Yesterday has me thinking about equity and access. I had two very different experiences while listening to the featured speakers.
Dr. Leah Buechley was the keynote speaker yesterday. A former MIT professor and the inventor of the LilyPad Arduino tool kit, she speaks as an insider about those who are excluded from the maker movement. She analyzed the covers of Make Magazine since it’s beginning 10+years ago. And of the 44 covers there have been 41 people featured. Of those 41, 85% are men and boys. There has not been one African American on the cover of Make Magazine. So who is a maker, by the visual record that Make promulgates? White men. And what do they make? Robots.
She talked about different kinds of making – of what are considered female “crafts” – and she reminded us of the complexities of geometric design on pottery, the fractals of design, the hyperbolic math of the crocheted coral reef, the transformational geometry of cornrow braiding. These are “made.” We make things as a part of human life. We are born making and creating. This is what we teach out of students. It’s not that I want them all to be able to make a robot – I want every one of my students to make meaning and the tools needed to solve the problems facing them.
We boarded the buses and went to the MIT media lab – the 6th floor presentation space is really sterile – literally white – and there we listened to Dr. Sherry Lassiter, director of the Fab Lab project. The mission of the Fab Foundation is great – to put tools to make almost anything in the hands of everyone – but it takes a lot of money to set up a Fab Lab – and those tools are not going to be in the hands of everyone for a long time. Digital imaging, three-d printing, CAD, laser cutting – all amazing and so inspirational – and yet… somehow, so disconnected.
Dr. Buechley expressed concern about the call to have “every child a Maker.” How can we trust the education of our children to a group of people that does not see people who are not like themselves?
This past year I had the pleasure of seeing Liz Gerber, professor of design at Northwestern, work with my seventh graders. She emphasized two things that I remind myself of frequently – make MANY Low Fidelity prototypes, and have a bias toward action. Don’t just sit there! Make something – of cardboard and pipe cleaners and paper plates and plastic cups. You should know that a design is going to work before it becomes a three-d printed thing because you have field tested many low-fi beta designs.
So, back to my project. With Liz Gerber’s words in my head, I need to make something.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment
Tags: CMK15, Constructing Modern Knowledge, Leah Buechley, Liz Gerber, Maker Movement, Sherry Lassiter
This year’s Constructing Modern Knowledge is big. There is so much energy and enthusiasm, and there are some growing pains as well. The use of space is transformative. I was not here last year, and as I understand it this was a move they made last year. Being able to use this huge area to spread out and work is great. It has the usual acoustic issues of a big space with lots of hard edges, but they should figure that out.
The list of project ideas was incredible. Two have a Back to the Future vibe (create a hoverboard and an automated pet care system [thank you, Dr. Brown]) No one suggested a Flux Capacitor, though we do have a Tardis under construction. Some of the other ideas were:
- Robot Space Suit
- A book with a mind of its own
- A feeling recognition system
- A way to sense the mood of a room
- Rubic’s cube solver
- Water-power generator
- Manatee Speed Trap
- Energy Generating Shoes
- Robots that do classroom chores
- Connected robots
- Regular Piano to a player piano
- Smart Watch
- Army of Art bots
- Interactive Art room
- Heckling Pencil (Gary’s favorite)
- Solar powered bag/charger
- Virtual Tour of famous places
- Robot space suit
- and an Origami Sponge Fractal made of business cards (this is underway).
My thoughts for personal projects were a YA book recommender, the Art Tour App of Francis Parker School, or Virtual Narratives. Based on Scratch, there is a programming language called Snap that allows us to build out own “modules.”
I think that as I have been thinking about this and gathering momentum for this for YEARS, that I will work on the app for the art at the school. This is an itch that I have been trying to scratch, and I have a ton of data and design to use. There is momentum for me on this. I have the students’ navigations from a year ago – and I have a ton of material available to me on my wiki.
I made the critical error of not downloading xcode at home. The school that I teach at has a 1 to 1 iPad program from grades 5-12 and all teachers have an iPad. To make this something we can push out to everyone, we need to work in Mac-land. So it took a long time to download the app, so while I was waiting I went back to Microwords EX to see if I remembered anything about writing code. Well, as it turns out, I do remember some things.
Especially the ‘clean’ command (wipe away my attempts, please). It’s not exactly like riding a bike, but it started to come back to me. You will see in the workspace that it is super polite and tells me when it does not understand what I want it to do. This all gives me hope that I can navigate the world of xcode, though I have no expectation that it will be polite.
