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Making at the Mobile Learning Playground

By Jennifer Wyld
June 30, 2014
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From using Google Glass in the classroom to using Twitter effectively with your students to finding resources for teaching coding, the Mobile Learning Network's Mobile Learning Playground offered something for everyone.

With presenters sharing from two stages, as well as a number of tables set up for some hands-on learning, it was a busy space! The tables showcased innovative ways of using technology, such as e-publishing, augmented reality, BrainPop's apps for leaning, MinecraftEdu and more. And of course, there was the obligatory 3D printer — always a draw.

Three of the talks were specifically focused on the maker movement, including one I delivered. Even though I might be biased, I thought all of them were informative and inspirational.

Facilitating maker experiences

My talk kicked off the make track, with an exploration of what maker culture is and how to facilitate make experiences in all types of settings.

Makers take intellectual risks, observe and experiment, explore and invent and value process over product. To encourage this maker mindset in students, educators need to provide experiences that are collaborative, iterative, creative, interest driven and hands on. The key is to shift them from being consumers to being producers.

Creating a classroom culture that encourages making requires spaces that are gender-friendly and allow for both collaboration and individual work. It also requires educators to model behaviors such as curiosity and a willingness to seek help. I also gave specifics on creating a space, the role of the adult, getting the "stuff" and alternative ways to perform assessments.

Making at summer camp

Laura Briggs showcased a make-inspired summer camp she runs at her school. She offered examples of the activities youth participate in, such as creating arcade games from cardboard boxes, playing life-sizes Angry Birds, using 3D printing and so much more.

Her slide with the title "Crafting, Creativity and 3D Printers" was a quick reminder that summer camp has come a long way! The camp concludes with a parents' night where students get to show off their creations.

Giving PBL a makeover

"Make is a learning revolution happening outside the classroom," and educators need to take note, Sylvia Martinez said in her talk on the influence of make on project-based learning.

With an eye on the big picture, she explained that the make community is full of individuals who are finding solutions to problems and then sharing those solutions without waiting for the "experts." With technology readily available for tacking myriad issues — and the internet there to easily disseminate ideas and findings — this is easier than ever.

A few other great ideas from her talk are that making is a stance; it's not about what you buy. We don't have to make things easier for students, and if educators create an interesting experience with some "big things" attached to it, the standards will follow.

So much learning and so many great ideas — and still a day and a half left! This conference definitely has the potential to change some things in education for the better. People here are inspired and inspiring!

Jennifer Wyld is a Ph.D. candidate in free-choice learning in the Science and Math Education program at Oregon State University. She is interested in alternative education and learning environments, particularly those involving Make, Montessori and environmental education.