Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
- Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
- Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
- Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
- Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
My Inquiry Question: How to use project-based makerspace learning for younger students to inspire their innovative learning within a design process to solve problems by creating innovative solutions?
Maker space is emerging in schools with a laser cutter, 3D printer, and hands-on tools which are built on purpose for supporting and motivating students learning within the design process. It will thrive only when students think it is a place full of inspiration for deeper learning. For younger students, maker space should not be a sacred classroom they rarely had a chance to enter in. It should be a playful learning space to generate brainstorm ideas. In the lower grades, teachers have more intervention on learning activities and resources, how they can use maker space to support PBL learning to inspire innovative learning within a design process to solve problems by creating innovative solutions is my question.
Every time I stopped by our school’s makerspace, it is always the battlefield for the older students are all high schoolers. They can handle different kinds of hands-on tools and utilize 3D or 2D design software to translate their vision into real products to solve an authentic problem by creating imaginative solutions. However, when you see the eyes full of curiosity and inspiration from younger students, you will realize that we cannot stop this age from innovative learning within design process which will benefit their future life in the thriving, innovative technology age in which they are expected to handle ambiguity and changes. Since younger students have limited cognition on complex invisible concepts, the makerspace as the transferring place can scaffold understanding and support them to turn knowledge into action and cultivate their ability to use design process for solving authentic problems.; also can scaffold using mastered knowledge to build new knowledge system from design and hands-on learning process. In a PBL using makerspace for younger students, how much mastery experiences students have is not prior to seeking a method to trigger students curiosity and motivation to catalyze student-centered design learning. In order to cultivate younger students positive emotion and encourage them to use the design process for generating brainstorm ideas and creating unique solutions, teachers need to consider several factors when they set up the project-based makerspace learning:
- the potential obstacles and challenges students will encounter in the project
- address students’ ability, trait, and potential talents
- appropriate open-ended questions which can involve makerspace
- provide a narrow field of choices within explicitly criteria and constraints
- fit with available resources in the makerspace
- Break down the driving question into several small manageable questions by DQB tool (Chart of DQB)
- Analyze traits of users the solution (design) for with students
Setup a project-based makerspace lesson is a design process for teachers which need to analyze students to meet their motivation point by a motivative driving question which depends on teachers’ experiences and empathy on this age of students. DQB tool provides a compensative way to break down the driving question into sub-questions which are generated by students after investigation and sorted by categories of the learning goal. In this process, students get ownership and control on learning, and their concerned and interested relevant questions will be posted on the board which promotes motivation and also provides them a better understanding of the project. The manageable sub-questions can build students’ confidence and a positive attitude. The whole DQB process is also a big design process in which students can design their questions and construct new knowledge through a variety of technologies and activities with teacher-scaffold to solve the authentic problem. The teacher will act as a guide or a mentor to make sure every choice every action is on track to the end of the goal when students drive the learning vehicle to the destination. In the design process, teachers need to scaffold students to build empathy mindset on their design through discussion and observation which will be not only the critical element of a successful design but also a necessary capability needs to be fostered from a younger age.
When students’ brainstorm ideas are ready to turn into a real product, the makerspace becomes a knowledge output house to support PBL connected with the reality which is a good method for younger students that they can touch, they can see, they can engage, and they can show the porotypes. Makerspace is increasingly being looked to as a method for engaging learners in creative, higher order problem-solving through hands-on design, construction, and iteration (European Union, 2015). The soul of the makerspaces is not the 3D printers, laser cutter, fancy hands-on tools, but is the learners’ motivation and inspiration arisen by makerspaces. It is the place can motivate younger students creativity by a design process learning, but also a place fills with frustrated, overwhelmed from repeated setbacks which will be the biggest enemy to destroy younger students’ trigger and confidence on using a design process to solve authentic problems and create innovative artifacts. As the instructors, there are some factors we need to be considered in makerspace learning process:
- Provide relevant expertise in time
- Provide teacher-moderated guide in every small step
- Provide teacher-intervention direction if necessary (predictable failures occurred)
- Encourage students to be tolerant of iterative tests and improving on their prototypes
- Provide processing praise
- Ongoing formative assessments
- Engineer journal required
- Improve the prototypes kept the original ideas by better materials
- Show audiences the improved prototypes and try to use them in real life
With the above factors being considered, it is still a tough journey for younger students to lead successful innovative learning within a design process through PBL and makerspace as strategies. But this learning process provides so many precious 21st century skills such as working collaboratively to collect intelligence, handling ambiguity with open-ended problems, using a design process to create innovative solutions, constructing knowledge from tinker. So as the educator, we must pull through and paving a path for our younger students to motivate their curiosity and creativity. As the storymaking project and plastic recycling project, you never known how much unpredictable potential our younger students have and how many incredible tasks they can pull through. How to deal with failures is the essential task while teachers using makerspace to support design process learning. When I did my research, I learned that some schools use teacher-modeling prototypes to make younger students imitate. Imitation is not a bad method for younger students which can lower the risk of failures to enhance students’ confidence. But imitation will kill younger students’ motivation and creativity which is going to be far away from the goal of cultivating innovative designers. We need to discuss with our students that failure is the beginning of success. We can guide students to setup sub goals of their project to achieve a small step of success and praise the processing to cultivate their growth mindset. As the educators, if we can leave our comfortable zone to take a risk using PBL with the support of makerspace to build cross-curricular pilot projects, we will be the good lesson of facing the challenges for our younger students.
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- Weizman, A., Schwartz, Y., & Fortus, D. (2008). The Driving Question Board. Science Teacher, 75(8), 33–37. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ817852&site=ehost-live
- KURTI, R. S., KURTI, D. L., & FLEMING, L. (2014). The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces. Teacher Librarian, 41(5), 8–11. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=a9h&AN=96678445&site=ehost-live
- [The RSA]. (2015, December 15). RSA animate: how to help every child fulfill their potential. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl9TVbAal5s