Tag Archives: MAET

Looking forward and looking back

As my journey as an MAET student is almost complete, I reflect on the concepts, strategies, skills and technologies that have stuck out to me. I also think about the knowledge I have gained and how I can use it in the future in this essay.



Specifically for CEP 815

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Be ‘That’ Guy

We ask questions all the time, whether we know it or not. Our minds are constantly racing and we are always looking for better solutions to things we already have. Or how to make something better.

Berger cites Gopnik and mentions we stop questioning at a young age because “…we [educators] start teaching too much too soon, … we’re inadvertently cutting off paths of inquiry and exploration that kids might otherwise pursue on their own” (Berger, 2014). It’s important to stay curious, stay a questioner. When teachers push information on kids, they lose out on the potential to be more creative and come up with solutions on their own.

We need to erase the stigma of being ‘that guy’ in a room full of people asking a question as the annoying one. Really, they are the smart ones who want everyone else to dig deeper and be more successful.

Cloud 3.pngThe process of solving problems isn’t simple. There are many ways to go about finding solutions to our everyday problems, problems that are recurring or even problems that don’t seem feasible to fix. Berger suggests a specific method to ask questions to solve difficult problems; it’s the WHY, WHAT IF and HOW process (Berger 2014)

What If is about imagining and How is about doing, the initial Why stage has to do with seeing and understanding (Berger, 2014).

So why does this work? By asking questions this way, you move into a vicious, or not so vicious, cycle of questioning. You start to answer a question with another question and so on until you find the ‘best bad solution.’

How can we use this in everyday life? Here’s an example.

The shift at Hillel Day School is flexible learning spaces and learning communities. My 5th and 6th grade hallway is being remodeled as I write this. (To see an update, click here). My students and colleagues have never had to learn or teach in this type of space before. We are all new to it and the start of the year is filled with unknowns. All we can go off of are blueprints. We have an ill-structured problem with no right solution.

When the Head of School first said renovations were about to begin, the questions started to surface.

Why will students work better in this environment? Why can’t each subject area be assigned a space in our learning community? Why do we have to make this shift? Why do I have to move out of my classroom, I just moved into it? Why does it have to be that way?

These questions aren’t easy to answer. But I realized after reading this book we were already following Berger’s process.

What if each teacher decides their learning space for the block depending on their lesson? What if we have flexible seating so students can choose to sit in their best work environment? What if we have a teacher in charge of our learning community to keep everything in order? What if students vandalize the school property? What if we create norms? What if teachers and students don’t follow them?

Our questions won’t be answered until the start of the school year. But I’m already predicting our next set of questions.

How will we negotiate our shared spaces? How can we hold students accountable for their actions when there are no classrooms? How is this even going to work?

This track of questions begins to find potential solutions to my school’s problem. It seems like it might be helpful for us to find how to best utilize our learning community. There are no answers yet, but each question gets me thinking about another question; another why, another what if, another how.

Why will this environment help our students achieve our goals of creativity?

Ken Robinson suggests schools kill creativity. He says schools should promote inquiry and cultivate an atmosphere that embraces the unknown (TED Talk, 2006).

Our goal at Hillel is to empower students with creativity and allow them to express themselves. Do we have the answer with our learning community?

As I return to school in the fall, I plan to suggest using this structure with my colleagues to solve our ill-structured problem and be ‘that guy.’

How will we find the ‘best bad answer?’group-of-hand

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

TED Talk. (2006, February). Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved July 10, 2016, from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

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#SpartansMake #SayCircuits

#SayCircuits was a blast to implement at the #SpartansMake Maker Faire. My MAET colleagues and I successfully planned our faire with seven different stations in just over a week’s time. At our booth, participants created an electrical circuit; to understand how energy transfers from a source, through a path to the load.


Image Credit: Emily Sherbin


First stop, photo booth!

When participants first came to our station, they took a photo at our photo booth. While they were waiting for their photo to print, they played with the LED light, copper tape and coin cell battery we provided. Participants were to build a complete circuit on the paper in turn creating an illuminated frame for their family photo taken at the photo booth.

Making a circuit was something new to me a little over a week ago. I knew about positives and negatives and how there needs to be a closed circle to make the ‘thing,’ or in our case the light, work. But I never had the experience of making it happen. And now, I had to teach it.

“We want our kids so engaged in projects that they lose track of time or wake up in the middle of the night counting the minutes until they get to return to school. Never before have there been more exciting materials and technology for children to use as intellectual laboratories or vehicles for self-expression” (Martinez, Stager 2014). This idea was so evident at our maker faire. I saw so many kids and families who struggled to make their circuit work, but persevered until it did. Families stayed at our station for up to 30 minutes and enjoyed themselves making their frames beautiful to showcase the fun day they shared.


A grandmother and granddaughter proudly display their illuminated frame!

The article, Making Matters! How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education says, “Fortunately for teachers, the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing” (Martinez, Stager). Children learn best by doing and my partner, Bridget Bennett, and I felt it was important to let the families play. However, I learned there needs to be some teaching and context of the task. With young participants, I found myself often asking “What do you notice about the legs on the light?” Almost always they could tell one was longer than the other and I was able to teach them the longer leg has to be connected to the positive side of the battery. This question showed the kids how they have to play around with their supplies and ‘do’ to learn and be successful with this activity.  

