Making Space for Inquiry-Focused Maker Spaces at School

In contrast to the community-based Makerspaces that began as adult playgrounds for tinkering and whimsical inventions, the maker movement in education is founded upon inquiry-based learning within a hands-on focused environment (Kurti, R., Kurti, D., & Fleming, 2014). Consequently, maker education should be considered an evolution of constructivist philosophy that views learning as a highly personal endeavor that is student-driven and requires educators to act as inquiry facilitator rather than simply a disseminator of knowledge.

As an essential element of inquiry-based learning is to address the individual interests, needs, and skills of students, it is imperative that teachers have access to a variety of material and resources to differentiate the learning experience. Thus, inquiry-focused maker spaces need to be stocked with a wide array of hands-on and digital resources. This can include, but is not limited to a variety of resources to support STEAM learning such as laptops, web-based reference materials, digital cameras, robotics and circuitry resources, 3D printers, as well as traditional construction, art, and craft materials.

Ann Richards School, Austin, TX
As students proceed through the inquiry cycle, they often require different physical spaces to facilitate the process. Ideally, as students transition through the exploring, investigating, processing and creating stages they would have access to a physical space that was best suited to the task they were engaged in. This would result in the merging of what has traditionally been considered the library learning commons, computer lab and shop class into one unified location. A large space with modular centres that are connected by movable walls, large windows or pocket doors would serve to create a reconfigurable learning environment that would be ideally suited to fostering an inquiry-focused approach to STEAM learning.
Photo by Zoe Branigan-Pipe
Common to both the maker movement and inquiry-focused learning is an emphasis on authentic learning and real-world problem solving. Consequently, inquiry-focused maker spaces should facilitate community connections and permit community use of the space outside of school hours. Having an external facing door would allow extra-curricular and community groups access to the space while also allowing the school to access community resources to support the continual acquisition of learning materials and ongoing enhancements to the location.

Google Offices, Dublin Ireland
Not only do these types of spaces facilitate progressive approaches to learning, they also mirror the workplaces created by innovative companies seeking to create an environment that is conducive to collaboration and creativity.  Thus, making space for inquiry-based maker spaces in schools could help students develop the self-regulation, critical thinking and cooperative skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace.

Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D. L., & Fleming, L. (2014). The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces. Teacher Librarian, 41(5), 8–12.

Jason Riberio - President’s Surgite Award Winner

The President’s Surgite Award is awarded to current students to recognize those who have been outstanding in one or more of the following areas: leadership, advancing the University’s reputation, contribution to life at Brock, or valuable service to the University or broader community.

Jason Ribeiro
Master’s of Education, 2015
Hometown: Hamilton
Graduate award highlights: 2015 President’s Surgite Awards, 2015 Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Award, 2015 Research Ventures Award, 2015 Jack M. Miller Excellence in Research Award

Jason Ribeiro was determined to squeeze in as many graduate student experiences as possible over the past two years while studying in Brock’s master’s of education program.

It’s difficult to imagine when he found time to sleep within a steady schedule that included occasional teaching for the Halton Catholic District School Board, a research assistantship with Brock’s Social Innovation Research Associate Program (SIRAP), serving on the Graduate Students’ Association, an EdTech internship, and one of the biggest projects of his academic life, his master’s thesis.

Ribeiro’s master’s research focused on the decision-making process of senior leaders in publicly funded Ontario school districts, and how they acquire educational technology.

“The study may be the first of its kind in Canada that calls upon the viewpoints of senior leaders and it will impact approximately 746,000 Ontario students,” he explains. “School boards aren’t necessarily being advised on how to best spend those dollars and that will be the key going forward.

“I hope this research captures the attention of … the Ministry of Education in Ontario and other senior leaders who recognize we need to shift the way we’re purchasing technology so that it’s in enhancement of student learning, and for teachers as well.”

Ribeiro, who is from Hamilton, defended his thesis last spring, just in time for June Convocation. The past spring has been particularly busy with a series of conference presentations that have taken him to Philadelphia and Las Vegas.

“It is so important that you are able to visualize your research as having a life outside of your office and just outside of the paper itself,” he says. “I liken it to almost creating an album where you actually get to take it on tour. It’s an incredible experience to engage in conversations and professional development with your peers and scholars who you look up to.”

He decided to forego an invitation to present his research at a conference in New Zealand this summer to give himself more time to prepare for his move to Alberta. He will do his PhD studies at the University of Calgary starting in September.

“I plan to expand on this work in my PhD studies and take a pan-Canadian focus with the goal of fostering innovation and refined collaboration between ministries of education, and startup and established tech companies,” he says.

Ribeiro leaves Brock with a great sense of gratitude for the mentorship and support he received throughout his studies.

21st Century Assessment Strategies

Twenty-first century assessment differs from traditional assessment strategies because of its focus on formative rather than summative assessment. Formative assessment is the process of using assessment or feedback for the purpose of improving learning and helping students become independent learners.
An essential element of formative assessment or assessment for learning, is that students are provided with timely and ongoing feedback. The goal of providing timely feedback is to reduce the gap between a student’s current level of knowledge and skills and the desired learning goal (Davies, 2005). Consequently, because formative assessment needs to occur frequently and be integrated into the instructional process, it is essential that teachers have the necessary tools to ensure that the assessment and feedback process can take place in an efficient and effective manner without being overly burdensome.

When students are actively engaged in the formative assessment process and have an opportunity to self-assess their work or determine the degree to which they have fulfilled a specific learning goal, their ability to self-regulate their learning and behavior is enhanced (Harlen and Deakin-Crick, 2004). Thus, tools that allow students to participate in the formative assessment process can be effective in enhancing self-regulation, critical reflection and student engagement. These skills are essential to the development of independent, 21st century learners.

