Making Teachers Into Makers

The MakeShop team recently hosted a teacher professional development workshop at the  Regional Arts Education Day.  Our main goal was to engage teachers in the design process to explore different ways that it can be applied, specifically how it can be applied to classrooms and instructional planning.

The teachers were briefed on what exactly the MakeShop is and what it strives to do.  We also described our model of the design process.  This process includes ideation, prototyping, iteration and prototyping.

Once we presented our design process model, we challenged the teachers to put that process into practice.  We provided them with a set of materials (a battery holder, two AA batteries and a small project motor). Their challenge was to use these materials to motorize an object that could move in a recognizable path.

It was up to the teachers to figure out everything: how to make the motor spin, what to attach it to, what they wanted it to do, etc.  Some of the teachers got started on creating right away.  Others were visibly frustrated with the lack of instruction and were having trouble wrapping their minds around such an open-ended project.   Some simple advice and hints from the MakeShop team was all it really took to turn that initial frustration into empowerment.

We encouraged the teachers to set their own goals, to work as a team, to share/steal ideas, to experiment…to have fun.  There were no “right” or “wrong” answers.  It was still important to ask questions, but the answers to those questions had to be discovered through experimentation and prototyping.

The motorized projects that the teachers created were phenomenal.  Some met the challenge to motorize objects, others made spinning pieces of art or had fun trying to create on/off switches for the motor.  They were teachers, but were acting very much like students.

When they were done building (most didn’t want to stop), we had the teachers reflect on their projects and the processes they used while creating them.  One of the questions that we asked was if they liked the lack of instructions. We had several teachers comment on the fact that they appreciated having the opportunity to explore and tinker without strict direction.   We received comments about the use of collaboration to solve problems and how simple encouragement is sometimes better than providing direct answers.  We also discussed how this sort of prototype process could work in the classroom.  The reflection aspect of the workshop brought about some great discussion.

We had a lot of fun leading this workshop and we greatly enjoyed the time that we spent with the teachers.  We learned a lot and hope that the teachers did, too!

Thanks to all the teachers who attended.  We had a great time with all of you!


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