Three lessons learned about making in classroom

I spent the last 3 years, among other things, working as learning environment designer at Laboral Art Center Gijón, Spain. The art center has a fabLAB that is used for artistic production as well as education and research LAB by several public schools in the region.

What I do exactly is to help teachers from primary and high school to integrate digital fabrication, rapid prototyping, physical/creative computing, design, making etc. in the classroom.

During the summer we run a teacher training where the participants explore the lab and its tools  learning some basic fabrication and programming skills. After that every group designs an year long project to be implemented with the students.  Along the school year teachers and students work together in class and at fabLAB realising the projects.

I’d like to share some lessons I learned by co-designing long-term making projects with a lot of teachers. I’ll do it by sharing part of the experience of three of them: Rous, Xose, Macu.

Rous: Keep calm and let the kids make!

Watch the interview HERE

Getting started with making in the classroom can be very hard and confusing. Teachers are usually scared, worried, disoriented. As Rous says, typical reaction at the beginning are: “Oh my God, what am I doing here? How can I structure the work with the students? How can I organise the activity? How the training process will be?” They don’t know how to establish connections between making activities and the curriculum. They start to move in a new environment, with a lot of technology and they feel like they can’t control the situation. I learned that a very important issue is to have a guidance, an emotional, technical, pedagogical, support who make them feel comfortable and help them to be more and more autonomous. For a teacher used to work in a structured way the unstructured making situation  is like a vertigo before the jump. They really want to do it but they are scared. So I think is important they understand that the jump to experiential learning  is safe, good and enjoyable!

Xose: Making means  also to break up with the excessive hierarchization at school

Watch the interview HERE

Introducing making in the classroom allows a change in the hierarchical relationship student/teacher and opens a new space where we can look at students with learning difficulties from a different perspective.

As Xose says “the change of the learning place, the different organization of work, the break up with the excessive hierarchization at school lead to the success”. The success reveals itself in form of a growth of student`s self esteem, personal initiative, self organization  and compromise to a long term project.

Macu: making can spread like a virus and change the way of working of the entire school  

Watch the interview HERE

When a school manager became excited about experiential learning the beneficial effects of making can go beyond the “borders” of the lab and transform a school in a big makerspace. It is happening in a small rural school of a low income region. They don’t have any fablab or expensive tool, but they have the most precious thing of the making toolset: learning through experience and cooperation.