The Raspberry Pi activity speaks to the idea of participatory learning. This is an uncomfortable idea for teachers as the outcome may not necessarily be what the teacher envisions. The whole concept is one that is outside the comfort zone of a traditional classroom. So much can be learned by this type of hands on learning. The process alone is one that is riddled with testing and retesting just to get the Raspberry Pi up and running. There is a lot of collaboration and discussion to make sure that the Pi works and just the process of putting it together is a lesson in trial and error! Coupling this technology with inquiry learning such as the Windowfarm is a lesson or unit, rather that really utilizes a variety of skills and creates a community of learners. As certain techniques work for one group, there is interdependent learning going on that is not coming from the teacher, per se but from the students themselves. When students have to solve problems of practice for themselves, it increases the learning that much more. This idea also reinforces the idea that students can learn from one another and not just the teacher!
In an article called, “Learning Mathematics in First Grade Classrooms: On Whose Authority?” clearly demonstrates this idea of building a culture of mathematical learners and its effect on the learning and understanding of the content.
“ A growth-and-change view of mathematics is a cornerstone of recent mathematics reform of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 1989, 1991, 2000; Cooney & Shealey, 1997). In particular, the NCTM has made it clear that students should be making mathematical conjectures, justifying their own reasoning, and questioning their own and other’s thinking: “If students are to learn to make conjectures, experiment with various approaches to solving problems, construct mathematical arguments and respond to others’ arguments, then creating an environment that fosters these kinds of activities is essential” (NCTM, 1989, 1991, 2000, p. 18). Such orientations require that members of the intellectual community, which includes students and the teacher, have the authority to develop and validate mathematical knowledge. Correspondingly, the authors of the NCTM standards called for a deemphasis on the teacher or text as sole authority for correct answers and a concomitant emphasis on logic and mathematical evidence provided by members of the mathematics classroom community for verification of ideas and knowledge.”
The Raspberry Pi is just one of several “Maker Kits” that gets to the heart of reforming and restructuring the learning process. The same philosophy that is demonstrated in this study can cross-cut many different curriculum areas. It seems to echo the constructivist philosophy of students creating and being responsible for their own learning and understanding with the teacher providing scaffolding along the way. This whole idea, however, lies in the hands of the artful teacher and the actively engaged student. For example, in the aforementioned study, the teachers interaction and language with her students is a subtle yet significant difference between high-functioning students and traditional classrooms. “ In sum, we argue that, at best, in the mathematics classrooms we observed and potentially in many more like them, multiple forces conspire to send children mixed messages about their authority to develop and to verify mathematical knowledge. At worst, but perhaps most commonly, children learn very early in their schooling experiences that mathematics is a discipline already determined by others—and consequently, a discipline to which they have little to contribute. Even within this generally bleak landscape, we found a counterexample: One teacher seamlessly integrated her students into the production of mathematical knowledge. Although prior research has provided other such examples, these other examples often seemed idealized, perhaps because the teachers producing these examples were privy to unique circumstances, including collaboration with university research teams. From our research, we conclude that it is possible to see exemplary practices in action in regular mathematics classrooms, even in early grades. But perhaps it is not realistic to expect that teachers can find a balance between teaching what is known and truly socializing students to be mathematical thinkers without an intermediate step, much like we witnessed in Teacher C’s classroom. We hope that Teacher C’s classroom, and the discourse documented therein, may serve as an accessible model for teachers who are attempting to move their instruction toward the growth-and- change position, because her behaviors demonstrate natural moments for empowering students with mathematical authority, thereby enabling young children to become legitimate members in a mathematical community.” So, this idea illustrates the need for the teacher to be a co-learner, collaborator and to co-exist in the learning environment with her students on a much more level playing field than what has been in the past. Even first grade students can be the authority on mathematical concepts appropriate for their age group! That is not to say that we take the teacher out of the equation but merely repurpose and switch from the “Sage on the Stage” to the “facilitator of learning among his/her students”.
As I look forward to my “Wicked Problem” of practice, I would like to reference the work of :
“Watching, Creating and Achieving: Creative Technologies as a Conduit for Learning in The Early Years” from the British Journal of Educational Technology. Some important findings came out of this research which also reinforces what we know about the Maker Activity include in terms of closing the educational gap for some students:
“The impact of the pilot project was very positive in a number of areas: (1) student engagement, (2) the development of literacy and numeracy skills and (3) the development of interpersonal skills. With regard to student engagement, participants were motivated and engaged in the project and demonstrated their ability to participate in and complete the tasks. By the end of the modelling phase, the students were able to follow the steps on the group laptop, moving forwards and backwards as required by the group, without having to wait for the researchers to lead the process. Students were also modifying aspects of the programming in order to change motor speed, direction or sound. Their understanding of the terminology and mechanisms was clear; this was captured by the video recordings and noted by both researchers and the class teacher. The development of literacy and numeracy skills was very positive; the students were exposed to a range of new words associated with construction, colours, prepositions, placement, numbers and complex words from the register of engineering (eg, cam, gear and crown gear). They were able to use these terms with increasing fluency and confidence as the project progressed both within and outside the context of the school visits.
The development of interpersonal skills was the most surprising finding as it was not an explicit area of focus for the project. However, it became apparent that the students were negotiating and learning the complexities of social interactions with their peers. Concepts such as turn-taking, sharing and enacting designated roles were at times hard learned; however, over the course of the project, students who had struggled with these behaviours were more able to work effectively in groups. This was the finding that most surprised and delighted the class teacher.”
Hamm, J., & Perry, M. (2002). Learning Mathematics in First-Grade Classrooms: On Whose Authority? Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 126-137. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
McDonald, S., & Howell, J. (n.d.). Watching, creating and achieving: Creative technologies as a conduit for learning in the early years_1231 641..651. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 0.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01231.x