Laser cutters. 3-D printers. Microcontrollers. Power tools. Basic requirements of a makerspace, right?
Perhaps not. According to experts at the recent SXSWedu conference in Austin, Tex., critical making has less to do with a physical space and more to do with mentality. It is a way of thinking, of being engaged, of being able to identify problems.
“Something we’ve touted with EXPLO Studio is that critical making is about the mindset, not the toolset,” says Assistant Director of Curriculum Paloma Hermann. “You don’t need to have a 3-D printer to implement open ended projects in your classroom. It was affirming to hear presenters like Rebecca Hare championing the use of simple and inexpensive materials like cardboard and paper — ‘lo-fi making.’ I think that for any educator out there, that really feels attainable.”
Critical Making and Innovation Camp for Educators
Join EXPLO Studio this summer for the Critical Making and Innovation Camp for Educators and dig into the whys, the hows, the culture, the technology, the tools, and the research that supports how important this kind of teaching and learning is.
Virtual Reality — Everywhere You Want to Be
Thanks to accessible (and low-cost) tech tools like Google Cardboard, virtual reality (VR) technology is finding its way into curriculum across the globe. The key to implementing any tech in lesson planning, however, is more meaningful engagement. For instance, instead of asking students to imagine the brain from 2-D to 3-D, virtual reality can immediately immerse the student in the brain.
But beyond using VR to, say, replicate a set of lungs and improve surgical outcomes, it can also be a tool to teach empathy. One of EXPLO’s Playground neighbors, Rapport Studios, used a VR headset that located the viewer in the middle of a circle of people singing and dancing to a song called “I Can’t Breathe” before transporting the viewer to a crime scene where a black male was being handcuffed and arrested.
“This was an integrated experience across so many senses that it was truly one of the most experiential, and demonstrated first-hand the power of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” says Curriculum Designer Jessica Artiles.
The Gamification of Everything
“Gamification is a key part of life. Although I always have (and likely always will be) a gamer of some kind or another, I never truly considered how much of my life revolved around games. Even the way I think through problems and try to solve them is very much a game,” says Curriculum Developer Jon Griffiths.
Gamification — applying game elements or game-design techniques to non-game problems — is a more ubiquitous problem-solving technique than we may think. It can be key to engagement with critical issues — like sexism, racism, and privilege — and was on display at the nearby Your Privilege is Showing workshop. YPIS uses the trappings of a card game to create an access point to challenging, but necessary, conversations around our social divides that we don’t always know how to have (or aren’t comfortable having). Adding the element of a game breaks the ice, so to speak, and provides structure around controversial topics.
Main Photo Credit: Anne Ruthmann Photography