Learning to Make - Making to Learn

Over the academic year of 2014-15, I've been lucky enough to have been given a chance to explore the relationship between maker learning and Inquiry. With the International Boys' School Coalition Action Research Project theme of Boys as Makers as a catalyst, I had the opportunity to dig deep at the intersection of making and inquiry with the burning desire to know if making can actually be a vehicle for meaningful, deep learning or if maker learning is simply a type of learning in and of itself.

Maker learning, makerspaces, and the maker revolution are all terms that we are hearing more and more at this point in time. In an era where technology is doing more and more for us, there seems to be a societal desire to take back the act of making, roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. There seems to be a growing desire to figure out how thinks work and how we can make tools to do exactly what we want. We agree with Douglas Rushkoff when he argues that we need to Program or be Programmed. We have to stop doing things the way our tools dictate and start making tools do exactly what we want them to.

But somewhere in this discussion, we lose track of what it is we are doing. To be able to make tools to do what we dream of doing with them, we have to learn how to use them and the tools that allow us to make other tools. We build kits. We learn specific skills. We become masters of tools. But how often do we go beyond the intended uses of these tools?

Along come Leslie Preddy, Bill Derry and David Loertscher. They start to talk about their uTEC model and preach that after we learn to use the tools, we need to go beyond the tool's intended use to tinker and experiment with them, gradually expanding the uses of the tools that we use and the skills that we have to use them. It isn't until we transcend the intended use of the tool that the tool simply becomes another part of our ability to create something truly new. This is where I set out to explore. What happens when we transcend the tools, live in the create phase of uTEC and start to become completely fluent. What happens when making is a vehicle for inquiry? What happens when making opens up opprtunities for sharing the results of deep inquiry in new and more effective ways? What happens when making completely changes the way a learner thinks through a path of inquiry?

You can explore the results of my exploration through the Research pages where I outline the research itself and provide examples of some of the making that went on in the groups that I worked with. You can also step into the minds of the students throught the Inquiry Simulator below.

Inquiry Simulator

Inspired by one of the research participants who chose to use games as effective tools to engage his audience in his research by allowing them to get inside the heads of those that he was researching, I created the Inquiry Simulator as a tool to explore the potential thinking of students going through the research process in our classes. This Inquiry Simulator attempts to put you in the head of a student who is faced with a research project for school. The paths in this game that tend toward the use of making in their learning are directly out of the research done with real senior level Social Studies students. The non-making paths also had the input of many of these same students, but were not part of the formal research. If you are a teacher, please use the Inquiry Simulator as a way to reflect on what you are asking your students to do in their research projects and how they might respond to such tasks.

Please take the time to explore the scenarios presented throught this game. Of course, all possible reactions to each option are not presented. The project was already sufficiently large scale. Please do respond and provide reaction to the simulator through the Contact Me page. I would love to hear your thoughts and discussion of what is presented. It would further inform my practice and, I'm sure, the practice of others.

Enter the Inquiry Simulator