There is a great exchange going on this morning on the #fuse14 Twitter feed about the role of “new” educational tools like maker-spaces, design studios, and design thinking. Lisa Goochee, a 4th grade teacher at an international school in Brazil kicked it off by asking if the ” ‘making’ fervor is missing the forest for the trees”? Dr. Lisa Palmieri and I jumped in, eventually joined by Dr. Bob Dillon, exploring this question about “making” as well as design thinking.
Are these really new? How does “making” differ from the tinkering and shop work that were or have been part of our education for decades or more? Has our educational system become so sterile, so wrapped up in a quantified system of study and test that we actually get excited when we shift back to tinkering, building, making, designing, as if it were a “new” approach to learning?
I heard two points of general agreement in this quick collegial exchange. The first was that we should not be satisfied by introducing a new approach in our schools without digging deeply into “why” we are doing it. How does it direct or influence our pedagogy? How is it percolated throughout the school, or is it isolated in one room, one space, one period of time? Are we checking off a box somewhere in our strategic plan that says “we are going to engage in design thinking or build a maker-space? I have visited schools and talked with educators recently who either are, or REALLY need to, IMHO, engage in this discussion.
This questioning leads to what I heard was a second point of agreement: these learning elements represent mindsets, or habits of mind, or processes of thinking, not just a set of tools to be dragged out upon occasion. If we see them as another cookbook recipe for “good learning” we have fallen again into the trap of assembly line learning.