Art Makerspaces: An Action Research Proposal

Introduction

As schools become more driven by high-stakes testing, opportunities for students to learn through creative experimentation begin to disappear to make room for more skills drilling and test preparation. Related arts class time is slashed or programs are sacrificed, completely; scheduling time for electives gets bumped to make room for study skills classes and remedial programs to help students with lower test scores, and funding for fine arts programs get cut in favor of programs designed to raise test scores. And yet, research shows consistently that students who have access to robust creative learning opportunities, like fine arts programs, arts inclusion, and project-based learning typically score better on standardized testing, and develop skills that make them better prepared for college and the workplace, as well.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of an art makerspace on the core subject learning of students in a high school setting. The specific question is how will my students use an art makerspace to synthesize and communicate their understanding of core subject concepts, and will this process affect their success as learners in those core subjects? How can creative learning in art solidify understanding in other subjects? And how can this data be used to promote more robust arts programs in other schools?

Importance of the Study

As an art teacher, I see the benefit of arts programs every day. I see students applying complex mathematical, scientific, engineering, and linguistic concepts to create art. I know my students benefit from the applied nature of creating meaningful works of art, but at the same time, I also see student access to arts programs getting cut everywhere in favor of more testing. I would like to prove that promoting creative learning opportunities through art programs benefits the whole school by giving students an opportunity to apply what they learn in a tangible way that they can use to communicate understanding. I chose an art makerspace as a setting because makerspaces are becoming more popular as schools try to put creative learning back into their curricula. Makerspaces are not often found in art classrooms, and are often associated primarily with STEM learning, only, which I find counterintuitive because what is an art classroom but a kind of makerspace? Arts programs often do not receive funding for the technology associated with makerspaces, which again I find frustrating because artists have historically been found creating on the cutting edge of technology. Leonardo daVinci is known for creating sketches so technologically advanced for the late 1400s/ early 1500s that they could not be fully understood at the time, and are impressive even today. Joseph Marie Jacquard created a loom in the early 1800s to blend colored threads together to make complex color patterns in tapestries using only a few colors of thread in a way that eventually led to the modern computer pixel. Edward Muybridge developed moving pictures in the early 20th century by finding a way to view a sequence of still pictures in succession, very quickly. Artist Leo Villarreal is currently using both LED lights and projected images to create art installations that surround the viewer with surreal experiences that border on virtual reality. Because artists are innovative and experimental by nature, they are constantly pushing the envelope in the realm of technology, so why is it that art programs are often the last places to find technology in a school? I would like for this study to shine a light on the necessity of art programs that are robust in funding, time, and access to technology so students can create in ways that will prepare them for the creative world they will be living in.

Definition of terms

A makerspace is a shared creative space in which participants learn through collaborative making. Though makerspaces are really nothing new, they have gained popularity in schools, universities, libraries, and even prison education centers as places for students to learn in a hands-on manner that mimics the workplace. In my study, the makerspace will be a mashup between the popular STEM-heavy makerspace and an artist’s studio.

Review of Literature

Makerspaces Promote Authentic, Interdisciplinary Learning
Makerspaces are interdisciplinary. Just as workers combine disciplines to do their work, students in a makerspace combine knowledge from many disciplines to work on a project. Martinez and Stager (2013) argue that the artificial compartmentalizing of subject disciplines work against students by forcing them to learn subjects in a vacuum, when in reality, in the real world, a problem would likely involve multiple disciplines. Peppler and Bender (2013) also discuss how the cross-curricular learning found in makerspaces contrast with traditional learning settings in which core classroom material is isolated by subject. Currently, makerspaces are working well in schools because they do provide innumerable academic benefits, and allow for a space to be set up for students to use as class schedules allow (Lou, 2016.) Makerspaces also provide students a way to cover academic skills and subject content in a way that is learner-centered and personalized (Martin, 2015). By combining subject matter into interdisciplinary, authentic learning experiences, students must understand the material on a deeper level and see its relationship to other subjects in a real-world scenario, making learning more relevant to the students.

Makerspaces Offer Skills for the Future Workplace

Makerspaces also offer a learning environment that mimics the workplace. Students must understand concepts on a deeper level because they are synthesizing what they are learning and applying it to a task. This method of learning mimics the way adults learn on the job in the workplace, so the skills learned in the makerspace will ready students for college and work. While some claim that they are just an educational fad, research points to more substantial benefits. Education researcher Mark Fraudenfelder found that students who learn in a hands-on, experiential way do as well or better than students who learn in more traditional classrooms (Fraudenfelder, 2010). The use of design thinking, service learning, and 21st century skills are core attributes of makerspace learning. Design thinking is a problem-solving framework in which students must research a problem, empathize with those affected by the problem, create prototypes of solutions to these problems, and then perfect the solutions through trial and error until they reach the solution that works best. Schools that have implemented design thinking are seeing that the process, structure, growth mindset, and practice of reflection of design thinking affects students’ attitudes toward learning in other areas. In fact, many of the skills students gain from makerspaces, such as cognitive flexibility, decision-making, and complex problem solving skills are skills that are listed in the Future Jobs Report Top 10 (Busch, 2017). Makerspaces also promote creativity, which is a workplace quality that is highly sought after, but is becoming troublingly less common in our students (Gray, 2012).

Makerspaces Promote Collaboration and Ownership

Traditional, standardized instruction leaves many students feeling disenfranchised.  Stephan Abram points out that dropout rates are often tied to literacy skills and loss of interest in schoolwork, and that boys make up a higher number of dropouts than girls.  He also points out the disconnect between female students and involvement in STEM fields, as well as the lower interest of creative students in core academics (Abram, 2005).   Makerspaces, on the other hand, provide rigorous learning experiences tailor made to each student’s interests.  Children differentiate their own instruction through choices of learning topics, making materials, and their own creative choices as the final product is entirely up to each learner.  Teachers provide options based on specific learning objectives or essential questions that need to be covered (Gerstein, 2016).  This allows students to pursue things they’re most interested in while also covering skills and concepts required by the school.  This works to boost student engagement because people enjoy following their passions.  David Loertscher points to Google’s rule for its employees called the 80/20 rule.  All employees are required to spend 80 percent of their work hours doing tasks that have been assigned, but they are also required to spend 20 percent of their work hours on “passion projects” — projects of the employee’s own choosing.  The value of personal interest in work is not lost on Google, and should absolutely be harnessed in the name of creating a love of learning  (Loertscher, et. al., 2014).  Makerspace time can improve student engagement by tying academic skills to things students care about — games, robots, apps, art, fashion, and more.  For example, a reluctant reader may not want to pick up a novel, but might sit down with books to learn coding in order to fly a drone,  or to move a robot through a maze.   However, Shirin Vossoughi, Paula K. Hooper, and Meg Escudé point out the lack of support for minority and special needs learners in the larger maker movement, which is unfortunate, given that the research on makerspaces overwhelmingly supports their many educational, social, and emotional benefits for all students  (Vossoughi, et.al., 2016).  It seems that more makerspaces in minority and low-income communities would improve academic achievement in the schools that need it the most.

The collaborative nature of the Makerspace also provides students with opportunities to learn valuable interpersonal skills that are necessary in the workforce.  Because Makerspaces are shared spaces, collaboration is a must.  Makerspaces also require students to move beyond their comfort zones, to try new things, to make mistakes, and to try again (Barniskis, 2014).

Makerspaces require students to develop a different mindset than that of the traditional classroom.  This growth mindset promotes curiosity, open-mindedness, focus, innovation, creative problem-solving, reflection, and resilience (Claxton, 2007), (Kurti, et. al., 2014;).  But operating a makerspace requires a change of mindset for teachers, as well.  Our role as educators changes in the Makerspace from the dispenser of knowledge to a collaborator, or “lead learner” making discoveries (and quite often, mistakes) along with our students (Rufo, 2013).  Quality professional development is necessary to support teachers, many of whom grew up  and were trained in more traditional classroom settings, as they adjust to a more learner-directed teaching style (Gerstein, 2016).

