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.
These comments are so key in our discussions on learning, and I appreciate the dialogue. The purpose or why we do what we do has been long forgotten in so many instances, and this is one thing that I am thrilled my colleagues are bringing to the forefront. No matter how awesome or terrible something seems to be, if we can’t discuss why (or heaven forbid don’t know why), then here is where the forest and the trees are both missed. Secondly, the idea of a mindset of teaching and learning that focuses on process and habits of mind is finally gaining traction (I remember working on this back in the 90s when I was a curriculum director with many teachers fighting me to hold tight to their content) among more educators to my delight!
I think the reason that I enjoy and am so grateful to my colleagues both near and far– you being one of them!– and am grateful for the Twitterverse and Blogosphere is that these conversations are happening outside of each of our individual cultures/systems, which then opens up the possibility of these conversations occurring within our systems.
In my opinion, the forest to which Goochee refers has less to do with making or design thinking and mostly to do with openness. Schools and learning institutions have for too long operated as closed systems: closed within themselves, closed from students to what the teacher wants to do, closed to content and department silos, etc. What I thrive on is that demand from many of our colleagues to OPEN the system– for teachers, for students, for learners, to old ways of doing things, to new ways of doing things. The preposition “for” (this is for the teachers, for the students) is not the only one working now within our systems which have expanded and opened- “by” and “with” have taken a stronger place. What an amazing time to be a part of learning!!!
Clear and succinct summary of the discussion.
I love Awkytle’s comment here:
“Secondly, the idea of a mindset of teaching and learning that focuses on process and habits of mind is finally gaining traction.”
However basic this conversation is for those deeply involved in Design Thinking, I hope this conversation is had 100 times over at Fuse14 and in the coming months, all over the country and world.