When I realized that my CEP 811 class, properly titled Adapting Innovative Technology to Education, was going to be all about the Maker Movement I was both excited and worried. I had been hearing things about the Make Movement, and Makerspaces, and the primary program in my district was getting a big Maker roll-out about which I knew next to nothing. Choosing a Maker kit to purchase for this class reinforced my concerns. How was a going to integrate squishy circuits in Algebra? Do I have time to teach working with a kit in addition to all the high school math standards I’m required to cover?
There’s good news and bad news for me. Good news: my school does have space for makerspaces at the high school. They offer a robotics class, woodshop, and industrial engineering so there are places for students to make things pushed by their own interests. The bad news, is that I still can’t fit Making, in the way that Makerspaces offer it, in my class.
There is yet sunshine on the horizon for me though. So I can’t turn my high school math classroom into a makerspace (at least not at this time in my environment). Learning from Making doesn’t tie to Common Core high school math standards at this time. I can still bring a lot of elements of Making into my classroom. I can introduce projects that have students create something, while using the math skills they’ve been taught. So long as the students have a problem to solve, or have to make the product appealing in some way, they can exercise their own choices and creativity while demonstrating synthesis and application of math skills.
I want to introduce elements of making into my classroom not because it is the latest education fad, but because there are underlying motivators that I need to tap into for my students. I have many students that feel disconnected from high school math, unable to see how it applies to their ‘real world’ lives. The give up easily because they don’t see the purpose for the learning. If I can bring in projects that utilize algebra skills in a ‘real world’ way, I am introducing purpose. I’m not just telling them there’s a reason for the learning, I’m showing them. I will need to choose a project that focuses on a real-world problem that my students care about and understand; they are quick to sense assignments that are inauthentic. Bringing these elements of making to my classroom is both manageable and addresses difficulties I have in purpose and motivation.
I was worried that Making would not apply to my classroom. I am glad to say now, that while I can’t have a Makerspace, I can use elements of Making that will enrich my students’ learning experience.