I’m not worried about not finishing. After all – if I get started on this I can enlist the power of the middle schoolers who are geeky like me. Together we can launch this on the school.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment
Tags: CMK15, coding, Constructing Modern Knowledge, learning, MicroWorlds, tinkering, xcode
This has been a hard winter. The coldest February on record for Chicago, late snow, and the usual stresses of growing up and growing older. My twins will be off to college next fall. They have wonderful choices but not maybe the choices that they anticipated. It will all be good. And today I planted peas.
This week the girls will begin more closely checking out schools that they have been accepted at, and we will celebrate the convergence of the spring food holidays: Passover and Easter. As a lapsed Catholic married to a non-religious Jew, food holidays are things we can all agree on. And though I refuse to serve gefilte fish on Friday, we do love haroset and matzoh and five cups of wine. Over the past twenty plus years we have created our own haggadah, and we gather as many non-Jews to the table as Jews. This year we will light sabbath lights as well as memorial candles for loved ones gone before us. And we will have salmon for the Catholics because it is also Good Friday – a reminder that Jesus hurried home on Thursday to celebrate Passover with his disciples.
Sunday will bring the egg hunt and ham feed. Our ham is from an Iowa farm, and I will fill baskets with eggs and Peeps and hide chocolate in the living room in all the usual places.
But this year is most likely the last that I will have all the girls here for Easter. And I don’t really have a story that we tell, like the haggadah, on Easter. My husband and I went to hear St. John’s Passion by Bach at the Chicago Bach Project, and with super titles he was able to read the story as it went along – those Romans, really? They stabbed him after he was dead? They gave him vinegar to drink? seriously….
I was reminded of the one Easter book that I loved as a girl and loved to read to my girls: The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward – the story of a little brown girl bunny who wants to be the Easter Bunny but is told by all the white bunnies in the big houses and the boy bunnies with long legs to go home and have the family. Which she does – but she also gets to be the Easter Bunny. And so I hope that my girls take away the heart of that story – that girl bunnies can do what they want to do, and that they shouldn’t take no for an answer. For a book written in the 30’s its message is pretty modern.
So to all my girls as they go forth into the world: be the bravest most resourceful bunnies you know how to be. It’s all you can ask of yourself.
“I therefore…beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (King James, Ephesians 4:1)
Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments
But what a beautiful story.
This Liberian folk tale, retold by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Ellen Weiss tells the tale of four friends – Spider and his three workers Buck Deer, Lion, and Rat. They live and work together, each with a job that best suits them, and after a hard day’s work, the tree toad who lives in the yard sings them to sleep.
Into their orderly life come chaos in the form of a giant hairy monster named the Vingananee. He demands the stew from Rat, and threatens to eat Rat for noncompliance. Rat fights for the stew and ends up tied to a tree behind the house.
“I’m the Vingananee,/and I am hungry./ Give me your stew,/Or I will eat you!”
Each of the friends agrees in turn to defeat the Vingananee and literally save their dinner. And each day the Vingananee eats their stew.
Typically in a trickster story (when there is a spider), the trickster is the spider, but in this story Spider is not even interested in trying after Lion and Buck Deer end up tied to a tree. It’s the little tree toad who thinks that he might be able to defeat the Vingananee.
What I love about this story are the conventions of the storyteller. There is repetition, escalation, and great onomatopoeia – Rat sweeps – fras fras fras; the Vingananee walks, pusu pusu pusu; and the tree toad sings them to sleep, tau au au au aut – among other sounds.
And I love it when the little guy wins.
The Vingananee and the Tree Toad by Verna Aardema, illustrations by Ellen Weiss, but I think this lovely book is out of print. Snatch it up at a used book store if you can find it.
Filed under: Books We Loved to Read | Leave a Comment
Tags: Books We Love, Ellen Weiss, The Vingananee and the Tree Toad, Verna Aardema
Welcome, February 1!
Today is the day that we reach the point halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day is the beginning of the Celtic spring and the time when we can sense that the days are getting longer.
So although we have at least three feet of snow in some places on the yard and six inches of new show fell today, we can celebrate that the sun is returning, the time that it is light each day is growing longer, and somewhere under the snow, the snowdrops and the crocus are considering shoots of green and reaching toward the sun.
Which reminded me of a book – The Story of the Root Children, Illustrated by Sibylle von Olfers –
Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: Imbolc, Sibylle von Olfers, St. Brigid's Day, The Story of the Root Children