This past weekend I presented at the Feminisms and Rhetorics 2017 conference. I presented a maker session on using coding robots (my ozobots) to support learning writing processes and theories (maker pedagogy with a focus on transfer).
The conference call for papers included a call for maker sessions, but for this conference it seemed very few presenters submitted to publish under that category. I attempted to attend a few maker sessions that didn’t happen, and generally did not see many listed in the program. Whatever the cause for fewer maker sessions, it caused interesting mindset reactions in my session.
I presented on Friday afternoon – after a largish lunch with our keynote speaker. The conference began on Wednesday, lasted all day and into late evening on Thursday, included activist sessions and workshops Friday morning, followed by our keynote address, then my session. By my session many attendees seemed a bit overwhelmed and tired. There was a lot of conference happening before my session. What I appreciated most was the joy and excitement in my session when I told attendees the point was to give them time to experience my theory pedagogy, they were going to play with robots.
While i’ll follow-up later with discussions of the theories, I want to take a short break to discuss the idea of maker time at conference to support good learning at conferences. Educators burn-out too. We become overwhelmed at conferences. My session now has me wondering if there should be more productive ways to organize conferences to build in experimental time, experience time, play time.
What i’m not arguing is that my format was the best. What I am considering is the way my play-based format, using the ozobots and some keynote theory slides, but focusing on spending time with the theories as experiential learning offered time for attendees to process some of their learning. Even if attendees never use robots (I understand the cost prohibitive nature of this tech – I only have 4 which influences how I design some of my pedagogy), even if attendees don’t process my theories but some of what they’ve learned from other sessions, could there be benefits to makerspaces at conferences where all attendees work through their own learning in experiential ways that are meaningful to them?
With a focus on transfer (I’m reading How People Learn, I highly recommend these ideas), I’m also wondering how makerspaces can aid learning transfer. How can attendees use these maker practices in new spaces to continue to support their own development. While being overloaded with ideas for new projects is great, it’s also exhausting. Can makerspaces help information processing in meaningful ways?
I feel this post has even fewer answers than I normally provide, I’m epically failing as an education blogger by just adding more questions to an already complex field, but I’m really happy with these ideas. I’m also considering possible applications in the classroom. Yes, I use robots, but with course times, regularly engaging maker activities requires a lot of work (and areas where I need to improve my approach to flipping). How does the classroom need to be reimagined for this to work? This same question would apply to conferences too – how would a conference be reimagined to allow for maker learning processing space? How do we get student/attendee buy-in for such a different approach? I have tons of students who love lectures, they are comfortable with and familiar with lectures, modify that approach and students need guidance. I’m assuming conference attendees would be similarly mystified to new approaches to conference learning. How do we teach students/attendees how to learn in these new approaches?