As part of my journey through Michigan State University’s MAET program, I was asked to immerse myself in the maker movement, by doing just that – making.
After being introduced to several tool kits students can use to make something, as well as the concept of the maker movement, thrown in with a little personal research and I came up with my contribution – to use the concepts of novel engineering adapted as necessary for my particular students.
When first introduced to the maker movement, we looked at things like robots and circuits and makey-makey kits. I was fascinated with all these materials, but would constantly grapple with the question – How do I make this work in a high school English classroom? To find an answer to my question, I went to Twitter to search through hashtags and confer with my PLN (professional learning network – aka, Twitter).
I found a few people who had utilized the maker movement in their ELA classrooms, but from my perspective, it still just looked like they were doing crafts and not actually designing anything or making thoughtful connections with the text. This is something I wanted to actively avoid! I don’t want to make crafts for the sake of making, just as I don’t want to integrate technology for the sake of using technology – I want these things to be purposeful. “Repurposing these cool tools for educational purposes, however, is not simple” (Koehler, 2009).
Ultimately, I came across something called Novel Engineering – this really peaked my interest – so I clicked on it to explore. Turns out, Novel Engineering has a lot of potential for bringing the maker movement to English classrooms of all levels. After exploring their website, I finally had a concept.
Novel Engineering provides some resources and samples for how to bring the maker movement to the ELA classroom, but all of their resources are aimed at younger students (upper elementary levels). I had to think quite critically about how I could adapt this concept to fit into upper level high school classes – and then I had an idea!
My plan was to use the basic concepts of the Novel Engineering, but add a critical thinking/writing component to increase the level of rigor students will experience. My project will address the following standards (taken directly from the TEKS – Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills Standards):
- To analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about theme and genre in different cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding
- To determine, locate, and explore the full range of relevant sources addressing a research question and systematically record the information they gather.
- To organize and present their ideas and information according to the purpose of the research and their audience.
To make this project work, I had to think long and hard about the logistics. This is not something that can be taught or completed in one day – nor did I want it to be. Luckily, my district curriculum writers have already built into the curriculum time for a project such as this one – so that hopefully won’t be one of my greatest hurdles. A sketch of my lesson plan is below.
Now I know what you are thinking – that is so vague! Unfortunately (or fortunately) that is part of the purpose. I want students to identify and solve their own problems – not ones I find or disseminate to them. I also don’t want to tell students how the problem must be solved, I want them to come up with solutions on their own – I want them to think more critically about the way they interact with the text. I did, however, create my own model for this project.
My project was aimed at helping Scout Finch solve her problem of grappling with what it means to “be a lady.” After throwing several ideas around, I had (what I considered) a lightbulb moment. I recalled that Scout gets in trouble at school for already knowing how to read – so my solution, make her a children’s book that illustrates ladylike behavior as dictated by the social gender conventions of the 1960s. I then took this idea one step further and decided that my children’s book would address the behaviors she was reprimanded for throughout the text as a way to make it more personal and individualized to her.
Once I had my idea, I needed to come up with my prototype. I headed on over to my favorite source of inspiration (Google) and searched “Digital storybook maker.” I chose the first option, My Story Book, explored a little bit and then got to work! The program was very user friendly – definitely applicable for 9th grade students – and I am proud of what I was able to create.
Upon conclusion of this process, I have a few things to consider before reaching the classroom implementation stage. First, how do I create a rubric that would be applicable to all student’s projects/products? Part of me wants to make this project more free and open and not focused on the grade – but, alas, it will ultimately need to be assessed, so I need a way to convey the parameters of the assignment vague enough that students aren’t limited, but specific enough that they know what they need to accomplish.
The second implication is materials. I want students to chose their own materials for their prototype so they aren’t limited by their means or skill abilities. Some students will want to create digital products, others analog – it really does not matter. What does matter is how the students go through the process of thinking about the text and the design of their prototype – it is less essential that the prototype function, after all, it’s just a prototype.
Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Learning and leading with technology. Link to article: “Too Cool for School” EJ839143