“This blurring of boundaries [learning and schooling] is evident in events such as Maker Faires, where participants ranging from adult makerspace members to kids participating in robotics clubs come together to share what they have created” (Halverson, Sheridan 2014). When children, parents and grandparents came to our station it was amazing to watch them interact. With one another’s help, they figured out how to make their circuit work. And the best part, they didn’t realize they were learning. The boundaries were blurred and any age group could enjoy the making process.


Working together to make their frame illuminate

Throughout the planning process, I learned how important it is to have a learning goal in mind. Without a goal for your audience, you lose focus for the activity.


Each maker received directions and supplies in a bag

The planning process shed light on how I can implement maker activities with my students. I learned how once you set a goal, you can pull tools that will enhance the content being taught. “But whether it’s a stone-age tool, a Guttenberg printing press, the simple crayon, or a high-tech digital simulation, any form of technology is a tool for living, working, teaching and learning” (Mishra, The Deep Play Research Group 2012). No matter the tool I choose to use to teach a concept, I am using technology. But the thing to remember when using technology is to let kids play, too.

The maker movement is allowing students to bring their original ideas to life. Students don’t often get the chance to show their individuality within the classroom. By allowing students to make and be free to fail forward after trial and error, they can learn more than sitting and listening to their teacher lecture.

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Click this image for more tips and tricks to try our #SayCircuits activity!

When going back to school in the fall, I have a new mindset on making. I have the privilege of a makerspace in my school, but I feel like I can utilize it more because of this “illuminating” experience.

Check out the #SayCircuits infographic to get information on how to use this station in your classroom or your next Maker Faire!


Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465. Retrieved fromhttps://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0T9DOVhrGV7S21ZWDljUGNpeHc/view

Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2014, July 21). The maker movement: A learning revolution. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=106

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. S. (n.d.). WeAreTeachers: Making Matters! How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.weareteachers.com/blogs/post/2015/04/03/how-the-maker-movement-is-transforming-education

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking technology and creativity in the 21st century: Crayons are the future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16. Retrieved from: http://punya.educ.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mishra-crayons-techtrends1.pdf

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Image Credit: Bridget Bennett

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What is learning?

Learning is when one gains knowledge either by being taught, through experience or studying the information. But the question is,
how do people learn? Throughout the century, what one needs to know to be successful has evolved. As stated in How People Learn, “the meaning of ‘knowing’ has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it” (Bransford, Brown, Cocking 2000). In today’s teaching, it is important to teach students not only the content knowledge, but also how to apply it in new situations. Students must learn to find patterns on their own to be able to use the skills they have obtained through their initial learning.

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Created using http://www.tagul.com

Finding those patterns is the defining factor between a novice and an expert. An expert has acquired knowledge that has an affect on how they look at different topics of information. They will alter how they represent, organize and interpret information gained from their surrounding environment. This ability allows them to apply what they learn to other situations and formulate patterns (2000). Whereas a novice simply knows content. They have not yet gained the tools to be able to retrieve the content knowledge that is relevant to a new, particular task.

In my 5th grade language arts and social studies integrated class, we studied Native Americans and their regions. We stressed to students how “where you live affects how you live.” Once we studied the different regions, it became evident which students became experts and which students were still novices through one activity. I asked students to compare and contrast two or more of the regions. They didn’t have to memorize anything, but they had to apply their gained knowledge to write an essay.


Click this image to see examples of a novice and an expert. Retrieved from https://openclipart.org

The experts were able to realize how the southern locations were warmer than the northern ones because of their prior knowledge of where you live affects how you live. They could also understand how the growing season differed by the weather patterns and the types of homes Native Americans had to build to withstand the climate. The experts could write the essay with ease because they simply thought about how the regions could have similarities and differences based on where they are located.

This is an example of how education and knowing has evolved. When I was in 5th grade, I had to memorize this information to take a fact-based test. I was only a novice. My students had to use what they learned to do a task that had them apply their knowledge in a new format with the intent of becoming an expert. Memorizing and regurgitating information is not essential anymore; what is essential is taking the basic knowledge and using it for other tasks or activities.

The concept of experts and novices does not only apply to schools, kids or curriculum. Everyone is always a learner in one way or another. Similarly to becoming experts when we learn new information, we must formulate situated meanings for words (Gee 2013). “If a person can associate images, actions, experiences, goals, or interactive dialogue with words, that person has situated meanings for those words. If a person can only associate other words (definitions, paraphrases) with words, then that person has only verbal meanings for those words, not situated meanings” (2013). Situated meanings are just like experts. An expert can use a situated meaning to apply and associate the concept with other concepts and ideas. Without gaining the ability to fluidly create patterns and becoming experts, we cannot be effective learners and establish situated meanings.

In the teaching with technology world, it is important to identify how technology can aide our teachings instead of hinder it. Teachers have to constantly ask themselves if a specific tool can allow their students to become an expert or will it only help initial knowledge. In a school where technology is a focus and the possibilities are endless, I have to carefully reflect on what will most benefit my students. Through my MAET career, I will be able to become more of an expert on what tools can fluently aide my teaching.


Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Gee, J. P. (2013). Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective. Arizona State University. Retrieved from http://jamespaulgee.com/geeimg/pdfs/Digital%20Media%20and%20Learning.pdf


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