Makerspaces Are Made For The Art Classroom

Art classrooms are known for being creative spaces, and are often filled with traditional art materials, such as paint, clay, and printmaking tools. They are not often known for adding technology to the mix, even though artists have often pushed the technology envelope in ways that others couldn’t. It would make sense to include creative technology in art classrooms. Cathy Hunt (2016) argues that access to technology as part of students’ “creative tool box” and a “flexible, experimental, and mixed-media approach” is vital to preparing students for the future. She also points out that technology offers a portable platform for ideation, reflection, documentation, and sharing of student work.
The art classroom employs many of the same sought-after skill sets as the makerspace: creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, cognitive flexibility, as well as design-thinking and growth mindset. A choice-based art program would especially draw out those skills in students, and as student-centered learning becomes more popular, art education models like TAB-Choice and Project-Based Learning are becoming more popular (Douglas, K. and Jacquith, D., 2009). As art classrooms employ these models, they become very much like low-tech makerspaces. The next logical step would be to add makerspace-style technology options to the mix, like Makey-Makeys, Sphero Bots, and Chibitronics, conductive paint, LED lights, and copper tape, and document student understanding before, during, and after a semester of working with an art makerspace.

Conclusion

Makerspaces, once thought of as a great way to implement STEM learning, are gaining in popularity because of their myriad educational benefits in other academic fields.  Makerspaces promote inter-disciplinary, authentic learning, 21st Century workforce skills, as well as collaboration and ownership of students’ own work.  Though makerspaces are not found in many art programs, it would seem to be a good fit, since art is all about making and working artists tend to innovate with technology, as well as traditional art media.  I would like to create an art makerspace in my school as part of my innovation plan, and I hope to employ this research in my plan.

Methodology


Participants
My study will observe three Art I classes with high-school level students in grades eight through eleven. Each class will contain around 30 students. Currently, I am unaware of my schedule for next year. My classes may contain mixed grade levels, or may be separated by grade level. These will all be first year art students for certain, with mixed socioeconomic status, in a public charter school. Some students will have IEPs and some are English learners. The school is located within a lower middle-class commmunity, with students coming from middle-, lower-middle class and poor families. Many of my students come from Hispanic- or Vietnamese-speaking households. The school is on a modified block schedule. There will be 40 minute classes on most days, with a 2 hour block on Wednesdays.
Materials
Students will be working in a choice-based art classroom with stations set up with traditional art materials. They will have access to a sketching and drawing station, water media station, a painting area with acrylic paints and supplies, a printmaking area with various types of printmaking materials, and a technology space with tablets and creative technology items, such as LED lights, conductive paints and threads, small motors, and more. Students will document their work in a digital portfolio using the Bulb app. Students will have free choice of all art materials once each area has been made available after students watch a short demonstration of materials.

Procedure
The study will be a 9-week study beginning the fall of 2017. The data collection will include both formative and summative assessments. Students of all grade levels in all five of my Art I classes will be given a 10-question pre-test on important concepts from their core subject areas. A comparable 10-question test will be given midway through and at the end of the course that will show progress in understanding of core subject concepts. Questions for this assessment will come from the California basic skills requirements for graduation. The secondary data set will come from a survey that includes anecdotal analysis of their projects. These assessments will be used to create a baseline data set for evaluating core subject matter understanding in my three classes who have access to the art makerspace as well as the 2 classes that do not.

Analysis
The data collected in my study will be analyzed for evidence showing the rate of change in core subject matter understanding. It will also be compared to the survey data about the way that students interacted with core subject matter in their makerspace projects. I will be looking for what role core subjects played in artwork created in the art makerspace.

 

 

References

Abram, Stephen. (2015 Jan/Feb). Real Makerspaces in School Libraries. Internet@Schools,
22(1), 10-11.Busch, L. (2017). How should we measure the impact of Makerspaces? Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-01-09-how-should-we-measure-the-impact-of-makerspaces.

Barniskis, Shannon C. (2014). STEAM: Science and Art Meet in Rural Library Makerspaces. In iConference 2014 Proceedings, 834–837.

Claxton, Guy. (2007 June). Expanding Young People’s Capacity to Learn. British Journal of
Educational Studies, 55(2), 115-134.

Douglas, K., and Jaquith, D., (2009). Engaging learners through artmaking: choice-based Art education in the classroom, 1st Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Gerstein, Jackie. (2016, Oct). Becoming a Maker Educator. Techniques: Connecting Education
& Careers, 91(7), 14-19.Gray, P., (2012). As children’s freedom has declined, so has their creativity. [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://www.peedeekay.com/OotM.pdf

Hunt, C., (2016, February). Mobile Devices in Visual Art. Journal, Art Education Association of Western Australia. Retrieved from http://www.ipadartroom.com/visual-art-education-journal-western-australia/

Loertscher, David V., Preddy, L., & Derry, B. (2013, Dec). Makerspaces in the School Library

Lou, Nicole. (2016, Mar/Apr). Rise of the Makerspace. Popular Science, 288(2), 88-88.

Martin, Lee. (2015). The Promise of the Maker Movement for Education. Journal of
Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 5(1), 30-39.

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing modern knowledge press.

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2014, July 21). The maker movement: A learning revolution. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=106

Peppler, K., & Bender, S.. (2013). Maker movement spreads innovation one project at a time. The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(3), 22–27. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23611809

Rufo, David. (2013). bUzZ: a guide to authentic and joyful creative learning. Power and
Education, 5(2), www.wwwords.co.uk/POWER.

Vossoughi,Shirin,  Hooper, Paula K., and Escudé, Meg. (2016).  Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity. Harvard Educational Review: Summer 86(2), 206-232.

 

Makerspaces In The Art Room? Yes, please!

Makerspaces are quickly becoming regular features in classrooms and libraries across the United States.  Their popularity is due to increased attention to project-based learning and personalized learning models, and the successes of such programs have proven time and time again that students gain deeper understanding of concepts when given some time and freedom to discover things on their own.  However, increased pressure to teach standards-based, test-driven, and/or packaged curricula have made it difficult or impossible for schools to offer unstructured learning time for fear of not covering mandatory learning objectives at the prescribed pace set out by those who assess the schools.  Since these assessments are often tied to funding and staffing, many schools are unwilling to take a chance on programs like makerspaces, despite the fact that research points to huge educational gains for student learning in core subjects.

Art class is one of the last places in a school where students can still learn through self-directed, creative experimentation.  In fact, what is an art classroom but a sort of makerspace?  However, the makerspace movement tends to be technology-driven, at least partly, and art classrooms are some of the last spaces that will receive funding for technology.  Why is that, when some of the most innovative uses of technology in the modern day are driven by artists, and we’re supposed to be preparing students for the future job market?  It just makes sense that the art classroom would be a place where technology and makerspace models would exist.  I hope, through my research, to shine some light on the many educational benefits of bringing makerspaces into existing art programs.

Makerspaces Promote Authentic, Interdisciplinary Learning

Makerspaces are interdisciplinary.  Just as workers combine disciplines to do their work, students in a makerspace combine knowledge from many disciplines to work on a project.  Martinez and Stager (2013) argue that the artificial compartmentalizing of subject disciplines work against students by forcing them to learn subjects in a vacuum, when in reality, in the real world, a problem would likely involve multiple disciplines.  Peppler and Bender (2013) also discuss how the cross-curricular learning found in makerspaces contrast with traditional learning settings in which core classroom material is isolated by subject.  Currently, makerspaces are working well in schools because they do provide innumerable academic benefits, and allow for a space to be set up for students to use as class schedules allow (Lou, 2016.)  Makerspaces also provide students a way to cover academic skills and subject content in a way that is learner-centered and personalized (Martin, 2015).   By combining subject matter into interdisciplinary, authentic learning experiences, students must understand the material on a deeper level and see its relationship to other subjects in a real-world scenario, making learning more relevant to the students.

