There are many ideas and issues to consider when creating a maker project for a classroom. Here I will attempt to walk through the three phases that will hopefully lead to a well rounded project for my students.
There were several themes that came to mind during my discovery phase but a few ideas that really resonated were symbolism, the connectivity of the circuits, and light. I thought about how students might use that visual connection and light to show symbolically how texts connected. After this idea entered my mind I started to imagine how I might be able to demonstrate the concept in a concrete way. How could a paper circuit show a symbolic representation of a text?
Here is a view of my first attempt:
Here I made a visual representation of the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. The LED light used as the Raven’s eye gives you the impression that the bird is always watching from his perch. I started to think about how this idea of visually representing a text and using the circuit to connect ideas could work through multiple texts. I liked the idea of students using their creativity and imagination to envision those connections and then make them visible to their classmates. The question the became, how can I challenge my students to create visually symbolic representations of multiple texts?
There is a lot of value in brainstorming with other people about your idea. Outside thoughts and viewpoints can open new doors in your own thinking and provide a pathway for further innovation. Setting constraints on the brainstorming session seemed like it would hinder the process, but in actuality it may have allowed for more creative growth. Setting a time limit and prohibiting the discussion of ideas while they were being generated created a sense of urgency that somehow stimulated a more creative and open-ended atmosphere. Group members did not have enough time to worry about whether or not their idea made sense or was ridiculous, they wrote down all their thoughts and through that a lot of great material was born. “It’s often the wild ideas that spark visionary thoughts. With careful preparation and a clear set of rules, a brainstorm session can yield hundreds of fresh ideas” (Design Thinking for Educators, 49). This idea held true and I left the brainstorming session with many wonderful ideas and insights.
I really liked many of the ideas my classmates came up with but a few that stood out were creating an advertisement campaign or interactive book cover and somehow using the symbolism of a connection/circuit to show the similarities between texts. The advertisement campaign could be used for our annual craft fair and would give them a chance to showcase their talents in the community as well as work on symbolism. The intertextual connections idea seems very appealing as well, especially because this will be a focus in upcoming PARCCs assessments for students.
The more I consider my ideas the more I like the idea of connecting multiple texts, maybe as a unit ending project to validate and consolidate student thinking of unit concepts as a whole. Students could find a way to symbolically connect the ideas from the main texts in a unit through circuits. The circuit itself would be a symbolic representation that they could build on. Constraints may be that the focus is too narrow. Is it okay to just focus on paper circuits? Should they be given more options? What would be the best unit to use this idea with? There are still many sides of this idea to explore.
My Idea/Challenge to students:
Using your knowledge of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the research you did for your historical analysis paper on WWII, and the documentary we watched on the Holocaust design and develop a project that symbolically connects ideas from all three texts using paper circuits.
Students will work on their intertextual connections, symbolic representation of a text, and textual analysis skills through making visual, artistic connections between 3 texts with a paper circuit. The reason this will be so powerful is because students will be able to visibly make connections and see the connections that other students are also making. The written portion of the work (explanatory paper) will help them rationalize their own decision making process and form meaningful connections between the ideas in the texts. Students will also be given the opportunity to showcase their work within the school and community through the local craft fair.
Breakdown of steps:
Day 1: Students will be asked to use a mind map or possibly another strategy to brainstorm their ideas on connections between the three texts they will be using in this project. Once their ideas are down on paper (or computer) students will get together and give each other feedback or add their own ideas.
Day 2-3: Students will choose one of the ideas they came up with in their brainstorming session and start to flesh out the symbolic connection between the 3 texts. When students have solidified their ideas, they will start to sketch a design that will work for their project incorporating paper circuits. Students will now be in “maker mode” and able to experiment with all of the materials available in class.
Day 4: Students will now have a model of their project and can begin working on their explanatory piece. Why did they choose the quotes, symbols, or materials they did to use in their project? How do their choices reflect symbolically about the texts? What other connections could they make? As they write their rationale, they will also be concurrently reflecting on their own ideas and may become aware of areas for improvement in their projects.
Day 5: Writing and Making workshop to work on completing the final project.
Day 6-7: Sharing their projects and rationales with their class and receiving constructive feedback.
Day 8: Making adjustments to their projects and modifying ideas in their papers as needed.
**Students will present their final products either at a craft fair/coffee shop night or a cross share with the other freshman classes.
Here is a prototype example of what a project may look like completed:
After receiving feedback from my peers, I found that there are two areas for improvement in my plan. I am focusing solely on paper circuits for this lesson but this is a lesson that could be done with other connective maker kits. I liked the connection between paper circuits, light, and the subject matter but it may be a good idea to leave the project a little more open ended so that students have more creative license with their work and ideas. I do worry about the fact that I may not be able to fully demonstrate several types of maker kits in my classroom and get through the material in a realistic timeframe, which is why I may focus on just paper circuits before branching out into other mediums and kits.
I was also asked at one point during the session, “Does the symbolism of the light have to be the use of light/dark in the texts?” Which really made me think about the constraints I put on the project by telling students that is the symbolism they are looking for. There are several types of symbolism they could draw from and I do not want to limit the connections they may make between the texts. I think that I will modify that aspect of the project and just state that they are using the circuit to symbolically represent the connections between the 3 texts. Finally, why does it have to be just those 3 texts? We work with more than those texts throughout the 9 weeks dealing with WWII. I believe that I will make the directions so that they have to use the 3 main texts that we concentrated on but that they are challenged and encouraged to draw from other class sources as well.
IDEObooks (2013). Design thinking for educators. IDEO. Retrieved from http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/DTtoolkit_v1_062711.pdf