Make Learning Opportunities

I met a truly interesting cat this summer who turned me on to one of his projects, MAKE Magazine, and now I am feeling very excited about learning to hack things and share the learning with my students. If you’re interested in expanding what you teach your little weasels this year into tech stuff, do check it out.

I’m reading the MAKE Kids’ section this morning, trying to find the best entry point for my nephew Bren (who at 11 started substantial projects like helping renovate his Grandma’s bathroom), who I imagine is quite primed for building robots and playing with electronics – and I came across this fantastic and inspiring article about basic tech skills that all kids should learn before finishing school. Some of them have a whiff of survivalism – how to purify water, how to build a lean-to – but that whiff is only rank because of the armageddon-freaks who usually focus on them. (I suppose if society does collapse, it’d be best to not have to rely on the woods-militia for the basics, actually.) Of the 16 recommended things, I have only a passing acquaintance with maybe 8, and don’t think I could teach more than a couple of them to kids. How fun is that? One of the best things about teaching is the opportunity to learn new things – and pretty much everything at MAKE is intriguing and useful.

The other brilliant thing about this is that anytime you veer from the curriculum, you get to simultaneously veer away from the control mechanisms that kill school, subjects and minds – ie. standardized testing, reporting, etc. So get through the boring shit quickly (you’ll have to ditch that crappy textbook and really teach the stuff – the important, non-trivial stuff) and get your class into the interesting stuff. (I get the impression that this is more difficult in the States, but I know from experience that it can be done in Ontario, if you’re willing to write your own courses.) Like talking about ethics, or discussing the _current_ wars, or making little dancing robots, or learning how to tie a knot.

Check this out for another reason to share this with your kids.


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5 Responses to “Make Learning Opportunities”

  1. m Says:

    That’s so freakin’ awesome.

  2. Dan Says:

    Hey I saw your post via Dale Dougherty’s G+ feed – you’re in Canada, right? Wherever you are, be sure to watch for ‘Maker Faire’ – there were at least three Canadian ones this past year: in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.

    I attended the Vancouver Faire and it was absolutely nuts. Kids of all ages in attendance and people showcasing everything from crafts to robotics.

    Check out for info (or feel free to email me if you like).


  3. misterjep Says:

    Thanks Dan! I’ll be on the lookout for a Maker Faire near Toronto in the coming year.

    I heard from Gareth at MAKE as well, and he shared these links:
    Our Make: Education site for teachers. It’s rather dead now and we’re moving it over to a different platform, but there’s good into and conversations between educators on it.
    Our Young Makers Program that we do in assoc with Pixar and the SF Exploratorium.

    Project Make
    We just started a new project at the home offices in Sebastopol CA where we’re having HS school kids come in to take classes at MAKE. We just started and are pretty excited about it.

  4. Dan Says:

    Also, there’s one in NY on the 17/18 of September. I’m trying to swing a trip there from Vancouver but I’m still 50/50.

    I assume the timing doesn’t work for you?

    One other thing I forgot to mention – I saw Dale speak in Vancouver at the World Future Society conference in Vancouver and his discussion specifically of education going forward was really quite optimistic and inspiring.

    I am glad to see that others are finding similar optimism in the potential of our education systems.


  5. misterjep Says:

    We looked at the NYC Faire – an opportunity to go there is happily welcome, but it’d be too tight timingwise, with school just having started. There’s one that happened in the summer – perhaps Detroit? – and if it’s similarly timed, we’ll hit that.

    I agree – the optimism is exciting. There’s quite a bit online – a TED talk by Dale, possibly – and I’m wading around in it all with my intellectual rubber boots on. Fun stuff.


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