About the Book
This book is the artifact of my ongoing journey to understand constructionism and better science teaching. Having experienced Problem-based Science for twenty hours a week for the past four years has taught me that we are all just beginning to understand the power and potential of this work. I am also keenly aware of the obstacles we face as educators to get this work valued as real teaching and learning in schools. Words like messy, progressive, unstructured, and perhaps the dirtiest of all, play, are not always welcome in a high-stakes college prep environment or schools choked by standardized testing.
But the movement is happening. On one front we have universities, nonprofits and the National Science Foundation seeking patterns and shareable research on the educational benefits of making and doing. On another front we have practitioners working hard to attract more women and minorities to STEM, not because it benefits the economy, but because innovation and technology literacy are a human right.
On other fronts, the Maker Education Initiative is making meaningful connections all over the United States including the White House and the FabLearn programs are growing the front internationally.
Writing this book was my way of trying to aid the progress of this movement, but the process has left me with as many questions as answers.
With the rise in popularity of Design Thinking in K-12 schools, I am left with a kind of skepticism that slowly erodes my sense of knowing. Why are we now feeling such an empathy crisis in our world? Is Design Thinking the only tool we have to rebuild our ability to listen to each other and make eye contact? Perhaps we can thank the iPhone for making us all more connected and less able to cope with real life.
Papert was right. Code controls machines but who controls the code? Our lives are deeply and personally reliant on machines. Most of those machines have embedded computers. If you can not take the most important machine in your life apart, fix it, or make it better, you do not own that machine. On the contrary, if you depend on the machine for your livelihood or sense of purpose, and pay for it over and over in upgrades or repairs, you are a slave to that machine.
If we do not own our machines, then who does?
Whoever has the power to control the most important machines in your life has the power to influence your behavior and choices. Currently, the population that is capable of talking to machines with embedded systems is mostly white and Asian males. Gender and diversity aside, giving up the power to talk to your own machines is giving up your independence.
In the 1960’s Papert was advocating for a democracy we still only dream about in 2016. Papert’s “Ed Tech” championed the evolution of the human spirit through computer aided exploration with no mention of any brand names. If applying constructionism as best practice in schools is not our pathway out of the problem set we have created, then I am not sure what is. I am impatient, optimistic and skeptical. While the world fills me with doubt, children fill me with hope. I am a teacher, and this is my call to arms.
Let's be the change we wish to see in schools.