Monthly Archives: May 2015

Project Zero Atlanta: Random Thoughts/Impressions/Reflections

So, I went to this conference:  Project Zero Perspectives: Think Create Innovate.  Here are some initial impressions and notes.  If I wait until I have time to really dive in, this will never get done!

Agency by Design.

Agency by Design is a research strand of PZ focused on maker culture.  There were several parts of the conference (speakers and sessions) that hit on this strand, and it is the one I keep coming back to in my mind.  Key ideas:

  • Slow looking in order to see the complexity of parts and how they interact.
  • “Sensitivity to design.” I keep thinking about this.  The idea is that, when we look at an object in the world, we reflect on how it was made and designed, and we encourage kids to slow down and do this same kind of reflection. This is powerful stuff.  “Drawing on interviews, site visits, and observations of student work, AbD formed the hypothesis that fostering young people’s sensitivity to the designed dimension of the world may be a powerful way to increase their sense of agency.”  YES.  If I understand how something works and how it was created, I have more power/agency when it comes to my own creations/designs.
  • “Do It Together” (versus DIY).  Importance of community; standing on the shoulders of giants even when working alone.  Maker culture as not anti-individual, but emphasis on community, no person an island.

Culture of Questions (David Perkins)

David Perkins gave a talk on questions, defining Big Questions and what they do.

Big questions:

  • Are open; reflect insight, action, ethics, opportunity
  • Energize and organize learning
  • Are enduring and universal; can make progress on them, but no easy answers
  • Wonder AT things, not just ABOUT things.

The big takeaway from this for me was, like above, this concept of slowing down and wondering.  Instead of trying to dive in too fast to answers or building, taking time to look at what’s there first, or think about design.

Mindful Looking

I did a shorter session on mindful looking, where we looked at a painting for about 15 minutes, then came up with questions about it, then talked about our questions.  This was that idea of “slow looking” put into practice. It was really interesting to see, not only what questions I came up with myself about the painting when given an opportunity to really look closely, but what questions and observations other folks had.

In thinking about applying this to the Makerspace specifically, I could imagine having kids take apart a common object and look at it silently/mindfully, and then discuss their questions. I see an activity like this leading to some really interesting making.

And those are my thoughts for now!

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Time for Reflection

It’s not accurate to say that I don’t have time to keep up with this blog, time to reflect on what’s going on in the library.  I just don’t take the time, and as I sit here at the end of another school year, I have regrets about that!  I know that regular reflection makes me do my job better; serves as a record of what’s going on; helps me to see and understand more; opens up the possibilities for other ideas/opinions/input.

When I do try to write, after not doing so, I feel all this pressure to make up for lost time.  But I can’t really do that.  So I need to just write what I can.

I went to a Project Zero conference last weekend.  I still haven’t processed it. I need to do some writing just for myself, and then I’ll try to turn that into a blog post.  It was a quietly powerful conference; it will change how I do things, particularly in the Makerspace but also in reading classes and in the library as a whole.  The main thing I took away from it, I think, was the importance of reflection, so that’s why I’m here again, even though I’m not writing about PZ just yet.

Highlights from this past week at school:

When my Tinkering activity was due to meet this week, all but one of my kids were away on a field trip. So Emily (the one kid) and I had a chance to play with Make!Sense sensors by adding to and tweaking a Scratch program. I don’t often get to focus all my attention on one student and one project at a time, and it was very enjoyable! We tested out a variety of sensors (motion, sound, heartbeat, touch, tilt, light, proximity), having them trigger various movements and visual effects on our Scratch project. I am now inspired to spend more time with the Make!Sense materials, and possibly use them this summer in my Scratch camp.

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My school has created a new STEM coordinator position for grades 7-12, and I got to spend some time with the new hire.  He came to observe Makerspace for a bit, and I seriously got chills listening to him chat with some of the kids about possibilities for next year with robotics and other cool engineering kinds of stuff. I had a thought later that night, as I was thinking about the meeting, that while I feel really good about what I’ve been able to do in the library with the Makerspace and how much I’ve learned and will presumably continue to learn about coding and making and whatnot, it will be SO wonderful to have someone who knows a ton more about it and who can meet these kids where they are.  I feel very good about having been able to provide a safe place for these kids, and (I hope) some inspiration and access to materials and guidance. But I know there is a lot I can’t do, and I am looking forward to working with Dan and being both a witness and (I hope) a contributor to the work he will do with these amazing kids. I’m getting chills again just thinking about it.

Finally, books!  I don’t write as much here about books, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because books aren’t as new to me as the whole making thing is. I did read a good one this week, though–Paper Things by Jennifer Richards Jacobson.  I’m a sucker for a good middle-grade problem novel, and this one delivers.  Ari and her brother Gabe are homeless, and Ari is trying to manage keeping that a secret while dealing with the regular issues of 5th-grade life. I really liked the voice of this novel, and frankly, I liked that it managed to both challenge misconceptions that kid readers might have about homelessness and avoid topics that I’d worry about exposing my younger students to. That can be a tricky balance. I immediately handed it off to Miriam, one of my students who loves those problem novels like I do, and she came back the next day saying she couldn’t put it down.

Now I’m reading a pretty terrible YA zombie novel that I downloaded from the upper school ebook collection while I was away at the conference and wanting something I could read without bothering my roommate with the light, and I’m wishing I’d remembered to bring home something from the new book shelf at school!

One more note: as summer approaches, my own kid is nearing the end of her middle school years.  I think this is making me extra nostalgic and emotional about my job–partly because she will be going to a different school next year, but also, I think, because I’ve enjoyed this odd intersection of my parenting life and my work life, this hyperawareness (thanks to my kid) of what middle school life is like for the kids. I guess that awareness will continue, because once you know what something is like, you pretty much know it, but I am going to lose something of it, I know.  It’s hard to articulate, but it has me feeling a bit tender about the whole thing.

And that, my friends, is that!  Thanks for reading!

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