Twenty-first century assessment strategies emphasize the importance of capturing learning activities that support higher-order thinking, are authentic in nature and are aligned with real world tasks. These types of tasks often result in learning products that are three dimensional in nature and difficult to capture with simple pen and paper tests. While there are a number of assessment tools that use photographs or videos to document learning, few of these resources allow for the provision of detailed or standards-aligned feedback and assessment.

21st Century Assessment Resources

The following resources can be used to implement a variety of 21st century assessment strategies by using technology to move beyond simply documenting the end result of student learning and instead use the latest innovations to support the learning process by facilitating assessment for learning and assessment as learning.

Using Online Videos to Enhance Instructor Presence & Feedback

        Research indicates that instructor presence has an impact on students’ success in online learning (Bliss and Lawrence, 2009; Garrison and Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Garrison, Cleveland-Innes and Fung, 2010; Pawan, Paulus, Yalcin, and Chang, 2003; Varnhagen, Wilson, Krupa, Kasprzak, and Hunting, 2005 and Hiltz).  Since instructor presence can be an important predictor of online learning success (Baker 2004) and student satisfaction (Arbaugh, et al., 2009) it is vital that online instructors find effective and efficient ways to use the available technology resources to enhance online instructor presence

        Instead of simply being a faceless figure that periodically interject comments and grades into an online learning environment, instructor-created videos can be an effective and efficient way to connect with students, provide information and feedback and most importantly, share your passion and excitement for the teaching and learning process.  
   Being able to easily and quickly create online videos is a highly efficient way to provide detailed and complex information to learners. This is important because a high degree of clarity and communication has been demonstrated as being essential for online student satisfaction and success. Consequently, the immediacy of instructor feedback directly contributes to student learning and overall course satisfaction

       Listed below are five different types of instructor created videos. Each fulfills a different instructional function, while also serving to enhance instructor presence

1. Welcome video: This is an essential way to provide students with an introduction to the course format and content, while welcoming them to the learning environment.
2. Lecture video: An effective way to present course content that is more effective that simply providing slides with text.
3: Weekly update: An important means to establish an ongoing relationship with students and provide timely input and feedback. 
4: Assignment preparation: This is essential to providing students with the information and resources needed to be successful on upcoming assignments. 
5. Assignment feedback: This is an efficient way to provide students with the feedback on the class-wide strengths and weakness on completed assignments. This type of feedback is essential to support ongoing learning and academic growth.

Welcome video example:

Green screen example

ADED 4P97 Welcome Video from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

Lecture Video example:

ADED 4P97 Session 1 from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

Weekly Announcement example:

ADED 4P97 Session 3 Announcements from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

Assignment preparation video examples:

ADED 4P97 Case Study Assignment Prep from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

ADED 4P97 Session 10 Announcements from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

ADED 4P97 Change Plan Prep from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

Assignment feedback video example:

ADED 4P97 Session #9 Announcements from C Rutherford on Vimeo.

CONNECT 2015: Canada's Learning and Technology Conference - Thanks!

Thanks to everyone that made it possible for CONNECT: Canada's Learning and Technology Conference to go from this....

to this.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more
you are a leader." ~ John Quincy Adams

Team Canada Podcast from the Microsoft Global Educator Event

The E² Global Educator Exchange Event is an exciting three-day event to recognize and celebrate the achievements of educators who are preparing students for life in the 21st Century. The Educator Exchange brings together around 300 of the world's most innovative educators for an unparalleled opportunity to collaborate, create and share their experiences on how to integrate technology and pedagogy in ways that achieve 21st century learning outcomes.
Podcast participants:

Preservice Teacher Leadership In Action

While the research and policy literature frequently highlights the importance of leadership to school success and student achievement, the 'leadership' they have in mind is primarily that of the principal. As teachers have become more involved in school administration, the importance of teacher leadership and its impact on student success has also become more prominent in the school leadership literature.

Preservice Teacher Presenting at Tech Showcase
Unfortunately, there is little that acknowledges the contributions of novice or preservice teachers to the knowledge, practice or motivation of other educators. As an advocate of distributed leadership, I am a firm believer that influencing the knowledge, practice or motivation of others in the service of organizational goals can indicate leadership influence. While some may feel that their newness to the profession precludes novice and preservice teachers from being considered leaders I would like to highlight the contributions of Brock's EdTech Cohort as a case for acknowledging preservice teacher leadership.

Contemporary leadership portrayals highlight the importance of how leaders influence those around them (Leithwood et al, 1999; Northouse, 2010; Spillane, 2006; Yukl, 2010). From a social influence perspective, leadership can be considered to be any activities that attempt to influence the knowledge, practice and motivation of other organizational members in the service of the organization’s core work (Spillane, 2006). Within the context of the schoolhouse, school leaders are seen as ‘‘those persons, occupying various roles in the school, who work with others to provide direction and who exert influence on persons and things in order to achieve the school’s goal” (Leithwood and Riehl, 2003, p. 9). Thus, by exerting influence in the service of school/educational goals preservice teachers deserved to be considered leaders.

Preservice Teacher Leaders Presenting 
At the recent Brock Tech Showcase, the members of Brock's EdTech Cohort showcased their skill and knowledge of how to use the latest technology resources to create innovative learning experiences for students. Throughout the day, the over 300 attendees, which included teacher candidates, classroom teachers and principals, listened intently, took notes and made plans to implement what they had learned in their classroom. Influencing classroom practice as well as the knowledge, practice and motivation of the hundreds of educators they interacted with, clearly demonstrates that they should be considered 'leaders'.

Check out their Tweets and Blog posts for more examples of preservice teacher leadership in action.

~Lead On!