Making Is a Stance Toward Learning: Combining Learner Agency with Tinkering, Debugging and Project-based Learning

The tyranny of correct answers masks a vital and essential element of learning — the practice of debugging. When you make something, however, especially something that involves code and/or electronic or mechanical components, it is to be expected that your project will not work the first time you turn it on. Coding and making involves a great deal of systematic problem-solving to find and eliminate bugs. There’s nothing like the feeling when the last bug has been squashed and your creation beeps or moves or lights up. This kind of learning isn’t confined to tangible DIY

Co-Learning: Modeling Cooperative-Collaborative Learning

Moving the classroom chairs in a circle had radical effects on the way we all looked at our learning: As I told my students, if we transported a warrior from 1,000 years ago to a present-day battlefield, he would die quickly; if we transported a surgeon from 1,000 years ago to a modern operating room, he wouldn’t know what to do; but, if we transported students and a teacher from 1,000 years ago to most contemporary classrooms, everyone would know where to sit, who was in charge, who would speak, and who would remain silent. In

10 Connected Learning Lesson Plans from the Remake Learning Network

For me, one of the greatest joys of teaching is the chance to learn from other educators: the opportunity to peek under the hood at all the moving parts behind a dynamite lesson plan, a thriving classroom, an effective teacher. When I started teaching history, my more experienced colleagues were my greatest resources. They recommended discussion questions for starting class, activities for getting my students engaged, and multimedia resources that I never would have found on my own. When I moved to Pittsburgh, I saw some especially effective educators in action through my work on the

Learner Agency: Sharing Control of the Classroom Agenda

When I reflect on the 10 years I spent teaching at UC Berkeley and Stanford, and look back over the 127 interviews I did with innovators in digital media and learning, “learner agency” was the first thought that came to mind when I asked myself about what still seems important. What I mean by this phrase: students are explicitly addressed as learners (better yet: co-learners); students are allowed to use their own interests and networks to explore issues that matter to them (scaffolded by teachers with the curricular knowledge that will make more sense to students

Connecting Making, Designing and Composing

In her closing keynote at FabLearn a couple years ago, Leah Buechley turned a critical eye on the maker movement. If you don’t know Buechley’s work, she is arguably one of the maker movement’s central players, founding the former High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab and inventing the LilyPad Arduino, among many other contributions. She is a champion of making, which makes her all the more thoughtful in her critiques. Buechley asks us to consider who gets to make and who is represented in the maker movement. I thought about her keynote a lot

Ferguson Syllabus and the Power of Social Media

This is the first part in a multi-part series about participants in the Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities conference. This series features public intellectuals in the academy discussing digital literacy issues. I first met Marcia Chatelain at the Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities Conference, where she gave an inspiring talk about how her work on The Ferguson Syllabus was connected to her own past at a variety of academic institutions, including the University of Missouri, Georgetown University, and William and Mary. In introducing a syllabus that provided background materials for understanding police violence against unarmed civilians

Opportunity to Share Research on Connected Learning, Teacher Education

If you follow my blog posts, you know that I am deeply committed to exploring the intersections of connected learning and teacher education, both in my own practice as a teacher educator and in the work of fellow innovative educators in the National Writing Project network. I am excited to take this commitment to a new level as I take on the editorship of a peer-reviewed, open access journal — Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (English section), sponsored by the Conference on English Education (CEE) through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). My

Combining Art and Technology Engages Students

To maker-educators Fabrice Florin and Edward Janne, maker ed is not just about the technology: “the real power comes from enabling students to build their own projects, combining art, technology, and storytelling,” they insist. Although neither Florin nor Janne had previous training as educators, both are more than sufficiently savvy in multimedia storytelling. Florin was one of the founders of Apple’s Multimedia Lab (the Wikipedia page for the lab is a stub — someone should fill it out), which produced, among other pioneering explorations, Life Story and Moss Landing, which turned out to be prototypes for

No Shortcuts in Course Design

Like many of my friends and colleagues, August is the month for deep engagement in course design. If you were to shine a flashlight into this world, you would find me on a couch in the living room, hair disheveled, clothes unchanged for days, various plates and cups tossed to the floor, surrounded by books ranging from Vygotsky’s Mind in Society to Scieszka and Barnett’s Battle Bunny. I love this time of year. And, once I get started on design, it is almost impossible to stop. For me, imagining a learning environment, curating the texts, and