Makerspaces Offer Skills for the Future Workplace

Makerspaces also offer a learning environment that mimics the workplace.  Students must understand concepts on a deeper level because they are synthesizing what they are learning and applying it to a task.  This method of learning mimics the way adults learn on the job in the workplace, so the skills learned in the makerspace will ready students for college and work.  Education researcher Mark Fraudenfelder found that students who learn in a hands-on, experiential way do as well or better than students who learn in more traditional classrooms (Fraudenfelder, 2010).  The use of design thinking, service learning, and 21st century skills are core attributes of makerspace learning.  Design thinking is a problem-solving framework in which students must research a problem, empathize with those affected by the problem, create prototypes of solutions to these problems, and then perfect the solutions through trial and error until they reach the solution that works best.  Schools that have implemented design thinking are seeing that the process, structure, growth mindset, and practice of reflection of design thinking affects students’ attitudes toward learning in other areas.  In fact, many of the skills students gain from makerspaces, such as cognitive flexibility, decision-making, and complex problem solving skills are skills that are listed in the Future Jobs Report Top 10 (Busch, 2017).   Makerspaces also promote creativity, which is a workplace quality that is highly sought after, but is becoming troublingly less common in our students (Gray, 2012).

Makerspaces Promote Collaboration and Ownership

Traditional, standardized instruction leaves many students feeling disenfranchised.  Stephan Abram points out that dropout rates are often tied to literacy skills and loss of interest in schoolwork, and that boys make up a higher number of dropouts than girls.  He also points out the disconnect between female students and involvement in STEM fields, as well as the lower interest of creative students in core academics (Abram, 2005).   Makerspaces, on the other hand, provide rigorous learning experiences tailor made to each student’s interests.  Children differentiate their own instruction through choices of learning topics, making materials, and their own creative choices as the final product is entirely up to each learner.  Teachers provide options based on specific learning objectives or essential questions that need to be covered (Gerstein, 2016).  This allows students to pursue things they’re most interested in while also covering skills and concepts required by the school.  This works to boost student engagement because people enjoy following their passions.  David Loertscher points to Google’s rule for its employees called the 80/20 rule.  All employees are required to spend 80 percent of their work hours doing tasks that have been assigned, but they are also required to spend 20 percent of their work hours on “passion projects” — projects of the employee’s own choosing.  The value of personal interest in work is not lost on Google, and should absolutely be harnessed in the name of creating a love of learning  (Loertscher, et. al., 2014).  Makerspace time can improve student engagement by tying academic skills to things students care about — games, robots, apps, art, fashion, and more.  For example, a reluctant reader may not want to pick up a novel, but might sit down with books to learn coding in order to fly a drone,  or to move a robot through a maze.   However, Shirin Vossoughi, Paula K. Hooper, and Meg Escudé point out the lack of support for minority and special needs learners in the larger maker movement, which is unfortunate, given that the research on makerspaces overwhelmingly supports their many educational, social, and emotional benefits for all students  (Vossoughi, et.al., 2016).  It seems that more makerspaces in minority and low-income communities would improve academic achievement in the schools that need it the most.

The collaborative nature of the Makerspace also provides students with opportunities to learn valuable interpersonal skills that are necessary in the workforce.  Because Makerspaces are shared spaces, collaboration is a must.  Makerspaces also require students to move beyond their comfort zones, to try new things, to make mistakes, and to try again (Barniskis, 2014).

Makerspaces require students to develop a different mindset than that of the traditional classroom.  This growth mindset promotes curiosity, open-mindedness, focus, innovation, creative problem-solving, reflection, and resilience (Claxton, 2007), (Kurti, et. al., 2014;).  But operating a makerspace requires a change of mindset for teachers, as well.  Our role as educators changes in the Makerspace from the dispenser of knowledge to a collaborator, or “lead learner” making discoveries (and quite often, mistakes) along with our students (Rufo, 2013).  Quality professional development is necessary to support teachers, many of whom grew up  and were trained in more traditional classroom settings, as they adjust to a more learner-directed teaching style (Gerstein, 2016).

Makerspaces Are Made For The Art Room

Art classrooms are known for being creative spaces, and are often filled with traditional art materials, such as paint, clay, and printmaking tools.  They are not often known for adding technology to the mix, even though artists have often pushed the technology envelope in ways that others couldn’t.  For example, Edward Muybridge was using multiple still cameras with triggers to capture motion pictures before movies were invented, and Joseph Marie Jacquard created the idea of pixelation using colored threads and a loom almost two centuries before computers were invented.  It would make sense to include creative technology in art classrooms.  Cathy Hunt (2016) argues that access to technology as part of students’ “creative tool box” and a “flexible, experimental, and mixed-media approach” is vital to preparing students for the future.  She also points out that technology offers a portable platform for ideation, reflection, documentation, and sharing of student work.

The art classroom employs many of the same sought-after skill sets as the makerspace:  creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, cognitive flexibility, as well as design-thinking and growth mindset.  A choice-based art program would especially draw out those skills in students, and as student-centered learning becomes more popular, art education models like TAB-Choice and Project-Based Learning are becoming more popular (Douglas, K. and Jacquith, D., 2009).  As art classrooms employ these models, they become very much like low-tech makerspaces.  The next logical step would be to add makerspace-style technology options to the mix, like Makey-Makeys, Sphero Bots, and Chibitronics, conductive paint, LED lights, and copper tape.

Conclusion

Makerspaces, once thought of as a great way to implement STEM learning, are gaining in popularity because of their myriad educational benefits in other academic fields.  Makerspaces promote inter-disciplinary, authentic learning, 21st Century workforce skills, as well as collaboration and ownership of students’ own work.  Though makerspaces are not found in many art programs, it would seem to be a good fit, since art is all about making and working artists tend to innovate with technology, as well as traditional art media.  I would like to create an art makerspace in my school as part of my innovation plan, and I hope to employ this research in my plan.

 

Resources:

Abram, Stephen. (2015 Jan/Feb). Real Makerspaces in School Libraries. Internet@Schools,

22(1), 10-11.Busch, L. (2017). How should we measure the impact of Makerspaces?  Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-01-09-how-should-we-measure-the-impact-of-makerspaces.

Barniskis, Shannon C. (2014). STEAM: Science and Art Meet in Rural Library Makerspaces. In iConference 2014 Proceedings, 834–837.

Claxton, Guy. (2007 June). Expanding Young People’s Capacity to Learn. British Journal of

Educational Studies, 55(2), 115-134.

Douglas, K., and Jaquith, D.,  (2009). Engaging learners through artmaking:  choice-based Art education in the classroom, 1st Edition.  New York, NY:  Teachers College Press.

Gerstein, Jackie. (2016, Oct). Becoming a Maker Educator. Techniques: Connecting Education

& Careers, 91(7), 14-19.Gray, P., (2012). As children’s freedom has declined, so has their creativity. [Web log post].  Retrieved from: http://www.peedeekay.com/OotM.pdf

Hunt, C., (2016, February).  Mobile Devices in Visual Art.  Journal, Art Education Association of Western Australia.  Retrieved from http://www.ipadartroom.com/visual-art-education-journal-western-australia/

Loertscher, David V., Preddy, L., & Derry, B. (2013, Dec). Makerspaces in the School Library

Lou, Nicole. (2016, Mar/Apr). Rise of the Makerspace. Popular Science, 288(2), 88-88.

