On Making, McGyver and McLuhan (sort of)
After deeply engaging with Maker Education for the past few weeks, I am sure that the Maker ethos will continue to inform and influence my work with others. How could it not? I have been a Maker for as long as I can remember.
As a very young boy of four or five, I recall gathering shoeboxes and used light bulbs, knobs and dials and other parts off broken toys and electronics, and combining them into “inventions” which were powered only by my imagination. The urge to create something new from something old was a powerful one even at such an early age. Flash forward 50 years, and I am a charter subscriber to Make Magazine and still creating things, often out of recycled materials. So, clearly, I have been a Maker since long before I started this class. But I have no doubt my past continues to influence and inform my work with other educators. Likewise, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the motto of Renew-Reuse-Recycle is one my family and I have taken personally for quite some time. How could it not bleed over into my professional life?
Still and all, just as the week three lessons brought learning theories studied in undergrad back to the forefront of my consciousness, so too did the rest of the course cause me to take a fresh look at Making and its influence on my practice.
For me, CEP811 was a reminder that creative solutions to problems are not always as McGyver-like as defusing a bomb using duct tape and a swiss army knife. More likely they take the form of a database report or a well laid out newsletter or a chart in a spreadsheet. But just sometimes they might include an empty tuna can or a plastic gelato container. While not as exciting as the fictional McGyver’s solutions, they are certainly more functional and useful in the real world.
As I continue to assist others in the integration of technology into their own work, be it with students, teachers, administrators or even parents, my measure of success will remain as it always has: does the tech make things easier? Does it clarify or enlighten? Does it allow the user to do or be something more than before? If, in a particular situation, recommending a Maker philosophy satisfies one or more of these measures, I will definitely suggest it. Considering, more specifically, the littleBits kit I both studied and played with, I’m fairly certain it will be part of some future recommendation, most likely at the elementary level. Both the ease of use of the littleBits as well as their ability to draw users in, their inherent playfulness and coolness, are great tools to get kids interested in creating technology solutions quickly and becoming inventors in their own right. At root, technology is really nothing more than a tool, much like a pencil, albeit a rather sophisticated one. As a quote often mis-attributed to Marshall McLuhan states, “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us” (Culkin, 1967, p.70). Bringing littleBits into the lives of elementary students seems like a wonderful way to shape some of those young minds.
Regarding my own growth and work in CEP811, I am relatively satisfied. I certainly appreciated the focus in weeks four, five and six on instructional design, experience design and universal design for learning. Those three weeks in particular gave me a welcome new lens (or three) through which I could view my work as a technology coach. I guess if I had a regret, it would be that we did not complete more hands-on Maker projects like week two. I believe a course designed around such work, while definitely less academic than what I accomplished in CEP811, would add a wealth of great ideas and tools to my practice. In fact, “more hands-on, in general” would have to be my best recommendation for improving a course titled “Adapting Innovative Technology to Education.”
Bajec, R. (Photographer). (2008). Graffiti text [Photo], Retrieved October 30, 2013, from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9389988@N04/4017721160/sizes/m/in/photolist-782Swu-7dbcRi-7qeCoG-e2188k-e26JQY-8wxRCc-8wASfQ-e216Sk-e218Ti-e26LcS-e26KrW-e218En-e217br-e217ur-8Vx5aG-8Vx53d-eShvuu-e3i3L2-7Vhtzw-a77RFD-bx93A5-bG7QxB-eS669R-eS641H-eS6kDr-eShS3h-eSipyo-9Dpkk7-9DjumZ-eS6fTi-eS6vx2-9D9ZzG-9DjtwV-eS6Mn6-9DjC8F-eS6GTZ-eS6NkZ-9Djuep-9DiTY1-eS6aFZ-eS6wzp-eShP47-eS6KKz-9Dpjom-eShTAY-eSi5v1-eS6SxZ-9D5NLP-9Dmq5i-9DeQGg-eShtgo/
Culkin, J. M. (1967). A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan. The Saturday Review, 50 (11). Retrieved from http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1967mar18-00051