Monday, July 11, 2016

Maker Mania

Rest? What's rest? My first full week of summer vacation was chock-full of learning, thanks to two great events.

MakerEdTO - Maker Education Conference (July 6, 2016)

Site =

9:00 a.m. Opening Keynote - Peter Skillen
The Maker Movement: It's About Making Up Your Own Mind

Site = Peter's notes can be found here

Every time I hear Peter Skillen speak, I love him a little bit more. (Don't tell my husband or Peter's significant other either.) Peter flipped the dominant narrative of STEM and MakerSpaces on its head - coding and creating have been around a lot longer than many would report. He dispelled a lot of myths, like that teachers in inquiry maker classrooms are laissez-faire and "anything goes". Constructivism and thinkers like Seymour Papert are what fuel the activities found in good maker spaces. Consider the why and the passion students have for projects.

What did I learn?  I think I realized some things about attitude. Peter could justifiably be bitter and cynical. After all, he's been instrumental in providing opportunities that Johnny-come-latelys now claim that they've created. Yet, Peter is cheerful. He's not resentful. He's aware and he shares his awareness and knowledge without vitriol.

My most re-tweeted photo: Peter & Brenda finger knitting

9:40 a.m. Session 1 - Melanie Mulcaster
Knitting 101: No Needles Required

Site = Melanie's presentation can be found here

The description of Melanie's session on the website was "learn how to engage students through the art of finger knitting and learn how it can be applied in various contexts related to the curriculum".

What did I learn? I discovered some important tips.
1. I don't have to hold the end of the yarn with my thumb after I have a few rows completed. This prevents my hand from cramping up.
2. I should thread on my non-dominant hand.
3. There's a device that you can use to preserve your knitting if you have to go to the bathroom. (I forget what it's called.)
4. You CAN make more than chains. Melanie showed me how to grab "ears" and continue going around so that I can eventually make a hat.
5. Use thick chunky wool for a cooler result.
Looking for "ears" to connect

Melanie helping me connect my chain to make a circle

10:35 a.m. Session 2 - Shaun Grant
Silk Screening T-Shirts

Site = Overview of the MakerEdTO conference day can be found here

I bought a t-shirt prior to the event so that I could try out the silk screening center. I should have bought one of theirs, because the quality was better and I am definitely planning on wearing my creation after the fact. Shaun helped me (and Jessica and Allison from Simcoe County DSB) with the different stages of creating and making a silk-screen t-shirt.

What did I learn? I found out that silk screening is both easier and harder than I thought. The materials can be bought at craft stores (Curry's) but that there's a technique to placing the ink and spreading it - it can't be too little or too much and the pressure must be even and consistent. I liked using the fabric pastels and shirt spray cans.

Allison and Shaun silk-screening her top

11:30 a.m. Session 3

Here's the great thing about a conference that respects the adult learner: I took my time with finger knitting and silk screening, so much so that I didn't go to a third session in the morning. If only we could do similar things during the school day!

12:30 p.m. Lunch and 1:15 p.m. Playground

I had a quick bite with some of the educators who came down from the Simcoe County District School Board for lunch and then returned to the York School to try out the 3D Doodle Pen. My husband still remembers me spending $100 on a pen (the Echo Pen) so I appreciated the chance to try the tool out without having to fork over cash. Teresa Allen, who helped monitor this station, brought her own kid-friendly version she bought from a KickStarter and it seemed to work smoother than some of the others. The playground was also great because I had a lengthy conversation with Jennifer Brown, a teacher-librarian from Peel District School Board, about how she introduced MakerCulture in her school in a way that didn't turn her into the focus point. She also told me about how she introduced a sewing machine into her school library space.

What did I learn?   Success with the Doodle Pen depends on what generation you purchase. Older ones are more finicky. My chat with Jennifer Brown was so fruitful for the fall and for a talk I have to give in the near future. I'm going to go looking for a sewing machine and will ask my mother (an expert seamstress) if she's interested in coming and providing a few tutorials for those interested.

Jennifer with Little Bits (mostly we just talked)

Tom and David trying the Doodle Pens. Tom knew how to unclog them!

Maker Festival - (July 9-10, 2016)

July 8, 2016

My friend's son and I traveled to the Toronto Reference Library to help set up the Maker Festival. Natalie Draz, a creative artist, trained the volunteers to cut, fold, glue and assemble paper into beautiful origami structures. Thanks to those whom I worked with on the 10 am - 2 pm shift: Melissa, Annie, Monica, Nathan, Shun, Catherine, Laurissa, Cindy, Gabriela, Isis, Marzieh, Joyce, Paul, Julia, Natasha, Ronna, Julie, Karlo, Stewart, Matt, Trevor and Joshua. Big thanks to leaders Jen, Ceda and Anna who were functioning on minimal sleep but stayed positive and productive.

Laurissa, Annie, Cindy, Monica tying things together

Gabi, Julie, Shun, Karlo, Joyce with the fruits of their labor

Natalie demonstrates the next step

July 9, 2016

The core team (Jen, Eric, Agnieszka, Anna, Ceda, Matt and a bunch of people that I forgot to record their names) worked long into the night and when I came back on Saturday afternoon, the paper structures were hung, the streamers aloft, and everything was ready for the crowds. I worked at the front desk, collecting waiver signatures and answering questions. I was able to spend my break wandering the floors and there were fabulous exhibitors. My new friend Jennifer Brown wrote a much more elaborate and wonderful blog post about what Maker Festival had to offer. I was astounded by how many people present were volunteers, just passionate about making and helping. I had great conversations with folks that 
  • sell Raspberry Pis and 
  • make origami with leather and 
  • sell Maker Festival t-shirts for participants to hack and 
  • build geometric light structures and 
  • work with their spouses on local maker spaces and
  • assist the ROM with an interactive Twitter display. 
I saw many friends there - not just Jennifer Brown but Kelly Maggirias, Ray Mercer, Salma Nakhuda, David Hann, and more. I worked with friends like Teresa Allen and other wonderful people that felt like friends by the end of the shift. 

A view from the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library

York Region DSB TL Kelly Maggirias shows her origami ball

Branksome Hall TL shows her 3D printed inquiry earrings

David Hann shares his students pinball machine projects

An innovative way to combine art and tech from the ROM

Trevor and I have different reactions to the ROM dinosaur
 I really enjoyed my time volunteering at the Maker Festival and I may take a different role next year with the organization. It's such a treat to be around such motivated, creative and energetic people.

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