Martin, Lee. (2015). The Promise of the Maker Movement for Education. Journal of

Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 5(1), 30-39.

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing modern knowledge press.

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2014, July 21). The maker movement: A learning revolution. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=106

Peppler, K., & Bender, S.. (2013). Maker movement spreads innovation one project at a time. The Phi Delta Kappan95(3), 22–27. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23611809

Rufo, David. (2013). bUzZ: a guide to authentic and joyful creative learning. Power and

Education, 5(2), www.wwwords.co.uk/POWER.

Vossoughi,Shirin,  Hooper, Paula K., and Escudé, Meg. (2016).  Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity. Harvard Educational Review: Summer 86(2), 206-232.

 

The Art Makerspace — An Action Research Plan

Artists have always pushed the envelope with technology.  Cave artists experimented with natural pigments to create beautifully colored paintings on rocks.  Leonardo diVinci used art to record his ideas for inventions that were beyond what could actually have been built at the time he invented them.  Artists like Tim Hawkinson,Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Jenny Holzer use technology to create art installations that interact with the environment around them, spotlighting the connection between humans and tech.  One of my favorites is Tim Hawkinson’s “Emotor” installation, in which a giant face — his own face, reproduced in large, moveable pieces, — reacted to a television screen through light-sensing diodes. You can check it out here:

Unfortunately, when it comes to technology integration, arts classrooms tend to get left out.  My innovation plan is to put more technology into the art classroom through an art makerspace in my school, thus giving more tools to students for creating art, but also allowing them to better understand core subject learning (especially STEAM) through creating art.

My fundamental research question is “how will an art makerspace promote deeper core subject learning in a school?” I think I will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.  I think that my quantitative data will come from the actual results of time spent in the makerspaces — the projects, themselves and demonstration of learning objective understanding.  I would also use qualitative data from student reflection pieces and artistic statements, because sometimes understanding isn’t as evident in the work as it is in the process of doing the work.  I will need to look ahead in my research to ensure that the data I collect throughout the project will ensure that I get the information I need later on to ensure that I understand whether the project is working or not.

The focus of my literature review is on makerspaces in school and public library settings, but also I will be looking at some makerspaces in art programs, as well as some choice-based art programs such as TAB-Choice and Montessori that work sort of like makerspaces by allowing students to choose how and what they want to create to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.  I have found some great crossovers between the makerspace movement and choice-based art programs, and right in the middle there are some cool teachers like Tim Needles who have amazing art makerspace programs.  I am looking for connections between making and deeper understanding.

The most appropriate type of data to collect will be qualitative, although I will need to have some quantitative data, as well.  There will be two measurable data sets.  One will be a student survey and the second will be a teacher analysis of students use of core subject matter within the artworks.  The student evaluations will provide anecdotes and qualitative data that can be compared to the teacher analysis and qualitative data in each student’s project evaluation.  Both the student and teacher evaluations will ask students and teachers to quantify the amount of core subject understanding that occurred during the ideation and creation of the artwork.

Part of the problem, though, is that I am moving to an entirely new school, and a lot of what i will be doing is still unclear.  I do know that students will have access to the makerspace in my art classroom, but they will also have additional time to come in during what’s called a “personalization time,” where students can visit any teacher they want to work on whatever they need.  I know we have limited access to devices (!!!) and I am going to try and get some iPads so I can implement the digital framework the way I wanted to, but that I may need to find other ways to collect student data.  I also don’t know what the expectations are for me as a teacher — for example, I was given a form to fill out for my fall exam, but I have traditionally done a portfolio review in place of a written exam for my high school courses, so I may need to restructure how I want to assess student progress.  Whatever I do, I want my innovation plan and the structure of my course to fit together so that I’m not chasing a whole bunch of different kinds of data around and get distracted when the demand for data in one or the other area ramps up (like when grades are due.)  I really want to make it all fit together elegantly.

Photo/Video Credits:  Tim Hawkinson, PBS Art:21

Hello, World! Making learning mobile with technology

This week, I am presenting at iPadpalooza in Austin, TX.  It’s a great 3-day conference full of amazing ideas about the best applications of EdTech in our classrooms.  Every session has been amazing, and there are some cool special events, too!  I am having a blast learning and networking with teachers who are doing really innovative things in their schools.

My presentation is about making learning mobile by using technology to take learning out of the classroom and into the world.  This concept is not my own — some people call it learning expeditions, mobile learning, outdoor classrooms, etc…  but it is an idea that I promote wholeheartedly, and I hope to see more schools embracing opportunities to get out of classrooms and into the community.  As a public artist, I like to get out into the community a lot and collaborate with people in the community to create meaningful things.  I think students ought to be doing the same with their work.  If work doesn’t have relevance outside school, it probably isn’t that meaningful to the student, right?  Everyone wants to do work that matters.

Most field trips are about consuming content created by other people.  Students listen to a talk, watch a demonstration, see a film, read the museum placards, etc… but really don’t interact with the space that much.  It’s fun, and it’s exciting, but how much do students actually learn?  In a learning expedition, students may consume some content at the beginning of the visit, but spend most of their time exploring, discovering, experimenting, and really learning in an authentic way; then create things to share what they learned with other people.

A learning expedition starts with a Big Idea.  This idea is something like, “hey, why don’t we go to the art gallery?”  Why do we want to go to this place?   What can this place teach us?  What is the “big idea” of this place?  That will be the hook to get students (and administrators!) on board with this plan.

Next, we figure out our Learning Goals.  What, specifically are we going to learn at the museum?  These goals can be something from your state standards, or could be other learning objectives or skills.  It is important to pick 2-3 strong learning goals for this trip to plan your visit around.  We will use these goals to create Guiding Questions to ask our students as they discover on their own.  These questions will guide them to learn what we want them to, but they’re going to do it on their own.  Students will refer to these questions throughout the Exploration phase, when they really interact with the space to discover what they can learn from it.  While some front-loading of information may be necessary, the idea of a learning expedition is to keep passive learning to a minimum and have students actively learning through collaboration, experimentation, and figuring things out on their own.  Once students have the answers to the Guiding Questions, they will Create something to share what they’ve learned with the public.  It is best to give students a choice in how and what they create, for many reasons I will discuss in a minute.  The idea is to let students decide how to share what they know.  Eventually, their work will be shared with the rest of the world (or the greater school community) through some sort of Exhibition, be it digital or in person.

 

Giving students a choice in the form their work takes and the way they create it is so important.  It gives students:

  • the opportunity to speak in their own voice
  • agency in their learning
  • ownership of their work
  • coping skills
  • critical thinking
  • self-reliance
  • opportunities to share their passions
  • and so many more reasons!

When we tell students how and what to create, we rob them of their voice.  The work is no longer truly theirs… they’re doing OUR work.  This leads to lower engagement and less meaningful work.  Giving students some choice (even just a few options) gives them a chance to really own both their learning process and the products of their learning, so I highly recommend not specifying one form for the work to take.

Students, like adults, want to do work that is meaningful, relevant, and that reflects their passions.  Learning expeditions are a way to give students the opportunity to learn like adults do, and to create work that means something beyond just getting a grade.  I’m really looking forward to presenting this concept at iPadpalooza tomorrow!

 

Talking About Change

Change is hard. I think this sentence was actually the first sentence in my last blog post, but I wanted to add to that by saying that change is hard, but bringing about change is even harder. Being the person who first acknowledges the need for change, then comes up with a plan for change, then has to actually sell the idea for change and convince others to do work in order to make change happen… well, that’s just bonkers.

