The focus of this workshop is the use of maker experiences as a context for supporting science teachers’ understandings about engineering. We will focus on the use of maker activities in both asynchronous, online professional development (PD) and in face-to-face PD contexts.
The maker movement coincides with the incorporation of engineering education in the NGSS (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Not an explicitly educational trend, this label has been used to describe the increase in interest in using often familiar materials to deconstruct, reconstruct, and innovate (Dougherty, 2012; Wilkinson & Petrich, 2014). Maker activities are typically characterized by the use of tools more reminiscent of an industrial arts classroom in conjunction with newly accessible technologies that allow for activities like prototyping to be done quickly and inexpensively (e.g. squishy circuits). There are clear implications for K-12 teaching that have become increasingly adopted in informal settings but whose impact not been widely investigated, particularly within formal classrooms or as a meaningful way to support engineering understandings and skills among teachers.
Limitations imposed by factors such as teachers’ time for professional development and administrative support make large-scale implementation of programs that engage teachers in authentic engineering contexts unlikely, if not impossible. However, the necessity to support ontological awareness of engineering practice is a first step toward building a pedagogical repertoire for the interdisciplinary teaching of science and engineering in science classrooms, by science teachers. Utilization of maker activities for this purpose is one means by which inexpensive and accessible engineering experiences can support professional development for science teachers.
Session Learning Objectives
Participants will leave this workshop able to describe the implementation of two specific examples of maker experiences (squishy circuits, urban agriculture) aligned with engineering design practices (including constraints based design and optimization) 1) in face to face settings, and 2) in asynchronous online settings.
Given participants experiences in one of two maker-based design challenges as well as their participation in post-challenge discussions, they will also leave this workshop able to compare and contrast maker-based PD in face to face settings and in asynchronous online settings in terms of affective and conceptual factors.
Session Organization & Evaluation of Participant Learning
The workshop will consist of four parts: a discussion about engineering design in science classrooms, an introduction to maker experiences as engineering PD for science teachers, hands on participation in one of two maker experiences, and a discussion about the ways in which maker experiences provide a needed context for online PD.
Engineering Design in Science Classrooms (15 minutes)
The workshop will begin with an approximately 15 minute discussion about the following questions:
What does engineering look like?
What makes something engineering and to what extent does it vary?
What are the distinctions between science and engineering practice?
How do these projects reflect the engineering practices (NRC, 2012) and engineering design processes (Guerra, Allen, Crawford, & Farmer, 2012)?
What do elementary, middle level and high school teachers need to know in order to incorporate effective engineering education in their science classrooms?
The purpose of this discussion is to learn where participants are in terms of their understanding of engineering and the effective integration of engineering education in science classrooms. We will share Guerra et al’s engineering design process as a handout and will also have this, and all workshop materials on a website accessible to participants both during and after the conference.
Maker Experiences as Engineering PD (15 minutes)
We will follow this with a brief introduction to the maker movement through video-based examples of projects presented at maker faires internationally. They will have just participated in a discussion about engineering design and we will follow the video examples with a short discussion about using maker experiences as engineering experiences. This introduction will span approximately 15 minutes and the purpose is to give a short, but effective overview of what “making” or “tinkering” implies in order to provide participants with a shared understanding of the variety of tools, materials, and outcomes implied by these terms.
Hands on Maker Activities (45 minutes)
We would like to provide participants with the advantage of experiencing two maker activities. Due to time constraints, and the necessity of sustained engagement in order for them to understand the connection to iteration in engineering design, they will select one activity but participate in the discussion about both. Both activities can be developmentally scaled depending on the grade level of the teachers with whom participants work and we will provide handouts, videos and tools for two developmental targets (elementary and secondary). Participants will choose to work independently or in groups and we will endeavor to have some similarity in the numbers of individuals working in each. The purpose for this balance is to support the discussion in the fourth workshop component, online versus face-to-face engineering PD.
Online Versus Face-to-Face Engineering PD (15 minutes)
We will debrief these experiences in light of the necessity for engineering PD among K-12 science teachers. Cunningham and Carlsen (2014) propose five guiding principles in the design of engineering PD for science teachers: engage teachers in engineering practices, model pedagogies that support those practices, give teachers experience as both learners and teachers, develop teachers’ understanding of the fundamentals of and interconnections between science and engineering, and help teachers to understand engineering as a social practice. Online PD itself is increasingly a context of interest to engage teachers. This format makes the engagement of teachers in engineering practices as learners quite challenging. We offer maker activities as a means of compensation for a lack of a face-to-face PD component and will debrief in order to compare and contrast the affective and conceptual factors of these two delivery methods. The following questions will guide this discussion and serve as a post-experience evaluation of participant learning related to the two learning objectives:
1. Did you work independently (as an online participant in PD would) or did you work in a group (as a face-to-face participant in PD would)?
2. Did you run into any road blocks, what were they, how did you try to solve them and to what extent were you successful.
3. Based on your experience in the project you chose, what are the cognitive challenges associated with classroom-based engineering tasks?
4. Based on your experience in the project you chose as well as in your teaching experience, what are the affective challenges associated with classroom-based engineering tasks
5. How do would you implement these activities with the groups of teachers with whom you work?