Sunday, 1 March 2015

#makered: A Try Different, Not Harder Approach

       A week ago we were honoured to have Sylvia Martinez join our #tiegrad session as a guest speaker. Sylvia has been integral to the Maker Movement in education and co-authored the book, Invent to Learn, with GaryStager.  Within the first ten minutes of our session, I had the book slotted into my “must reads” list!
       As I listened, I could see how the maker movement (#makered) represents everything that is the BC Ed Plan including the way it supports the development of skills such as collaboration, problem solving, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.  Whether it’s having a weekly scheduled Genius Hour, a physical classroom/school based space dedicated to “making” or creating, or a bin of interesting materials readily available and regularly filled for our learners to explore-invent-create according to their imagination and creative thinking, making is a key component of learning.  It’s about encouraging learners to think of themselves as contributors, inventors, creators, and artists. 
       Jay Silver talks about the fact that “sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be” in his Ted Talk, Hack a Banana, Make a Keyboard. This statement hung out in my thoughts for some
time, and has really impacted me. I connect with Mr. Silver’s idea in the context of my own readings for my lit review that looks at obstacles that prevent educators from seizing opportunities that would enable a shift in their own pedagogical practice. Silver goes on to question how we, as adults and young people in this world, can become “agents of change” who see “the world as malleable”? I feel that it’s time to realize that our education system needs to go “live” and recognize the need for our approach to teaching and learning to become more dynamic, to better reflect the ever changing world we live in and the needs of our young people, before the institution of "school" and the service we provide as educators become systemically archaic.
       While I listened with interest to the discussion that took place between Sylvia and our #tiegrad cohort that Thursday night, I kept wondering how “making” could be a more significant component in what I do as a special ed teacher. I know I can always support my colleagues in (and out of) their classrooms, make myself available in more collaborative ways or to lead something on another teacher’s behalf and that is, essentially, my goal from day to day, but there is much of my job that feels prescribed and dependent upon working with peers who may, or may not, buy in, and our perceptions of student needs do not always line up--often they do, but sometimes they don't. Along with relying on other people’s schedules and agendas, and the endless amounts of paperwork and meetings that I am required to complete or attend, I find myself swimming against the current to try to reach the goal of meaningful support. I find myself wanting to know what other Special Education teachers and Case Managers, at the various levels of education are doing, if anything, to provide #makered support and/or creative opportunities, as well as to demonstrate their value. Is there a place for me in the #makered movement?
       Being a Special Education Teacher is definitely a multi-faceted role, and realistically it requires me to wear many hats, some of them more happily than others.  I so greatly appreciated the inspiration behind Sylvia’s rhetorical question,”Why is school so hell bent with weeding kids out who aren’t so good with Math or paper/pencil (tasks)?” #tiegrad cohort member, Jake Main, echoed this when me wrote, "Why should kids need to conform to school? Why can't school conform to kids?" in our chat window during the session.  These thoughts epitomize the students I work with and the ones who can readily benefit from all of us to continue trying different, as opposed to trying harder. What would happen if I bought a $50 Makey Makey Kit and pulled that in to my support role? Perhaps if I start with a specific type of learner and/or a peer who would dive in…I'll let you know. In the meantime, I would love to hear how other Special Ed teams are creatively utilizing their SpEd Teachers in the context of creativity and inquiry.

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