Cultivating Curiosity and Creativity: CrossBraining Maker Education App for STEM & STEAM

Mark Adams from Vitsoe, the creators of the 606 Universal Shelving System has learned there is a high correlation between how intensely someone played with Legos as a child and how well he or she will fit with the Vitsoe culture.

Legos? Yes, Legos. Let’s take a look at Maker Education and how to cultivate curiosity/creativity in the classroom. You will see why this is important in graduating future-ready kids and why Mark and other companies love kids who play with Legos and Make.

In order to begin this awesome journey and to see why Making works, we will need to explore why management and ownership are critical in Making and in education.

Ownership, nothing cries ownership more than making. Whether your class is using Legos to build a Zipline; or you are studying ancient gods and goddesses and having your students create a menu and serve a dish that your god or goddess would have eaten, you are giving your students the opportunity to Make. Making provides students the opportunity to own their learning. This fosters creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking which are the skills employers are seeking in their employees.
When you hand a learner a worksheet, it was made by someone else, it is organized by someone else, and the answers are often definitive and the assessment is done by the person handing it out.
When you hand a learner a challenge, they are forced to think about how they will build a solution, organize the steps to solve it and often the answers are infinite and when answers are discussed, it gives students the opportunity to assess.
In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown says, “A sense of ownership is a powerful thing, as the saying goes, nobody in the history of the world has washed their rental car! This is because of something called “the endowment effect”, our tendency to undervalue things that aren’t ours and to overvalue things because we already own them.” It is imperative that students feel ownership in their learning.

Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

I will never bash an educator who uses worksheets. Worksheets have their place in learning. But, in order to develop “smart people,” we have to give them tons of opportunity to cultivate curiosity and creativity. Learners have to own their learning and the only way to own your learning is to know how to manage it. If we give them experiences in how to walk through phases of a task, where they are forced to make their own decisions on how the task will get done, by the time they graduate, they will have developed the future-ready skills to go into the careers and feel confident enough to share ways on how to get things done because they will have had years of experience.

So how do you do this? Rethink Management and Ownership.

After 21 years of teaching, I have concluded that there are two reasons why educators use textbooks and worksheets opposed to Making; Management and Control. It is easy to say, “Turn to page 123 and read to 130, then answer 1-5. That statement is all about management and control. It is exactly why I created CrossBraining. I needed to create a process to manage projects and give control and ownership to the students so I could stop teaching and become a Talent Developer.

I believe if you ask 100 teachers if they believe hands-on learning is an important part of a learner’s education, 90 educators would strongly answer yes; but if you walk down the hall of any school in America, 90 percent of the classrooms would not be actively involved in a hands-on project. Why? Management and Control. If you want to have a classroom full of Making, creativity and projects that scream curiosity, you HAVE to have a management system and be able to show learners how to own their learning so learners are in Control.

I created a competency-based app (Maker Education App) that gives each student in their group ownership over how the task will get done. This is also a management system that empowers them to use their creativity, rely heavily on communication, demand critical thinking, and forces collaboration all while managing the entire process using 8-10 second video artifacts through four phases.

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Plan – Draw out the plan of how you will pull of the task
Perform – Go make, build create, execute your plan
Polish – Time to iterate, edit, fix and make changes
Produce – Show your final product whether it works or not

During each phase, the group has three tasks to complete. These tasks are assigned to group members and they are held responsible to get them complete. They own their task and have to decide how that task will get done. The tasks in each phase are:

Capture – Capture 8-10 seconds of that phase being done using a camera
Narrate – Narrate that 8-10 second video using key terms from learning goals (I can statement)
Reflect – Answer questions that the teacher assigned to the group.

Students capture, reflect and narrate their learning using key terms from their learning goals. Each time the group completes a task, the teacher instantly sees their group status. When the group is done with the task, the program turns their work into a 45-second student narrated video using key terms from the learning goals.

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The blue indicators turn on when a group has completed that task. When all of the tasks are done, the director’s icon turns blue indicating the 45-second video is complete and ready to watch or download.

I keep this up on my Smartboard so groups can see the status of everyone’s project. It gives me the tool to go facilitate with groups and I know exactly who to help, down to the student.

Imagine if every student, starting at a young age, was given the opportunity to own more of their learning. What if they were empowered to manage most of their learning.? This would empower teachers to shift from being teachers to talent developers. Making is owning and when we hand the ownership back over to the student, we create an environment that cultivates curiosity and creativity.