The Making of Making @ SIGGRAPH 2015
Why this movement is gaining ground in schools across the country.
By Jean Kaneko
Making—a movement that embodies creativity, innovative thinking, and learning by doing—is changing the way educators teach and students learn. Making is a culture where learning happens through trial and error using new technologies, design, traditional materials like textiles, paper crafts, woodworking, cooking, and much more. It can emphasize interest-based, peer-led, and shared learning that is motivated by fun and encouraging novel applications of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) subjects.
Instant access to information via the Internet has changed how students learn. But more than ever, students are expected to sit, passively absorb, and accumulate knowledge. In the high-stakes world of public education, children quickly learn that finding the wrong answer means failure and judgment. When given the opportunity to be creative and innovative, children may become frustrated and uncomfortable because they are afraid of the consequences of finding a different answer. Through Making, the process of learning shifts to a healthier mindset that’s focused not only on accumulating knowledge but on using new knowledge to find multiple answers and create solutions that have meaning and impact.
Making’s popularity is growing in classrooms all over the country because it allows students and educators to “think with their hands,” “fail forward,” and establish new growth mindsets through all developmental stages. The concept of a growth mindsetwas developed by psychologist Carol Dweck. “In a growth mindset, people believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point,” she says. Embedded in the growth mindset is the concept of “failing forward,” where each setback is greeted with clearer purpose and new directions in thinking.
Programs that incorporate Making provide a safe environment for students so they can develop these mindsets by embracing new ways of thinking and failure as a necessary part of learning.
In formal learning experiences, Making empowers students to become agents of their own learning as they embrace a sense of confidence and ownership. Learning with purpose that goes beyond compliance allows students to design and come up with relevant solutions to real-world problems. It generates opportunities to engage in innovative learning, design thinking, systems thinking, and project-based learning that builds confidence and develops skills.
At the same time, students are incorporating accumulated and newfound learning in subjects like science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), wrapped in the context of real-world humanities-based needs. Low-cost rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics, and electronics enable students of all ages to design and fabricate tangible evidence of their learning. When these topics are framed in a process that honors open discovery and exploration, students are inspired to show their learning, creativity, imagination, and individual personalities.
As a curriculum and program developer and an early adopter of Making as an engagement strategy, I have been fortunate to nurture transformations in students from preschool to high school. My organization SIGGRAPH 2015 has created a process called “Tinker.Make.Innovate.” that allows participants to engage in the exploration and construction of their own perspectives, learn STEAM subjects and skills, and then use design thinking to invent and make solutions to real-world problems.
Teaching Making means engaging in a growth mindset with students as Making technologies change at a fast rate. Training becomes more about learning to embrace and adopt a rapidly evolving landscape of tools and skills rather than sticking to the tool of the moment. Teachers need to seek opportunities to open avenues where they can be inspired, but also be able to engage with scientists, engineers, developers, and artists to fully experience the program and be able to motivate and interact successfully with their students.
This year, the SIGGRAPH 2015 conference is offering a Making program. Making @ SIGGRAPH provides educators with the types of ways that will inspire their lesson plans. They’ll meet other teachers, and step into the mindset of an innovator. Educators will walk away from this conference with specific strategies for integrating Making into introductory and existing lesson plans
In addition, Making @ SIGGRAPH 2015 will include a talk featuring four teachers who will share how they have integrated Making into their classrooms. The Birds of a Feather talk includes teachers sharing how they use play and game design in their classrooms to teach coding and STEAM subjects.
Jean Kaneko is the SIGGRAPH 2015 Program Chair. She is a sought-after program/curriculum developer and speaker in the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) education and Making. You can reach her at email@example.com, or on www.theexploratory.com.
SIGGRAPH is the world's largest conference on computer graphics. SIGGRAPH 2015 will be held from August 9–13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California.For more information about SIGGRAPH 2015, go to http://s2015.siggraph.org/.
Photo: Eric Raptosh Photography/Media Bakery