Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Techie Shop Class

create- not consume

The family business growing up (and still is), was building custom homes. I grew up helping build houses in the summer and I partially paid for college by framing houses, plumbing, roofing and building stuff. I was one of the first in my family to graduate from college. My father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, brothers are general contractors who built homes for people. Everyone of them had and still have, a shop/garage filled with machines for cutting, machining, building and constructing. They smell of wood chips, mechanics, oil and going into their shops is always fun. Some of my best memories are of making bird houses, model boats, modifying my bicycle handlebars with welding torch, fixing my lawnmower engine with my grandfather and dad.  In high school, I took AP classes in all subject areas, but my favorite class was...shop and woodworking class. Although at the time I thought it was lots of hard sweaty work, I realize now that I was lucky growing up having these experiences and learning how to build stuff. So many of my peers (and students) are helpless when it comes to knowing about tools and how to fix things so I get asked how to fix stuff at their houses occasionally.

I guess my construction background is what has naturally attracted me to teaching technology to teachers and students. Using and integrating technology naturally allows students to CREATE instead of CONSUME and is very CONSTRUCTIONIST and PROJECT-BASED in nature. If you have read my early blog posts, you would know how exciting this is to me as a vehicle for teaching kids. In the last couple of years the Maker Movement has taken off, and one of the bibles of this movement is Invent to Learn. I am currently attending the ASB Unplugged conference in India,  which has a strand dealing with the Maker Movement and I am really excited to share what I learn on this blog and through my twitter. I am lucky enough to be launching the first class at my high school (calling it Design Technology), which is our techie-shop class. In its first year, it has proved to be a hit, with all the spots filled up, and talk of expanding it to another course. It is really exciting to see what my students are coming up with. Because of the interest, the goal is to outfit it with 3D printing, a 3-Axis CNC router, laser etching,  Arduino's, 3D designing software and differentiated, project-based learning. All of this equipment can be used cross-departmentally and cross-divisionally. I work at an american international school, with a 1:1 program in MS and HS. Lots of great classes and a wonderful faculty geared to get kids into the college of their dreams...but no shop class :-) ... I have taught similar pre-engineering and design-type classes in the past, but I hate to say it- the British curriculum and IB curriculum are way ahead in this area of creative innovation than american international schools have been with Design Tech-type courses where kids design and manufacture stuff. President Obama has recently called for more entrepreneurial skills to be taught to students. Should the dream be to work for someone else after they get out from college, or for students to be allowed to generate their own ideas and create companies and jobs for others?...More coming on the development of the Maker Movement at my school. Stay tuned!

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