Learning Tool

Those of us who design and facilitate maker-based learning experiences often have a difficult time talking about the learning in those experiences. We might see learners building cool things or working with neat tools, but we often do not have the language or perspective to describe or measure the learning taking place. The goal of this activity is to enable participants to create an evidence-centered framework for learning related to at least one maker-based activity.

The Learning Tool focuses on the evidence of learning  an organization hopes to design to support and see when a learner engages in a maker activity. This is based on Evidence-Centered Design, which is an approach to designing assessments that puts the evidence of learning as the central facet of the learning (and assessment) design.

How To Use the Learning Tool

This activity can take 1-2 hours or up to an entire day, and should be revisited over time. 

1. Model the Tool (5 minutes)

Inspired by evidence-centered design (ECD), we are breaking up the learning design process for our maker activities into three broad categories: the goal, evidence and activities. Often times the goals of making are presented broadly or at a theoretical level and it is the task of the educator to reveal these goals through observable evidence. The ultimate goal is to tie together the goal, evidence and activity to build a “chain of reasoning.”

  • Learning Goal: On the top, we are thinking about the goal of a particular activity (of course, you probably have more than one goal, but let’s start with one). We refer to it as the learning goal, but more specifically it is a bit of knowledge, skill or a habit of mind that you want to support learners to develop or engage in through their maker-based experience.
  • Evidence: The middle box is the evidence or what it looks like or sounds like to demonstrate the intended goal. We say “looks like” and “sounds like” because the evidence should be observable. Note of the obvious: this is a difficult and iterative process to come up with these bits of evidence.
  • Activity: The bottom box is for the activities of the maker-based experience that elicit the evidence. These activities are where we bring in the tools, materials, processes, facilitation and peers of the experience. 

Example:  A making program really values hacking and repurposing.

  • Learning Goal: The goal is create experiences for students to use materials in novel ways, or Hacking and Repurposing
  • Evidence: When they consider what evidence is needed to demonstrate this goal, they identify: 
    • Using a material for a purpose other than it was intended for.
    • Multiple examples of using a material for a purpose other than it was originally intended for.
    • Using a tool for a purpose other than it was intended.
  • Activity: What are the activities that elicit the aforementioned evidence? For this particular program, they decided to have children learn about circuits by building them. The task was to build their own simple circuit with a power source, an output and a switch. Rather than giving the learners wires and battery packs and lights, the program developers instead provided the learners with old stereos, electronic toys and small appliances to take apart and use materials. In addition, simple office supplies were provided, such as paperclips and rubber bands. Through the process of taking apart these devices and putting together their own circuit, they are left to be resourceful for finding the materials that meet their need, like a paperclip that turns into a switch.

2. Test out the Tool Collaboratively (15 min)

Ask participants to work in pairs (or small groups) and consider a learning goal for the following scenario: One of the ongoing goals for a makerspace is to foster collaboration (seek and share resources?). As an educator seeking to further the collaborative skills of your students, you need to think first, what does it look like for your students to collaborate (what is the evidence?) and what activities can you create to see that evidence? The participants will work on this for about 5-10 minutes. Each pair or small group will complete one learning tool. As the participants work to identify evidence, they might come up with examples like talking to other students, or helping other students. However, we should encourage them to be specific: Is all kinds of talk evidence of collaboration? If not, what kinds of talk would you listen for? What does helping look like specifically? Are there silent ways of collaborating? Once the participants have listed some examples of collaboration evidence, then they can list some activities that help them see their students collaborating. For now, these do not need to be all coherent. They can simply list different activities that help them see the students engaging in the kind of evidence they listed. 

3. Discuss the Collaborative Activity (25 minutes)

Encourage two or three groups of participants to share their evidence and activities. Encourage additional participants to compare/contrast what they generated with what was shared. Allow participants to express concerns, asks questions or offer suggestions. Did they find some tools or materials more or less amenable to collaborating?

For more information, instructional videos and activity extensions, please visit the Making + Learning Online Course at P2PU