Learning for Life
Tinkering plants the seed for life long learning.
No matter where you are in your teaching career, chances are that you consider yourself a lifelong learner. Learning can mean improving your current educational practices to make them more efficient. It can mean taking on new challenges to branch out of your current subject area or grade level. Lifelong learning also refers to your personal hobbies and interests, as you seek continual improvement and growth in those areas, and try to keep up with the latest developments that might help you get even better at them.
Imparting this mantra of life long learning to our students is one of the fundamental tenets of a quality STEM education.
How can we help students see opportunities for life long learning? How can they recognize the fact that there is so much to learn in the world, and that it is a truly continual process that doesn’t end after school is out? STEM can provide the answer.
STEM by Any Other Name
They are called by many names-DIYer, Modder, Maker, Hacker, Tinkerer-there are lots of terms for those who like to get involved with ideas and turn them into something real. Now that tools to assist the every day person in their personal quest to create have become vastly more affordable, thousands of people are getting involved with everything from rocketry and robots to making electric motorcycles and automated machine tools.
Projects such as these and many others are deeply interwoven with application of STEM concepts. Whether as a hobby or as a profession, grass roots enthusiastic Makers and Tinkerers are pushing the envelope when it comes to development of personal technologies. Visit Make: or Instructables for a look.
Our STEM students need to catch this wave across the world, and as teachers we need to try and them keep up with, and be a part of the exponential growth of this movement. We don’t just want to read about it, we want to do it ourselves and bring it to our class rooms.
The Way Things Are
What ever the project may be that motivates your students to make something better or invent something new, it will require using their current skill set and expanding far beyond to what ever it is that the task requires. They will think carefully and critically, and reflect upon the needs of their projects and determine what they have to be able to Do to get the job DONE. No one tells them the answer in a DIY project in any academic discipline, although they may get some guidance on how to determine one of many possible answers. While they are having fun figuring out what THEY are interested in, the teacher cam provide guidance on proper technique in soldering for instance-but the student’s own ideas motivated her need to learn how to solder. So she will learn it and get better at it because she has to-and wants to. And as students continue to experiment, hack, make and tinker, they add to their skill sets, see further opportunities over every horizon, they will change their own education. Tinkering plants the seed for life long learning.
Teachers who are are willing to tinker will be able to see opportunities to bring their students into this world because they have made it a part of their personal world. Making STEM a daily reality for students means they have to think about STEM outside the class room and see opportunities themselves. When they are involved with making, hacking, and re-purposing at school, they will think more critically about products they use, machines they interact with, and ways these things can be improved, repaired, or identify a need and engineer a solution to fill that need. Kids with skills no longer need to be satisfied with the way things are.
Teaching students to think in this way, to see opportunities to make things better, and obtain the knowledge and skills to imagine solutions to these problems, are key to your successful STEM program. The results are infectious enthusiasm for creativity using STEM as students share their discoveries, compare notes, come up with more ideas, and most importantly: learn to ask the right questions and use available resources to figure out the answers themselves.
Hacking and Tinkering
Here’s an entertaining overview on what a “hacker” is. And isn’t.The YouTube ID of hoDOrKZK3Kg#! is invalid.
Now that you are convinced of the value of tinkering, you will want to keep tabs on upcoming articles that will help you become a better tinkerer yourself, with ideas on how to get started for beginners to more advanced tinkerers who want to get in there and start hacking immediately. You’ll find applications for tons of your own discoveries in the class room, and want to share your results with students. You’ll be modeling the behavior you want to see in them directly from your personal interests, and kids really like to see that teachers are actually doing what they are teaching. Stay tuned for how to projects, skill building activities and more ways to put tinkering into your own life and those of your students.