Except, it’s really not. Our world depends on change. Humans need change to thrive. Change brought us everything from fire to the wheel to agriculture, to the Industrial revolution, to the Internet. Every one of those ideas began with someone saying, “gee, there ought to be a better way to do things.” And pretty much every one of those people was met with at least one person telling them their idea was crazy (especially the person who first came up with the idea for cheese.) 

Opposition is a natural part of change-making, but it crushes brilliant ideas all the time. In order to move beyond opposition and into the exciting work of creating change, we’ve got to learn to cope with opposition. But once we’re there, we can’t stop; we also have to learn to think through all the potential problems and get out in front of them, prevent apathy and laziness from setting in, and encourage continual growth so that the plan reaches maturity. Making change is not for the weak of heart!

Last year, I became an Apple Distinguished Educator. Part of this program meant that I needed to do some kind of project to bring change to my school. I knew my school was trying to embrace Project-Based Learning, so I came up with this huge project for my school to create a history book about our school’s neighborhood, which is the most historically-rich, but most under-appreciated part of town. I was so proud of myself for coming up with such an exciting plan, and I was sure all the teachers would be excited, too. Then I presented the plan. Maybe half the teachers showed any kind of interest. And then I sent out emails and examples of potential classroom projects that could work for our book, and I got maybe a few contributions that weren’t really what I was looking for. And within a short time, teachers were bad-mouthing me and my project because just who do I think I am giving them extra things to do? By this point, I had no idea what to do, so I gave up on the project, even though both my school principal and my Apple friends urged me not to. It was already too difficult keeping up with my regular responsibilities as a traveling art teacher to try to get every teacher on board, and I certainly did not want to negatively affect my relationship with teachers at the school, when I’m already sort of an “outsider” by being only in the building part-time.

I think that, had I had been a student in the EDLD program at Lamar prior to trying to launch this project, things would have been much more successful! First of all, I had a fantastic idea for my project, but I learned in EDLD 5305 that I also needed an Innovation Plan. Just coming up with a great idea for a project and waiting for everyone to jump on board and make it happen is never going to work out. But in 5304, we have also been learning about how to address the psycho-social aspects of change, and that is just as important as having a really well-thought out and exciting plan.

Though my history book project is now on the back burner, I will revisit it someday. My current project is to create a Makerspace at Edgewood Elementary School. I started by creating my “Why Statement,” which uses Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” method for communicating the importance of a goal. My current Innovation Plan is already in its early stages of progress, and I am working through my Launch Plan to ensure that not only do I roll out my project to my teachers in such a way that I empower them as facilitators through this plan, but I am also learning the best ways to talk to my teachers about this plan in order to ensure success throughout the lifespan of this project. I used both the Influencer and 4DX Models to come up with a Launch Plan to plan the stages of the launch from before the launch to the time when the project has become part of our daily routine. This plan will help us plan our goals, measure progress, and leverage actions to ensure that progress without getting bogged down by ineffective measures, apathy, and the whirlwind of other tasks that tend to get in the way of progress.

Through studying the book, Crucial Conversations, I am learning how to craft conversations that will come up throughout the lifespan of this project. Through this book, I am seeing the many errors that led to the failure of my history book project, such as the “fool’s choice” of not feeling like I was important enough to speak up for my project (“who are you, art teacher, to give us extra work?!?!”) to knowing how to read sabotage as something that comes from fear of trying something new instead of something more personal. This time, I will keep those things in mind, and I am not afraid to speak up for this project, because I know it is what’s best for our students. I will also engage my teachers in more conversations that invite their perspective early on, so I can learn what it is about this project that excites them, confuses them, or makes them want to avoid talking about it. I now know how to turn those conversations around with honest dialogue about our ultimate goal — to provide better learning opportunities for our students — and to find better ways to address adverse responses. I need to create a safe place for each teacher to provide input, and I have also learned the most effective ways to circle back around with those conversations at a later date to check in and get a true read of each person’s participation, and not just settle for “it’s all good!” and a thumbs-up.

Though this was only a five-week course, I am already employing most of the things I have learned in this course, especially the Crucial Conversations. Though the application of this book in this course is geared more toward fulfilling our Innovation Plans, I find myself keeping the steps of Crucial Conversations in mind when talking with everyone (even my family!)

  • Get unstuck. — I tend to procrastinate when I need to have a crucial conversation, especially if it’s something I know I will get pushback from. I think other people get stuck, too, because they fear the conversation will not go well, or is a waste of time. We need to start by sharing information so we can all start from the same place.
  • Start with heart. — It is easy to see others as adversaries, but usually, we all want the same thing. Starting the conversation this way is a great way to ensure buy-in from the start. It’s always a relief to start out a high-stakes conversation knowing that you’re on the same team.
  • Learn to look — There are always signs that a conversation isn’t going the way you want, like when someone stops sharing and uses body language to communicate discomfort. This is a good time to bring them back into the conversation in a way that empowers them to share honestly.
  • Make it safe. — When other people feel safe to share (even if their idea isn’t a popular one,) they will contribute their perspectives to the conversation and be more likely to collaborate.
  • Master my stories. — We all have emotions. Negative emotions can turn positive communication astray and can make people stop feeling safe and collaborating. By mastering our own communication and setting anxiety aside, we can keep communication flowing in a positive manner.
  • State my path. — This is another one that I need to work on. I was raised to be a good, Southern woman, and my politeness and deference sometimes sabotages me in these communications by coming across as wishy-washiness. In this step, the speaker needs to speak in a way that is direct, but respectful. It is OK to state your goal.
  • Explore others’ paths. — By gaining others’ perspectives, you can steer the conversation in a positive direction, anticipate any problems ahead, and provide everyone in the conversation what they need to end the conversation with better understanding and cooperation.
  • Move to action. — This is the most exciting part of the conversation, because this is where the call to action happens. By this point, everyone has shared their perspectives, problems have been addressed, suggestions made, negative emotions set aside, and all team members have played an important role in the conversation. Everyone leaves the conversation with a clear picture of what to do, next.

It’s exciting to see my Innovation and Launch Plans taking shape and some of it already happening. As my school year winds down, I am excited to start preparing the behind-the-scenes parts of the project and preparing my team for the big launch in August!

References:

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York, NY: Free Press.

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. Columbus, OH: McGraw Hill.C

 

Influencer, 4DX, and the Edgewood Makerspace

Change is hard. If change were easy, all the world’s problems, like poverty, plant and animal extinction, racial injustice, climate change, and communicable diseases would be issues heard only in our history books. One would think, given all the headaches caused by these and other fixable or preventable problems, that getting people on board with change would be an easy sell, but the truth is that change is hard to bring about, even when people know why they, personally, need and can help bring about change.

Many have tried to tackle the idea of change and how to approach change in more successful ways. Joseph Granny’s book, Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change offers a great model that I used to create an Influencer Model for my project. This model helped me to spotlight key behaviors to change and sources of influence to tap into to create the change, but I still need to sort out how I will get my school on board with this plan.

Stage 1: Getting Clear

The change I am going to bring about is not as extreme as stopping climate change or saving the black rhino, but it is still a Wildly Important Goal. My WIG is for 100% of classroom teachers at Edgewood Elementary School to bring their students to the makerspace each week. This makerspace, outlined in my innovation plan, will address the need for more student-directed, collaborative learning opportunities in my school. In Covey’s Goal Setting Video (2012), both communication and accountability are underscored as being integral to the success of implementation of any project. I will communicate the goal clearly to my staff by providing a hands-on workshop during our back-to-school staff development in July, and we will then begin using collaborative documents to plan each group’s makerspace use and hold one another accountable for proper implementation of this program. As lead makerspace facilitator, I will be in charge of keeping the space stocked, co-planning makerspace experiences with teachers, and following up on all the collaborative documents to ensure that scheduling and planning is running smoothly.

