Positive effects on learning capabilities of potential dropout students
Being a Maker for many years working in different schools with different making projects for the last 8 years I found out that especially those students with difficulties in motivating themselves for subjects like maths, languages or in going to school in general are very keen on doing making projects, as the required skills and the output of their work seem to be more obvious to them. A lot of potential dropout students seem to be very frustrated about school as they experienced a lot of bad feedback on their learning abilities possibly over many years. In the end they loose confidence in their skills and give up. At this point Making can help a lot, it is more hands on, the students get new perspectives on what kind of job they could do later on. As soon as the project you’re working on is cool and you want to make it work out, all students give their best to reach the goal and they work hard on it. At that point you can add some theory necessary for succeeding in the project, as now the pupils know what they will need it for and they are willing to practice on it and show a lot of effort.
Prejudice of teachers on Making and other difficulties
Knowing this you may think it would be easy for teachers to implement some Making into their lessons, getting those potential dropout students motivated again. At this point I must admit, that although there are some teachers implementing Making into school life already they are very few. As Making is not part of the school curriculum yet, those passionate teachers have to do a lot of extra work to make it work, but they do it, as they see the fabulous results the pupils can make out of it. On the other hand there are a lot of secondary school teachers who think that they themselves are not competent enough to do anything with Making, as they do not have any experiences on technical things like 3D printing, lasercutting, electronics etc, so they say they can’t do it, even if eventually it could help to improve the skills of their students. There are even more arguments like lack of time and lack of equippment on top.
To show how to work with Making is not enough
So what can be done about those prejudice? When working in schools we always try to show teachers what projects work well with the kids and they look at the projects and say „Oh cool!“, but we always miss the „Oh cool I want to do that with the kids on my own. How can I do that!“ We always asked ourselves why this has to be like that and we never got a real clue. Knowing that Making helps potential dropout students a lot to find their way back to learning, getting motivated again, we were a little bit disappointed, about the fact, that showing what can be done and letting pupils work in different projects wouldn’t help to make teachers want to adapt this method for their pupils.
Thinking of a new approach to get any teacher into Making
Finally the question is how to convince teachers that they are able to do making and that it is worth doing it? In my point of view the most important thing is to make the teachers experience themselves being a Maker in the first step, so they can understand the maker mindset by heart. The next step will be to set up a little makerspace and start implementing little projects into lessons to improve the skills of the students, which should be not that difficult after having made the Maker experience. You can find a lot of input in the internet if you want.
Working on our Make in Class Teacher Training we had the great opportunity to apply our new approach! 16 teachers from Spain, Italy, Malta and Germany all non experts in making should participate in our one week teacher training. We decided to start the training with a little Maker Fair at Gymnasium Neubiberg, to which we invited all sorts of experts in Making like Mr. Beam Laser, Infineon with Open Light, BaKaRoS Fraunhofer IAO, TUM School of Education, FabLab München e.V. and the Maker Space Neubiberg. We also invited a lot of different teachers and head of schools from Munich and surrounding to make them see, talk and discuss Making with a lot of other interested people. Apart from the exchange we also organized introductional workshops in 3D modelling and printing, vinylcutting, soldering and programming for all participants of the fair to make them step into Making very low level, just to get a first impression on how to do it themselves. In the evening most of the teachers were quite impressed what can be done and admitted that even things they thought they would not be able to do weren’t that complicated in the end, so they were quite open minded and curious to start into the next day.
Tea chers experience a lot of hands on – combined with little bits of theory
The first day was more of like getting an overview of what could be done, but none of the teachers really worked on a project intensly. We could see that they were curious but still sceptical if what they had to do could really help them coming back to their schools working with potential dropouts.
So having started on monday with short introductory workshops, we continued with some theoretical input on Tuesday. Expert-Teachers of Gymnasium Neubiberg demonstrated possible integrations of Making into lessons. Practical examples from the everyday life of chemistry, geography and art teachers like elevation models, chemical structures, precipitation 3D models of the USA, clothes hooks etc. could be marvelled at by all. Immediately most of the teachers made considerations on how to integrate something similar into their own lessons.
After this theoretical excursion we continued with a lot of hands on projects to make the teachers work and experience the Maker mindset. They had to design their own future Maker Space in TinkerCAD, prepare it for printing and print it out.
They had to solder LED stars and upcycle car tires to chairs, each workshop guided by senior high school students. At this point we could see that the teachers got more and more enthusiastic about the projects. The hands on projects surely captivated them. They exchanged their knowledge, worked as a team, helped each other, were happy when a light came up or when the holes were drilled… From then on a stimulating atmosphere of making filled the workspace, everyone was active and seemed very happy. So after only two days we were able to catch them with what we thought will help us prepare them for going back home and infect even more teachers.
On Wednesday everyone met in the FabLab Munich to dive into the world of wearables with Anna Blumenkranz who teaches Wearables at the university. Planning, sewing, making electrical circuits with conductive threads and glowing caps was on the agenda for everyone! In the afternoon, Max Henninger from Infineon was able to implement his Open Light lamp project with teachers for the first time. So this day was an intense hands on day and the teachers worked hard on their projects, even forgetting to eat and drink just to finish their projects. The stimulating surrounding of the FabLab with a lot more IoT projects, 3D printers and lasercutter provoqued that too.
On Thursday, the teachers were able to do an LED Pillow project combining art and technical things. Afterwards, all teachers tested our Open educational platform to get to know where they can find even more hands on projects to continue making at home. In the afternoon a team building robot workshop kept the teachers busy and ended in a robot competition.
Feedback: Something got me while working in the projects – excitement, happiness, fullfillment
On Friday, we confronted the teachers with a didactic and methodical phase in which 21st Century Skills were discussed. Alltogether we reflected on the training and all of the participants were sure that they now understand what Making can change for students that are not motivated the normal way of teaching. Even those teachers who were quite sceptical in the beginning of the training, now felt that something got them and that while doing the projects they felt a certain kind of happiness and fullfillness.
After the one week teacher training, all were convinced that they had caught fire because of the enthusiasm they had shown while working together on projects such as soldering, wearables, lamp construction, upcycling, robot construction etc. and that they now have to pass on this fire to their colleagues at home in order to infect them with the Maker Virus too, so that the students – especially the potential dropouts – can also be infected with it … It has to be a fire to learn for life (not only for marks and the teacher) in practical projects that also convey a lot of theory, but only in the second step! There has to be excitement first!