Make/Hack/Play Together 1

During the past week, I participated in the Make/Hack/Play Together MOOC. Experience has taught me that every learner builds their understanding themselves, and very often literally. Thinking is not something that occurs ‘in our heads’. Thinking is everywhere, visibly and tangibly. This MOOC is a fantastic opportunity to explore Constructionist pedagogy as a learner and teacher.
The first assignment was to build something physical. I didn’t manage to find time to build anything myself, but I did with my son. He is two years old, and has had a set of wooden blocks for about a year. When he first started playing with them, they always represented objects. Sometimes they were spoons, sometimes trains, sometimes only he knows what.
In recent weeks, however, he has started building. Noticing his curiosity, I started building alongside him and describing my creative process. He enjoys watching and listening, and gets very excited as my creations grow. That is, before he obliterates them. He is definitely still in the ‘destroyer’ stage as a maker, but as his hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills improve, I’m sure he will finally start to make his imaginings concrete and visible.
My ‘Garage Cathedral’ moments before demolition.

Two students in my class have been making what they’re calling a ‘model mansion’ out of cardboard and other stuff as one of their independent inquiries. Independent Inquiry is a project I have been developing to try to connect learning in school and out of school, and to foster a maker mindset in my classroom.

The tube on the side represents an elevator.
I believe it is the first time either of them has ever done this. Discussions during their collaborations have been fascinating and hilarious as they suggest, debate, iterate, revise, and build. I have documented several instances of them developing critical collaboration, communication, and creative skills and can say without hesitation that this activity is having a profoundly positive impact on their learning.
Finally, I would like to share a photo I took during a field trip to the Bandai Museum. It is Rick Hunter’s mecha from Robotech, and possibly my all-time favorite toy.

Interestingly, Robotech was the US release of two Japanese series that had been hacked and edited together. The show I watched was itself a remix, so to speak, and one of my favorite features of the toys was their transformability. They had three modes, one that looks like a jet, one that looks like a person, and one, as you can see in the photo, that looks like a mix of the two. That element of choice, being able to remix as one played, made the toys very engaging, just like ‘making’.

I hope I will have more time to participate more directly during the next week, but for now I’ve enjoyed being in a maker mindset despite not making much of anything myself.

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Published by

Bart Miller

Father, Teacher, Composer, Philosopher

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