Reflecting on Making

In two short weeks, I have found myself transformed from someone who kind of understands hashtags to the kind of person who uses them in appropriate ways.  I have shifted from scribbling notes about websites to keep in mind for classroom use to someone who can remember the tools and what they are called - because I have used them.  I am understanding what it means to be a connected learner and educator, day by day.

The Making Learning Connected MOOC is about connected learning, of course, and after a week of introductions, community members began participating in a #toyhack.  It sounds simple - I pictured teddy bears with limbs from transformers attached.  But being an adult, spending time hacking toys - what was the purpose?  How does that change me as a teacher and a learner?

It goes far beyond the specific task.

Over the course of the #toyhack, I kept experimenting with some new favorite tools (twitter, vine), I read blog posts by other educators whose blogs I may never have come across, I spent an evening drinking wine and taking apart toys over a google+ hangout with this lady, and I experimented with stop motion animation.






The #toyhack was simply a vehicle for learning about new tools, interacting with others, and getting your hands into your work as a teacher.  If we want students to be creative, we need to be creative.  If we believe that it is important for students to play, we need to be comfortable doing that.  More than anything else in the MOOC, I've learned that we need to DO if we want to teach.

I'm interested in teaching students that possibilities are endless - you do not need to conform.  I think about Barbara Rogoff's ideas about the cultural nature of human development:  we are biological creatures growing up in the context of our culture.  We have countless opportunities to learn to act just like everyone else.  And there are, of course, valuable lessons to be learned from observing others and trying things out for ourselves - we can learn through play and by making mistakes.  The difference I'm feeling in the MOOC is that we are playing and making mistakes as we learn about new tools, and we're thinking out loud as we do it.  We're not trying to perfect anything - we're just trying.  I can't help but think of how much I'm learning, but how so much of it is my choice, based on what I want to be doing, making, playing.

In connected learning, "interests foster the drive to gain knowledge and expertise".  In the MOOC, I am exploring my interests and learning about new tools for storytelling and communication.  I am seeing others make and explore, and in that process, I see what connected learning means through a different set of eyes.  I can think of few things that are more important for a teacher than doing what we expect students to do and reflecting on our work.

A final "a-ha" moment for me this week has to do with a personal struggle: a battle between simplicity and technology.  Just looking at the toys at Goodwill earlier in the week had me cringing:  what is the value of things that light up and beep and help sell movies?  Although I had fun hacking a baby book into a mask, I have been the teacher who has open-ended, technology free prompts in the classroom.  The "a-ha" is that I am realizing that connected learning does not mean a tablet in front of every child all day long.  It means having opportunities for children to explore these media in whatever way works best for the classroom, for the school, for the community.  Learning to create with these new tools is essential not only because the world is an increasingly wired place, but because connecting increases the breadth and depth of what we can do with these tools.  Working with children to connect with technology, rather than isolate, is a big take-away for me so far.