The last 8 weeks have really flown by, and believe it or not, I’m now at the end of my CEP 811 course. As I look back at my blog posts from this course, I’m amazed at the variety of topics I’ve been able to explore: MOOCs, EdCamps, the Maker Movement, learning theories, UDL, and the design of learning spaces. We covered a lot of ground in this course, and I gained experience with some new tech tools (like SketchUp andPopcornMaker) through this course.
As the course ends, I think it’s valuable to reflect on my biggest take-aways, because without that reflection piece, I tend to compartmentalize everything I’ve learned and quickly forget about it. (Just like my students!) But I’ve learned so many things in this course that I’d like to transfer to my teaching practice.
One big piece of this course was getting involved in the “Maker Movement”. I was initially pretty ambivalent about this. I know that might be bad for a STEM educator to say, but I feared that it was just a trendy fad that I was going to have to try to squeeze into an already packed science curriculum. But after studying it and engaging in it (in a very beginning way!), I realize how naturally it can fit into what I already do and what I want to do more of with my students.
The Maker Movement emphasizes hands-on creation, application, and sharing, shifting education away from content acquisition. It fits well with learning theories like constructivism and experiential learning that posit that learning occurs most effectively when students construct their own understanding through exploration and then combine their new learning with their prior understandings to produce something new. If students can’t produce or create something with their new knowledge, I doubt that it will really “stick” with them past the final exam. They won’t internalize it and transfer it to new domains.
As I’ve learned more about learning theories and had my own new experiences as a learner in a Maker Movement class, I’ve begun to feel more comfortable with letting my students play and explore in their learning. For this class, I had to struggle to figure out how to use the MakeyMakey. And I now believe that the MakeyMakey is a relatively cheap and easy way to get my students to dip their toes in the waters of the Maker Movement. I am excited to try out my MakeyMakey lesson plan on conductivity with my students in the next unit, when we study bonding. I don’t see myself using this specific tool extensively, but it is just an example of one tool that could allow me to help my students become producers rather than just consumers of content.
This week, I read a blog post by Grant Wiggins, “On Assessing Creativity“, and was challenged to think about how to assess my students’ creations for the lesson plan I designed in this course, as well as in other creative projects we do in class. I have always struggled with how much to weight creativity, since it seems subjective and not an essential part of a traditional science curriculum. But creative thinking is actually VITAL to being a good scientist, and to being successful in other domains. I was glad to hear Wiggins acknowledge that both teachers and students can recognize when something is boring versus engaging, but was saddened to read the student quote, “Oh, you mean you don’t want it to be dull and boring?… Oh, we didn’t think that mattered in school writing.” We are doing our students a disservice if we don’t give them meaningful learning opportunities and valid feedback about the effectiveness of their creation and communication. I certainly have room to grow in what opportunities I give my students to create and share with authentic audiences, and in how I assess that work. But through this class, I have created at least one more way for that to occur in my class, and I have the tools to continue to do it.
Speaking of areas for growth, I have learned a lot about myself through this course. Specifically, I’ve learned that it is very difficult for me to balance being a student and a teacher at the same time. It felt hectic to divide my time and attention between my work and personal responsibilities and my coursework. It gave me more empathy for my students who are involved in many commitments outside of their schoolwork.
However, there was a lot of value in being able to immediately apply what I was learning each week in this class. And as a new part-time technology coach, I found a lot of connections between what I was learning through this class and the new teachers and content areas I am now interacting with. The biggest example of that was in the week we studied UDL theories and tools, which I was immediately able to share with some special education teachers. More broadly, I also benefited from thinking about how adults learn (andragogy) in different ways than high school students, and how professional development can come in different forms like EdCamps and MOOCs, rather than traditional lecture or workshop PD sessions. This was different than my mindset when taking CEP 810, when I was focused only on how my students learn. I realize I have so much yet to learn about how to best help adults learn.
Because I’ve learned so much of great value in both CEP 810 and CEP 811, I’m already looking forward to taking CEP 812 and tackling some of the “wicked problems” in education. I will probably wait until summer to take it, though, because these courses are not easy and I want to be able to give the course my full attention so I can get maximal benefit from it!
In the meantime, I am excited to have more time to increase my presence on Twitter, to attend EdCamps (live and in person!) and to do some Google Hangouts with other teachers. I’ve learned that it is so valuable to connect with educators outside of your local context, because it is energizing to find educators with similar interests, struggles, and goals. I am so glad I have this chance to expand my PLN with my classmates from this course!
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/