At MakerClub we have developed a learning platform designed to teach specific future skills as well as transferable life skills that we have identified as being core to success in whatever path that the individual chooses. Firstly there are specific skills of programming and CAD which open the doors to numerous emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Game development etc.
On top of this, we teach growth mindset, design thinking, collaborative problem solving and creative thinking which are all areas which are much more resistant to being automated by computing.
Ultimate Goal: Young people have the knowledge, skills and confidence required for future success
As the rate of change of technology increases, traditional teaching techniques become less effective. It is no longer a useful skill to recall easily searched facts and new tools or programming languages mean that learning specific approaches can be futile. Furthermore, the current education system has a leaning towards assessment and right or wrong answers. There is growing evidence to suggest that this approach stunts creativity as students become less willing to get things wrong.
Lifelong learning, defined as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons, teaches a growth mindset where students believe they can learn any given ability, provided they invest effort or study.
Lifelong learning has its roots in constructivism, where we construct our understanding of the world through experiencing it. Seymour Papert then expanded upon constructivism to develop his theory of constructionism, which argues that we learn best through making things. This theory has been refined over the past 30 years and new technologies, are allowing the theories to come into practice.
MakerClub is the physical manifestation of these pedagogic theories. By teaching young people how to invent using emerging technologies, we give them the future skills they need to be a success in whatever they choose to do, and the experience and encouragement required to become a lifelong learner.
Skills we value
Through research, we have identified two families of skills that we value for future success. The first we are defining as transferable life skills, which will help the young person to be resilient and solve problems in whatever field they chose. The second set of skills are specific technical skills, which are the driving force behind numerous emerging technologies. In figure 2, below, we identify some of the
Activities & Intermediate Outcomes
While there are well-documented benefits of making to the maker’s sense of wellbeing, self-worth and being part of a community, we are going to focus on the aspects that specifically build up their skills, knowledge and confidence.
Constructionism is a well researched and growing field of pedagogy that asserts that people learn best through making things. From Piaget to Papert to Resnick, the theories have been developed to involve a creative learning spiral.
Activity: Design Inventions
Designing inventions reflects our approach to the “Imagine” phase of the creative learning spiral. Used in design and engineering fields, design thinking is a process which can be used to help develop 21st Century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and reflection. The process involves identifying and solving real-world problems, providing a context for learning. By practising design thinking and iterative processes learners will develop as innovators with the skills they need for the future workplace.
Young people develop design thinking skills to solve problems they face
We are building into our platform, functionality which allows young people to follow best practice in design thinking and iterate through their projects and creations. At first, we will guide them through this design process with our projects.
- Number of our projects they create
- The number of design steps they take towards completion with each project. I.e. Research, consideration for end-user
There is an assumption that there is a ‘best’ way to design for everyone. There is plenty of literature around design thinking and the design process, but we will need to test our approach with different types of young people and determine how much flexibility we need to build into the process. Notwithstanding, there are still stages of the process that we would like young people to document, as it will help the community grow as a whole.
Outcome: Proactively seek out and solve problems around them
Once they have build enough projects that we have created, we will encourage them to use the same process to create their own projects. Here we will be able to see if they can take the concepts and apply them to their own problems/challenges.
- Number of their own projects they create, and the number of design steps they take towards completion
Most young people are quite good at taking our projects and remixing them or personalising them, but until now the platform hasn’t been complex enough to support some of their more original/inventive ideas. As we improve the platform, there is still an assumption that we can teach the young person to have the drive and skills to complete their own projects from scratch. We will also need to understand the skill set of the facilitator/educator helping them and determine whether or not they will need extra training.
We have replaced “Create” with “Make” in the learning spiral to reflect our origins in the Maker Movement, but the theory is the same. By virtue of building their imagined designs, young people learn how their assumptions and mental model of their environment translate to the real world. Specifically, with making (as opposed to creating a computer program, work of art or poem), they will learn real-world maths, physics, material properties, programming, the interaction between the real world and the internet (IoT) as well as how to work in a team to complete a project.
Outcome: Young people develop Programming skills
Programming is an integral skill to many emerging technologies, we will teach and measure the depth and breadth of programming ability by analysing the code on the platform.
- The different types of coding syntax used: For example variables, loops, functions
- The amount of code: While the number of lines of code will indicate the complexity of the project. Later iterations of the platform will allow us to use more nuanced measurement, but this will give us a good indication for now.
- The number of inputs and outputs used within a project or across a number of projects
- Error messages vs success will allow us to see where learners have difficulties and whether they give up or have another go (Link to Growth Mindset)
Good code can often be deceptively simple, and it would be good to reward efficient code over just amount of code. In later iterations of the evaluation, it would be possible to apply heuristics looking for repetition (where a function could be used instead), but we are confident that these KPIs will offer a strong indication of depth and breadth in the first place.
Young people develop CAD skills
CAD is growing at a considerable rate and is a particularly useful skill for VR, AR and IoT as well as more traditional engineering fields and architecture.
- Evaluate the complexity of CAD designs through learner self-assessment (shapes, holes, alignment, grouping, printing considerations)
- Audit a sample of self-assessments to compare whether learners assess a design the same as we do.
Activity: Play with their inventions
Play requires a combination of curiosity, imagination and experimentation. It has been identified as a core process in the human learning process where we test the usefulness of our inventions and start to see where improvements or alterations might be made.
Outcome: Creative thinking
- The improvement over time using the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.
- Once a month learners complete a starter activity to test this
- The improvement over time using the Taxonomy of Creative Design
- Learners keep a log of designs over time and upload to a project template accompanied by questions (Link to Design Thinking)
We are currently assuming that there is a correlation between doing work that is intrinsically creative, and the five indications of creativity in a person (TTCT tests). It will not until we have at least 6 months of data before we can draw any real conclusions against this.
Activity: Share their work and knowledge
Through sharing their inventions, discoveries and the challenges that they faced, young people solidify their own understanding while learning from others. Allowing those with different experiences and attitudes collaborate on your project and making suggestions, allows for greater improvements during the next imagine phase of the creative learning spiral.
There are also positive emotions and well-being effects of sharing work, outlined in David Gauntlett’s book “Making is connecting”, where people are able to find communities of like-minded people through the creations they make, and positively reinforce interests through feedback.
Outcome: Young people learn to work collaboratively
There is a little more work to be done to understand the PISA framework, and how exactly it can apply to MakerClub environment. At the moment, some kids work on their own, others pick roles for the team and others and others work together sharing the roles and responsibilities across everyone. While we know we should be measuring this, we don’t yet have a strong opinion on the extent to which we should be encouraging/enforcing collaboration.
Activity: Reflect on their creations
Outcome: Young people develop a growth mindset (Lifelong Learning)
- Completed vs uncompleted projects and percentage completed for each project will indicate if there are certain activities which a learner gives up on.
- A two monthly questionnaire which includes questions adapted from:
- The Pattern of Adaptive Learning Scale (PALS)
- Achievement Goal Orientation Questionnaire (AGOQ)
As part of the design process, we still need to add a section for reflection, where the young people can discuss what they would improve. There is an assumption that we can make this a fun and interesting part of the process (e.g. using supportive commenting as in the scratch community), as opposed to a documentation chore.