5 Trending Topics No Elementary School Leader Should Miss: Student as Tinkerer

Five trends no elementary school head should miss: this is the assignment my colleague Mary Menacho gave me for my remarks to Elementary School Heads Association (ESHA) members and prospective members at an upcoming gathering at Trinity School in Menlo Park, CA. I’ve tweaked the focus from “trends” to “trending topics” to give myself the latitude to address issues on which there’s buzz, even if we’re not yet seeing considerable traction.  So, one at a time, here are the big five from where I sit, along with a sixth topic that I believe we need to kindle.

#2: Student as Tinkerer

I love this:

“Doing” is what matters. Makers learn to make stuff by making stuff. Schools often forget this as they endlessly prepare students…. Students can and should be scientists, artists, engineers and writers today. The affordable and accessible technology of the Maker Movement makes learning by doing a realistic approach for schools. – Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager, Why the Maker Movement matters to educators. SmartBlog on Education, 8/20/13

I love it because, in it, I hear this:

“…give pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results” — John Dewey, Democracy and education, 1916 (New York: The Free Press, 1944, p. 154)

While Martinez and Stager are Pied Pipers of applying the new Maker Movement to schools, their words support a wide variety of approaches that embody respect for the student’s agency — everything from Montessori education to project-based learning to classroom endeavors in design thinking, building models, coding, and 3-D printing. Many of these agency-oriented approaches and activities integrate new technologies (Martinez and Stager see this as central), but I think the real news is that this is a resurgence in our acknowledgment of the inherent value and integrity of the learner.

Further reading:

Roscoria, T. Why the “Maker Movement” is popular in schools. Center for Digital Education, 8/14/13.

Costanza, K. The Maker Movement makes its way into Pittsburgh classrooms. Remake Learning, 8/26/13.

Vrotny, V. First pass — Innovation lab. Multifaceted Refractions, 8/23/13.

Hutton, P. Coding to learn: The 21st century curriculum. Huffington Post, 6/19/13.

The Coded Curriculum.” Beaver Country Day School. Video (4 min.)

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