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PROJECT BASED LEARNING AND MAKER ACTIVITIES

The project based approach has become, in recent years, one of the most creative and innovative ways to raise secondary education classes.

Following the pioneering studies of Kilpatrick or Dewey, several authors have shown how to work in a classroom through didactic sequences. Project-based learning included several approaches such as Kilpatrick’s “project method”, which argues that a project is articulated in a work plan conceived as a complex unit of personal experience, or the Freinet’s approach, in which the different teaching subjects should be integrated around a concrete motivating plan.

This methodology is also closed, therefore, to the methods of “learning by doing”, to authors such as Dewey, or to Decroly’s “syncretism”, based on the global and undifferentiated apprehension of reality, not segmented into parts.

In our opinion, as shown in Terrádez (2016), the implementation of the project based approach in secondary and bachelor education should be based on the following pillars:

-It must aim to finally make something new, related to the reality of the student. The final project should not only be related to the acquisition of academic or school content, but must be related to learning skills that exceed the academic field, and must also be aimed at creating a new product (a book, an audio or video recording, a short film, etc.).

-It must be divided into “micro-projects”. For a project to be developed in its entirety, a minimum number of class sessions is needed to its implementation by the students, which may impair the necessary motivation in carrying out the actvity successfully. Therefore, we consider that the division of a project into “micro-projects”, all with their own objectives and methodologies, serves so that student does not lose the motivation for the final product.

– The work must be balanced in four basic skills. One of the most interesting aspects of project development is the ease with which the work of the four basic skills can be integrated. Students, throughout the project sessions, will necessarily have to write and read texts, each one with different functions, to talk and to present their work in class, and to listen the auditions related to the project, such as the peers’ own productions. The challenge for a teacher will be to design activities so that the work of these four skills never falls into improvisation.

-It must be interdisciplinary. Another highlight of a project approach is that we can easily achieve the interrelationship (often suggested and rarely implemented) of different subjects. A language and literature project can insert content related to history, philosophy, natural sciences, etc.

There is no doubt that maker activities are an ideal example for project-based learning.

We will take as an example one of the activities proposed in our European project “Make in Class” and included in the first Intellectual Output produced: the Competence Map.

Specifically, we will use the activity “Manufacturing a car model”, proposed by the MCAST, partner of Make In Class, in which students have to create an automobile model from the production of a technical drawing of mechanical components using CAD software, with the intention that, once the parts of the car have been assembled, the automobile can be linked and addressed with the student’s mobile.

This activity, as well as the most of  maker activities:

It aims to build something new, motivating and related to the student’s reality. Without a doubt, designing a remote control car is something tangible and motivating for the student.
It is divided into “microprojects”: 1. Configuration of the main communication tools. 2. Use cad software packages in preparation for manufacturing. 3. Calculate sizes of the item to be manufactured. 4. Production and design. 5. Build the electronic circuit.
Students apply both the four basic skills and key competencies or “soft skills”. In fact, in the project students should look for information on how to build a car, and finally think about promoting their project.
It has a clearly interdisciplinary character, as it relates to subjects as different as English, technology, computer science, mathematics, physics. Virtually all subjects in the curriculum are somehow linked to the project.

In short, we have shown how maker activities are a privileged example of the project-based learning methodology, a method that seeks students to learn in an active and motivating way in order to help prevent the early school drop-out.

References
Dewey, J. (1971), “L’école et les méthodes actives”, Revue des Sciences de l’Education (Pour l’ére nouvelle), no 2, pp. 49-57.

Freinet, C. (1976), Los planes de trabajo. Barcelona. Laia. B.

Novak, J. Y Gowin, D. (2002), Aprendiendo a aprender, Martínez Roca.

Pozuelos, F. J. (2004), “Las carpetas de trabajo: una herramienta para compartir la evaluación en el aula”, Cooperación Educativa Kikirikí, 71/72, pp. 37-45.

Terrádez, M. (2016): “Lo que La Celestina enseñaría a Meetic”, Textos.

Zayas, F. (2006), “Hacia una gramática pedagógica”, en Camps, A. y Zayas, F. (coords.), Secuencias didácticas para aprender gramática. Barcelona: Graó, pp. 17-30.

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