Stage 2: Launch

Covey discusses the launch as being crucial to the continued commitment of all people involved (p.109). It should be an exciting time, and every person involved in the project should be focused and excited on the launch. The official launch of the Edgewood Makerspace Project will be a “Maker Day” during which the school will host an expo of local makers where students can interact with them, see things made locally and sold around the nation, and talk to makers about how they became inventors and producers of goods on their own. We will end the expo with an “unveiling” of the makerspace and some hands-on time for students to explore the space a little. This Maker Day will happen the first week of school, and by this point, teachers will have already planned the makerspace experiences for the first month of school, based on core and related arts learning objectives being covered in their classrooms. We will focus on “maker culture” learning /making experiences for the first two weeks of school, with student projects resulting in creating videos, artwork, and even music to reinforce maker culture throughout the year.

Stage 3: Adoption

After the launch, any project must be adopted by all those who are involved in it. This is the “make-or-break” time for any new venture. Either people take on this new idea and make it part of their new way of doing things, or they gradually slide back into the way they’ve always done them. I have seen so many great ideas fail at this point in my school system, but having started this project by using Joseph Grenny’s Six Sources of Influence (p. 28-34), it will be important to keep using those sources to keep our momentum throughout the life of the project.

Everybody wants to be part of a winning team. Covey recommends using a scoreboard to help everyone involved to see how the plan is progressing, easily spot areas where more effort could make a difference, and celebrate successes. My “scoreboard” will be in the form of a collaborative document that teachers will use for planning and reflecting on our makerspace activity, and also in rotating exhibits of great products made in our makerspace. Communicating our successes, plans to improve trouble spots, support those who struggle with the new plan, and showing off major wins will keep morale high and ensure that everyone works hard to ensure continued success. Improving morale overall will help lessen resistance from even the most reluctant team members.

Stage 4: Optimization

Once the project is in full swing, reflection is important to ensure that the project continues to grow and improve. In Covey’s book, this phase is called “optimization” (p.110). In Japan, there is a word for this — kaizen (改善). Many businesses use this term as a mantra to promote constant reflection and improvement; never settling for “good enough.” I will employ this idea throughout our makerspace team through short, weekly “WIG Meetings” and collaborative documents. We will check in with the scoreboards, discuss what’s working, plan changes for what isn’t, and quickly ensure that we’re all on the same page for the next week.

Stage 5: Habits

Both Covey and Grenny write about turning desired behaviors into habits to create continued success. I wrote about Grenny’s take on this in my last blog post. Covey takes this idea in a slightly different direction by focusing on combining accountability with shared ownership of the outcome, but I like that Covey spotlights the opportunity for continuous reflection and support for struggling team members.

The Four Disciplines of Execution

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important

As an art teacher and a technology coach, I have spent the last few years of my teaching career trying to balance two wildly different roles. On one hand, I teach art, and I provide some of the only hands-on, creative instruction time that the students receive. On the other hand, I am a technology coach, and an Apple Distinguished Educator. While working with my district to better implement technology integration into student learning, I see just how far we have to go to implement the kind of learning with technology that leads to better student engagement, deeper understanding, and retention of knowledge. Weirdly enough, I am also learning that students DO get more of that kind of learning experience (oftentimes without technology) through the arts. So my goal as an educator of both teachers and students has been to promote creation of educational content over consumption of it, in all disciplines, and to boost technology as a creative tool in the arts programs. However, being a traveling art teacher and part-time technology coach means that my “whirlwind” is already pretty chaotic, making it difficult to affect any change in my organization on a large scale. My WIG, to launch a makerspace that will be facilitated by a team of teachers and utilized by all classroom teachers, will make it possible to implement this kind of learning in one entire school, even on days that I am not there teaching art.

This makerspace, will be facilitated by a Maker Squad of myself, the school technologist, gifted teacher, and two Title I teachers. I will work with the Maker Squad to determine our Lag Measures. Lag measures are the measurable, ultimate goal of a project. If our Lag Measure is happening, we know our makerspace is a success. I will suggest that our Lag Measure should be something like, “100% of classes will spend at least 30 minutes a week in the makerspace in addition to fine arts courses.” I anticipate that the Maker Squad will agree with this Lag Measure, or make minor changes to it. Then, we will create a chart to use as a scoreboard to show each classroom’s makerspace use. Throughout the year, the Maker Squad will celebrate the successes and support the strugglers as need be to ensure we reach that goal.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead

In order to make this plan happen, we need to focus efforts on the lead measures that will move us closer to our goal. Lead measures are the catalysts that enact the changes we want. As a team, the Maker Squad will keep a close eye on the scoreboard to see what is working and what isn’t in getting all classes into the makerspace for at least 30 minutes a week. We will work with the strugglers to see what might be preventing them from taking classes to the makerspace, such as scheduling issues or pressure to spend that time on other initiatives with time quotas. We will work as a team with the teachers and the administration to find a solution such as trading makerspace time with another class, or finding another way to reach time quotas on other programs. We will also work with the classes who are doing great things in the makerspace to showcase their work and share how they are getting the most out of this space. We will meet as a team a few weeks after our launch at our first PLC meeting to see how the scheduling worked for the first couple weeks of school, and to start to identify potential issues and create our Lead Measures. We will also be using a collaborative planning document that will give teachers the ability to communicate with one another directly, as well as the Maker Squad, in order to stay focused in between meetings. That way, we can keep our meetings short and deal with many issues without having to call everyone together for a meeting. Our Lead Measures need to be predictive, influenceable, ongoing, quantifiable, and worth measuring. With these criteria in mind, we will be able to come up with Lead Measures that will be most effective at moving the scoreboard in the right direction.

Discipline 3: Create A Compelling Scoreboard

Teachers at this school are super competitive! Students are, as well. Scoreboards work very well to motivate both teachers and students at this school. The makerspace will have a very prominent spot right in the entrance of the school, with a big, glass wall to the school entrance and commons. Everyone who comes into our school will see our makerspace and this scoreboard, so it needs to be exciting! Our scoreboard will show our Wildly Important Goal, our lead and our lag measures. We will also have some space to showcase things created in the makerspace as additional inspiration for teachers and students to make the most of this space. Each time a class comes to the makerspace, they will be able to add a marker to the scoreboard, color coded to show the amount of time spent in the space. For instance, if a class came to the makerspace for a 40 minute slot, they would get a gold star. If a teacher brought a class in for only 30 minutes, they would get a red star. Each quarter, we would total up the time spent by each class in the makerspace, and the classes that met the goal would get a special makerspace activity to celebrate, like a collaborative makerspace with the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, or a special guest celebrity maker. Of course, photos of the events would be posted in the exhibit space and on the school website to encourage more participation.

Discipline 4: Create A Cadence of Accountability

If we’re going to make this makerspace happen, we’re going to have to hold each other accountable to keeping our plan moving along and not getting lost in the whirlwind. Because the elementary school day is so frenetic and teachers so beset with responsibilities, a weekly meeting would be impossible. We will need to depend on our collaborative planning document to get most of the planning done and save our meetings for a 20-minute chunk of our monthly PLC meetings. I think this will work as long as the Maker Squad makes an effort to check for activity on the collaborative document every day and follow up with teachers each week to ensure things are running smoothly. Since we will also see the teachers when they come to the makerspace, we will be able to see for ourselves how it’s going and add notes to the collaborative document to steer each group toward success. We also need to check in as a Maker Squad once a week for just a few minutes to go over the planning document and make a “to-do” list for the Maker Squad for the following week — keeping the space stocked with maker items, checking in on teachers who need support, sharing out ideas for makerspace opportunities, and getting out in front of any problems that may arise.

