The “Making and Education” course and Maker Faire encourage experimentation, exploration

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — As she strolled through the Krause Innovation Studio in the Chambers Building, Gabriela Richard watched her students showcase projects ranging from a KIBO robot that visitors could program as part of a maze challenge or rearrange as part of a storytelling experience to a laptop with Stripe coding that projected an interactive spoken word project.

Many other projects were on display at the Maker Faire of Richard’s graduate level LDT 824 “Making and Education” course on April 8th. Richard, Assistant Professor of Education (Learning, Design and Technology), said the course covers topics from high- and low-tech creator tools and activities to e-learning, content creation and participatory culture.

“They learn not just pedagogical theory, but how people learn inside and outside of schools, in informal and interest-based settings, and how to effectively support, scaffold and design meaningful and inclusive learning” , said Richard, the creator of the course.

Traditionally, creator learning opportunities were designed specifically for extracurricular settings, like camps or after-school programs, according to Richard. “The course gets students thinking very deeply about different aspects of learning and how different tools, systems or activities can be designed or leveraged to inform learning, help learners make important cross-curricular connections, like between STEM and the arts, or to become critics. consumers or creators,” she said.

Anna Kim, a science education graduate student who helped design the KIBO activities for the fair as part of one of their assignments, said she had always been interested in computational thinking, but was worried because it is usually related to computer science and programming, which is often too complex for young learners.

“When I found this craft and learn course, I was very excited because [it covered things like] KIBO which is actually developed for young learners who can still learn computational thinking and learn coding and algorithms which is really important for computational thinking. So… I was inspired,” Kim said.

Richard said that since the course was first offered in 2017, it has attracted students from the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program (from the Learning and Performance Systems department) as well as other departments. , including curriculum and teaching, and she also has local teachers and Humphrey Fellows have taken the course. “I think the majority of our students are really interested in understanding how we can design tools, activities, and environments that support learners and their whole learning ecology,” she said.

“With the curriculum and student instruction, we tend to have a lot more students geared towards K-12 education and finding ways to design formal learning environments or after-school clubs. We have occasionally received students from other colleges, such as IST, and Humphrey Fellows who wish to start programs in their countries or who wish to consider how they might integrate certain aspects of manufacturing into their research or practice.

LDT graduate students Chris Reeves and Charlie Keith worked in a group that designed the interactive spoken word station, which was designed by Reeves to accompany the band’s theme music for the fair. “One of my goals is to eventually create stories and poems and printmaking activities that accompany formal education,” Reeves said.

Keith described how they used the Makey Makey, a creation kit that can turn any conductive element into a keyboard or mouse, to control the spoken word creation project. The physically interactive aspects of the activity involved a system they created in which a circuit wire was attached to conductive popsicle sticks (covered in foil), which, if touched, caused reactions of their digital spoken word scene, including different characters moving and speaking the corresponding word. on the stick, such as “beautiful”, “love”, “realistic”, “patient” or “identity”. Visitors could also modify the code or add words to those on the sticks and record their own voice to add to the evolving poetic experience.

“We’re just creating spaces for students to explore their own creativity and explore different elements of culture and technology in ways they may not have experienced before,” Keith said. “Helping students understand that whatever is available to them, they can use it to the fullest and in different ways.”

Qout Ali Alturki, a graduate student in C&I, worked in a band with Reeves and Keith, and contributed to the band’s second activity, which was to create instruments with recycled materials. As part of the activity demonstration, she constructed a tambourine out of cardboard, paper and uncooked macaroni.

Richard, who also designed LDT 110, “Making with Art and Learning Technologies,” said LDT 824 Maker Faire is an opportunity for students to reflect on what they have learned and to apply their understanding to design activities and experiences that not only engage but are inclusive for a large and diverse audience. During a previous assignment, for example, they learned about a technology or maker activity and designed a learning experience for their peers. With this mission, they had to think about how they could be more inclusive with a wider and potentially more varied audience.

“You’re not designing for your peers who might have some technology background or be of a certain age, the idea here is to really think about your practice and how can you broaden or diversify the kinds of learning experiences that you’re designing for a larger audience of people, not just of different ages, but of different experience levels, different backgrounds, and different interests,” she said.

“It encourages students to be purposeful in designing meaningful exploratory learning activities that consider a variety of entry points. This is a Maker Faire, so we’re really thinking about how we can tap into some of the potential for deeper engagement or discovering interests and connections through playing, experimenting, and exploring.