truth builds on failure as much as success, but failure is anathema to today’s learning institutions. We must instill in students the drive to learn, and to help them see the vital role of failure in discovery. We need to expect our halls of learning to question their own processes and strategies, and their own success. We measure things, but spend little time on understanding what we should be measuring. We know great innovation always comes from the refinement of an initial idea, but we teach in and administer schools as if there are absolute certainties that we must never question. How can we ensure that the next series of great discoveries will be made? That is a challenge whose dimensions and starting places are elusive enough to be considered a truly wicked problem.”

Please check out our Wicked Problem VoiceThread:

Rebecca, Tom, Kate and I began to our to address our wicked problem of practice by taking a look at the above quote from the 2013 NMC Horizon Report. We divided and conquered with our research as we looked for answers to define our problem of practice, find examples of how it is wicked, looked for people who have addressed this problem and then determine our best recommendations.

Through our research and own experience, we have determined that most teachers realize that failing is a natural part of learning but do not necessarily foster an environment that students are comfortable taking risks. I began my own research diving into what makes this problem so wicked. Why is something that has been determined common knowledge (failure is part of learning) not being practiced in our schools?

I looked for research to support the stance that our current educational grading system is contributing to the culture of grade obsessed, perfectionist parents and students that we have today. I encountered this study by the American Psychological Association, where psychologists say that students performed better when they felt confident and were used to a risk taking environment where failure was treated as a means to learn. It suggested that parents and students need to be more concerned with the process of learning than the result of standardized tests and grades.

I then enlisted the help of my PLN and found a link to an #edchat summary discussing alternatives to traditional grading. This was a great resource that began to discuss possible solutions to the traditional grading angle of our wicked problem.

We also had a related article for some of our required reading from class called “Teach Your Students to Fail Better with Design Thinking”. This article speaks of our intense desire for all students to always succeed at all costs in education. However, we are preparing our students for a future that has many unknowns and our students need skills that enable them to fail but learn and improve from their failure.


All references are listed in our VoiceThread above.