Influencer and 4DX

I have enjoyed learning about both the Influencer and 4DX models, and I like the way they work when used together. The Influencer model helped me to consider my plan through the psychology of making change, while the 4DX model took a more pragmatic approach. When used together, these models will help me to address all the working parts of this plan, from the cheerleaders to the nay-sayers, and even to the whirlwind that might pull us away from our goal. I have no doubt that if I employ these plans that I created using the Influencer and 4DX models, this makerspace will be a success and my students will benefit greatly from this creative learning goldmine!

References:

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: the new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Executive overview of the 4 disciplines of execution [Video file]. (2012, April 19). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/EZR2Ixm0QQE

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York, NY: Free Press.

 

Influencing Change: The Edgewood Makerspace Project

 

Overview

Research overwhelmingly shows that the way we often teach students is completely wrong for the way students learn, and can sometimes be detrimental to student achievement by removing their agency in learning.  Ask any teacher and you will most likely find that the current hyper-focus on testing and packaged curricula isn’t really working for anyone — students OR teachers.  But how do we change the system, especially when nobody’s asking students or teachers what is and is not working in classrooms?  And how do we support teachers to change the way they teach, when it’s easier to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing?

According to Dr. Jenni Cross in her TEDx talk titled “Three Myths of Behavior Change — What You Think You Know But Don’t”, we must first changebehaviors if we want to change attitudes (Cross, J., 2013).  Creating better learning opportunities, even small ones, will help set the attitudes we need to embrace larger changes in the way we teach and learn.  In Influencer, Joseph Grenny suggested that focusing on three vital behaviors, using six sources of influence will improve the odds of creating lasting change within an organization (Grenny, J., 2013).  My plan is to use Grenny’s Influencer model, along with Cross’s strategy of changing attitudes through changing behaviors to create lasting change within my own school through my Innovation Plan.

Goal

To create a makerspace at Edgewood Elementary that will provide students with collaborative, weekly, student-led, creative learning experiences to reinforce core subject learning in the classroom.

3 Vital Behaviors

  • Teachers need to collaborate with co-teachers and Maker Team to plan makerspace offerings and reflect on makerspace experiences.
  • Teachers need to act as facilitators in the makerspace, not answer-givers, and become makers, themselves.
  • Administration needs to promote and model makerspace facilitation and spotlight makerspace successes.

Targeted Behaviors For Change

  • Technology use is mostly centered around consuming content created by others rather than creating content to communicate learning.
  • Not much collaboration between teachers, even within the multi-classroom “pods.”
  • Not enough time spent on reflection for teachers or for students.

Six Sources of Influence 

 

How Will Change Be Measured

We will measure change by collecting student reflection and creative work, and analyzing it for evidence of deeper learning.  We will also use it to constantly revise our makerspace and provide better materials for the makerspace.  We will also use a collaborative document for planning the makerspace offerings and ensuring that they align to educational standards being taught in the classrooms, especially in core-subject areas.  The collaborative document is meant to encourage collaboration between classroom teachers and the makerspace facilitators, but my hope is that it will also promote collaboration between classroom teachers, and I will facilitate that through scheduling groups with similar learning goals to use the makerspace together.

Organizational Influencers

All faculty at Edgewood Elementary can be influential in making this program work.  The administration can be extremely helpful in supporting this innovation plan by ensuring that the scheduling of classroom time will support adequate time for students to ideate, experiment, create, reflect, and revise.  The administration would also be very helpful in supporting this initiative by reinforcing participation in the makerspace and providing spaces to showcase makerspace creations throughout the school and during open house events. Another group that could be very influential is our Apple Professional Learning team (AKA the A-Team.)  The A-Team meets with teachers regularly to ensure that teachers are integrating technology into their teaching/learning in the most effective ways, and this team could also help teachers to integrate the makerspace into their classroom planning, so that the makerspace time becomes a continuation of classroom learning. Within our school, we have some Apple Vanguard Coaches that have also been trained to provide support with facilitation of technology learning from within the school.  These coaches could be valuable support for teachers who are  reluctant to use the makerspace, or just need some assistance in figuring out how to integrate it into their weekly planning.

Positive Deviants

Another group that would be influential in this plan is the grades 4/5 pods.  This group is already engaging in some Project-Based Learning (PBL) and could integrate the makerspace much in the same way they’re already doing PBL work.  This group is typically more open to new ideas, and will be influential in showing other teachers how this space can be used to promote student success.  Another positive deviant is Kerry Felton, one of the kindergarten teachers.  She uses technology in creative ways and is very open to new ideas.  She will enjoy using the makerspace, and seeing how it can be used with younger students would help the teachers of older students feel confident about  incorporating the space into their learning.

 

 

 

Resources:

Cross, J. (2013, March 20). Three Myths of Behavior Change – What You Think You Know That You Don’t: Jeni Cross at TEDxCSU. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5d8GW6GdR0

Grenny, J. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

 

 

Start With Why

Getting people to support your idea can be a difficult process.  Having that support, however, is key to getting your project off the ground.  But once it’s off the ground, you need it to fly.  That’s why you can’t just sell your idea to other people, and get their support — you have to inspire some sort of change in behavior so that they will not only support your idea, but will actively work toward its success.

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “Start With Why” (Sinek, S. 2009) explains how “starting with why” is a great way to promote your idea, because it creates an emotional connection between the target audience and the idea.  You actually start by showing your audience why your idea matters, rather than starting with the product, itself, or the “what.”

So, if I were to start with the “why” of my innovation plan and then go from there, it would look something like this:

Why = The Purpose

Students learn and retain more, and develop important skills for a changing job market when they are given the opportunity to learn in a choice-based, hands-on, creative learning environment.

How = The Process

Students learn through self-directed, creative experimentation using appropriate technology and creative media while teachers guide activities to reinforce core subject learning and collaborative workplace skills.

What = The Result

Students create valuable and meaningful objects of their own design that serve as tangible evidence of core subject learning success while practicing marketable job skills.

Dr. John Kotter also discussed ways to influence other people to support your idea.  He stated that you have to appeal to the heart, but you also need to appeal to urgency.  (Kotter, J. 2011, 2013).  I applied Kotter’s thinking to my three statements, above:

We all want students to learn.  No, we all want students to really learn — to want to learn, and to make learning meaningful, and to want to expand on their learning and to be able to apply what they learn in real-life situations.  This is especially urgent now, as it is becoming more and more apparent that the current ways of teaching are leaving our students behind.  We all want our students to succeed and to develop skills and knowledge that will prepare them for success — success in life, in higher education, and in the future job market.  My “Why” statement speaks to that urgency because it touches on improved learning experiences, retention of learning, and skill development, which are all things that research has shown repeatedly to be strengths of makerspaces.  It speaks to the heart because we all want our students to love learning, to become passionately curious, and also to be prepared for the workplace.  I can back up my claims that our school makerspace will improve learning depth and breadth and will also foster important skills through my research.  I have also learned the proper way to implement my innovation plan to achieve the best possible results.

The “How” speaks to stakeholders’ desire to promote enjoyment of learning while still providing rigor.  Of course, we want students to enjoy learning, but we also need them to learn specific things.  We want students to use technology, but we don’t want them using it in a way that doesn’t provide meaningful learning experiences.  We want to provide students with opportunities to pursue their passions, but we also need to tie their learning to state standards.  So, my statement underscores the balance between giving students freedom of choice in their learning and making, and also providing rigor and direction.  This statement speaks to the heart by promoting the ways we will make students love learning, and to urgency by spotlighting the need to make that learning meaningful in ways that will pay off in student core subject learning and workplace skills.

