This is 'Iolani School

This is 'Iolani School

Monday, November 23, 2015

Was "Old School" So Bad? Part I

When I started teaching 30 years ago at Liberty Elementary School (part of the Nyack Public School System), ‘making’ was part of every elementary classroom. There was always cardboard, paint, play dough, Legos, blocks, tape, name it. The curriculum of the elementary school was all about hands-on learning...learning by doing...letting kids be creative. Of course we didn't have standardized tests starting in kindergarten, so teachers didn't feel the pressure to "Teach to the test." Students designed and created dioramas of their favorite part of the novel they read; pop-up cards for Christmas and mailboxes for Valentine’s Day cards were annual projects. High school was a little different...we had the basic classes (math, science, social studies, language arts), but my district also offered drafting, metal shop, wood shop, photography, home economics, and auto shop. Not that you were going to be a mechanic or a chef (although you might)...but you had to know how to sew on a button, how to change a sparkplug (for those who remember doing that), and making a bird house taught kids how to plan and problem solve (like what to do when you cut a board too
short). That was 1986..."Old School."

Today we hear the term "Maker Education." Thanks in part to Make Magazine, published in 2005, there is this "new" trend in education. The organization Maker Ed states as it's vision, "Every child a maker." We are now seeing dedicated "maker spaces" in schools where students use 3D printers, laser cutters and a variety of technological components to create things. Libraries are being converted to "maker spaces" labs are being replaced with "maker spaces." Books and articles are being published at lightning speed spreading the "maker" philosophy. As I read articles and attend conferences, it seems like maker education is going to change the way we teach and the way students learn.

Don't get me wrong... I am not against this movement in education...just the opposite. I am the Lower School S.T.E.M/FabLab teacher at my school ('Iolani). We have a dedicated maker space in both our Lower School and Upper School. My kindergarten through 6th grade students have all the high tech machines and gizmos you could imagine--we even have use of a water jet cutter (which cuts metal) in our Upper School lab! I am all in when it comes to making in education. I know the benefits. I know the "why.” I speak and write about the positives of maker education whenever I can. But with all this new technology, I can't help but ask myself, "Was old school so bad?"

We know the key to learning is being an active participant. As teachers, we know the importance of getting our students engaged.

In the book, Invent to Learn, by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager, they state:
"Maker classrooms are active classrooms. In active classrooms one will find engaged students, often working on multiple projects simultaneously, and teachers unafraid of relinquishing their authoritarian role. The best way to activate your classroom is for your classroom to make something."

So why can't all classrooms be "maker" classrooms? What if we got our kids more active in their learning? What if more teachers went a little "Old School"? What better way to engage our students than to have them create something, extend their learning by making something tangible, and in doing so, incorporate science, technology, engineering, math, language (reading and writing), art. And no, I am not coining a new acronym.

Was "Old School" so bad? In part II, I'll share how 'Iolani School is on the cutting edge of modernizing "Old School."

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