The “What” speaks to the heart by pointing out that students will create “valuable and meaningful objects of their own design.”  We remember the things we create in school because we can hold them and own them.  They are valuable and meaningful to us because we created them from our own imagination.  We remember the things we learn through creating because we learn them authentically through the process of experimenting and reflection.  The “What” statement speaks to urgency by promising tangible evidence of core subject learning, which is the type of learning measured by standardized tests and collected student data.  Improving learning in those areas will not only benefit students, but would benefit the entire school.  Stakeholders would be able to see and hold evidence that learning is happening, and would be able to see how this learning ties to core subject standards.  Stakeholders would also be able to observe marketable job skill development by visiting the makerspace and watching how students interact with it and with one another.  Stakeholders would have immediate and concrete proof of the efficacy of this project through the products created by the students in this makerspace.

Resources:

Kotter, J.  (2011).  The heart of change.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=1NKti9MyAAw

Kotter, J. (2013). Leading change: establish a sense of urgency.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yfrj2Y9IlI&feature=youtu.be

Sinek, S. (2009). How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

 

 

Growth Mindset in the Art Classroom

The great thing about teaching art, is that there really is no way to make art other than to “just do it.”  Even in the most shallow, “monkey see, monkey do” art projects, kids have to be the ones to pick up the materials and create the thing, whatever it is.  Aside from taking the supplies into my own hand and doing it for students, there really is no shortcut for making art.  There is no app for that.  So students eventually make art.  Eventually.  The bummer thing about art is that there is this weird belief that you either have artistic talent or you don’t, so I spend a lot of time trying to convince students that they have everything they need, already, to do well in art class.  This is where growth mindset comes in.  I think I’ve been teaching growth mindset (to some extent) for my entire teaching career without really knowing it was a philosophy, by trying to train the way my students thought about their own potential, their strengths, and their weaknesses.  For instance, when students would tell me, “I’m just not naturally good at art,” I would say something like, “Art is very much like sports, you have to train your eyes, your mind, and your muscles to work in a new way.  You have to practice it like a sport and you will become good at it over time.”  Now that I am familiar with Carol Dweck’s work, I have added more to my repertoire, especially on the other end of the spectrum.  I have learned that positive feedback for my students requires some care, too, to reinforce the growth mindset and to help students deal with grappling with concepts at another time in their learning.  So, now, I say, “Wow, you really worked hard to learn this technique!”  or something like that.  One of my favorite painting professors, Stanley Sporny, always said “you really understood that (chair, horse, person… whatever the subject matter was) on a deep level.”  I always thought that was a strange way to provide feedback, but now I understand what he was doing.  He wanted to underscore the specific thing that brought the success, and not just the success, itself.

I love the idea of “Yet.”  I created some huge paper letters that say “YET” in one of my classrooms, as a visual reminder.  Whenever a student says “I can’t,” or “this is dumb,” or “I will never be able to…” I simply point to the “yet” and my students know to walk over and write a rephrased version of what they just said onto the “YET.”  So, if a student says, “I can’t draw,” they might write, “I can’t draw yet, but I will practice until I am better at it.”  I started this as an experiment at the beginning of this year, and I think I will make one for every classroom next year, because it is a great way to reinforce growth mindset in a very short and chaotic class period, and provide a visual reminder for my students.  The idea has caught on — I noticed that the fourth grade hallway has a big bulletin board with the YETi, standing on top of a mountain with some reminders about the growth mindset.  I can’t take credit, but I would be really excited if I found out that my students carried that idea back to their classrooms.

Cheating isn’t a big problem in art class because one of the biggest rules in art class is that the “right answer” will look different than everyone else’s right answer, but I do have some problems with students having a hard time with feedback.  The growth mindset has helped with that immensely because it turns feedback into growth opportunities.  In fact, I have borrowed Dr. Thibodeaux’s favorite term, “feed-forward” because when students hear that word, they know that the next thing they hear is a prompt for learning, not an insult or exposure of flaws.  When I do have a student who has a hard time with feedback, we visit the “YET” together and work out, emotionally, what’s going on with the negative response.  Usually it has nothing to do with the feedback, itself, and we come up with a good “yet” statement and get back to making good art.

Again, because art is one of those weird classes where grades don’t count, I don’t have any student preoccupation with grades.  Quite the opposite — because my grades don’t count, students assume the class doesn’t count and that it doesn’t matter if they take the work seriously or not.  To a certain extent, I want them to enjoy the freedom of not having grades, in a sort of “what would you do if you knew you could not fail,” ambitious way.  And some students do just that.  But other students need help finding the motivation to actually care enough about their work to struggle with it and make something awesome.  The Growth Mindset helps me to frame the work in a way that some of my more reluctant students see art as an opportunity to work hard and become awesome at something, as well as to make things that are valuable.  For the students who are not motivated in this way, I try to find out what they are motivated by, and connect it to art (because, let’s face it, everything connects with art — I haven’t found anything, yet, that doesn’t.)  I have been able to reach some reluctant learners this way, by encouraging them to grow toward their goals through skills they will only find in art class.  The Growth Mindset helps when I use the language of the Growth Mindset to show students a practical path toward their goals and interests through art.  For example, one of my most art-resistant girls really loves makeup and fashion.  She wouldn’t work at art centers, other than to play with things and then take them apart.  I introduced a fashion design center that showed examples of designer’s sketches and some videos of designers and makeup artists at work, and she suddenly was all about learning human figure and facial proportions.  Now she can create amazing portraits of people.  She is probably my hardest-won victory this year.  It took a lot of visits to the “YET.”

I think the challenge with the growth mindset is that it can be implemented in a way that is merely lip-service.  I see students try to get by with saying the words, but not putting them into action.  I also see a lot of cute things on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers to implement the growth mindset in  a classroom.  Heck, I’ve been guilty of hanging up motivational posters and not backing them up with actions.  The trick is to live it, model it, and create a classroom culture that supports the growth mindset at all times.  (You know you’ve achieved this when you say something really fixed-mindset and your kids correct you.)  This means keeping the growth mindset, but it also means keeping expectations for quality of work and rigor high because without that, there really is no growth, even if kids are parroting growth mindset language.

 

References:

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing Group.

 

The Understanding by Design (UbD) Plan Template

In EDLD 5313, I have been looking at how to design significant learning experiences for my students.  As examples of the sort of planning necessary to create these deep learning opportunities for our students, I’ve been exposed to both the 3-Column Table and the Understanding By Design (UbD) Lesson Planning Template.  I discussed the 3-column table in my last post, and in this post, I’ll go over the UbD template, then compare and contrast the two.

Here is what the same lesson from my last post looks like as a UbD plan:

Both systems use backward design to break a lesson down and ensure that all the learning objectives are not just covered, but are well-supported within the structure of the lesson.  For teaching art, I think I like the 3-Column Table the best.  This provides a more loose framework and more broad parameters in which to define goals.  The 3-Column Table, to me, seems to be a nice way to focus on the “big picture,” while not losing sight of all the moving parts.  In an elementary art classroom, there are a LOT of moving parts!

The UbD template (above) to me seems to be more appropriate for a course that has very specific goals or outcomes, like maybe a middle- or high-school math or science course.  In art, I could see this being used to plan learning experiences with very specific objectives and products.  I think it would be especially handy for planning specific modules within a larger unit or course.

I like both models for very different reasons.  I feel that the 3-Column Table helped me to visualize connections between goals that I might not have given much thought to.  I think the 3-column table is a really good fit for my program, because I have so much to cover with so little time each week with my students.  I tend to have many paths for my students to choose from in order to reach understanding.  I feel like the UbD template might be overkill for each, individual learning experience, but the 3-Column Table is entirely manageable.

 

Resources:

 

Fink, L. D. (2003). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning.Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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