Archives For EduHackers

Constructing Modern Knowledge CMK14

Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) provided a summer stopping point at the intersection of learning and maker culture right in the heart of constructivism.The crowd was pretty special: whimsical, intelligent, techy, artsy, and hip in the way that people who reject hip are hip (read: geeks).  It was a group of way finders who seemed to be happy being at the outer edge of the world of education and meeting up to make a community and create some nifty projects in a 4 day period. CMK was a 4 day event held in Manch-Vegas (Manchester, New Hampshire) July 8-11 2014.  It’s taken this long for me to let this blog post free.  I have great respect for Gary Stager and his collaborators. I am also unsettled about the place of make, invention and programming at school. I want it to work, but it continues to make me uneasy.  Join me in revisiting this event and indulge me by reading my thoughts about programming, constructivism and constructionism. Thank you.  If you make it through this post, check back later this week for another on CMK14 keynote speaker Pete Nelson, Treehouse Master.

Who? Papert et al

It was perfectly clear that Seymour Papert is the patriarchal figure of CMK.  Gary Stager made frequent mention of Papert and Logo with fond affection, great loyalty and zeal.  Papert is the intellectual father and even his descendants were honoured faculty at the event.  Artemis Papert was there with her family Brian Silverman and daughter.  Authors of the authoritative book on Logo, Learning with Logo Dan and Molly Lynn Watt, also point to the lineage of this gathering.  They are elders of the community that shape the narrative by way of oral and written history.  They are also sharp minds ready to assist with the more recent incarnations of programming languages for students such as Mitch Resnick and MIT’s Scratch.   During Stager’s opening address he made so many references, both direct and indirect to Papert that I wish I had started a tally. IMG_1327

Where’s Papert? Who gets credit and who doesn’t.

Stager is not only honouring the intellectual past of programming in education, he seemed to be fighting for recognition for Papert and Papert’s contribution. He indicated several times that Papert has been systematically erased from the story of programming in education.  I was not able to get to the bottom of this sentiment expressed by Stager, but my sense is that perhaps it isn’t only Papert that has been underemphasized but also Stager and Martinez.  The two have authored a super successful book Invent to Learn and have a long history of contributing to educational circles.  They are riding a wave of enthusiasm for maker culture, hands on learning, and STEM/STEAM education.  If the maker movement is a passing fad, Gary and Sylvia will be championing constructivism and constructionism and the hard fun of invention with and through programming long after the last LED stops blinking.  After all, they and their merry folk have been around before Make was spelled with an uppercase M and followed by the familiar TM.

Constructivism Constructionism Double Take

The event is called Constructing Modern Knowledge and I am wondering why I was at all surprised by the heavy constructivist approach.  The theoretical underpinnings are from the constructivist tradition and the play and materials people.  Piaget, Patri, Montessori and Reggio Emilia are big influencers.  This is apparent from the talk and the library collection.  Michael Hyde, my friend and fellow attendee points out to me that constructivism starts to look, feel and sound a lot like constructionism. Indeed it was Papert who hand-crafted his own educational theory with the notion of constructionism. When touring the projects there was a lot of building and making and crafting and construction.  Edith Ackerman, one of the guest speakers, even suggested in her talk that perhaps “the maker movement takes hands-on too literally.”  Is a constructionist approach too literal? Is it possible that taking constructivism too literally leads to constructionism?

I love the giant robot hands.

I love the giant robot hands that one team built. IMG_1359 They were huge, glorious, well crafted.  They even worked like real hands with stringy tendons and fingers.  They were marvelous.  They are proof that making is marvelous.  But is construction enough to achieve the objectives of constructivism and play?  Would adding an arduino and some programming make it even better or would it simply be animating an inanimate object? It’s so marvelous, the picture doesn’t even begin to show the magic. But, is this constructivism or constructionism? Is one better than another? Does it matter which?

Mind your Ps and Cs (Hot words of the 21st century)

I think if we are moving our pedagogy and our curriculum towards incorporating all the illustrious C words of 21st century learning as well as the P words, than both constructivism and constructionism will have a place.  Where play, passion, peers, projects and process (The 4Ps behind Scratch) are the mega goals and values of the classroom or school then bring on the cardboard, 3D printers, scanners, arduinos and whatever-else-you’ve-got.  Edith Ackerman supports the notion of making, but also encourages us to consider making-do as in reclaiming an age of domestic arts where fixing, repairing, improving and repurposing are as valued as inventing something out of nothing. I feel in my heart that there is value here, but I also feel a trap.  Edith Ackerman is interested in the relationship between the mind, the hand and the tool.  She says that it is not about success or failure but rather the ability to determine the next step.  She also calls on us to stay with these innovations long enough to see if we were seduced by a quick thrill or whether something greater and more important emerges from the intersection of the tools and the way they are appropriated by people and communities.  CMK is an epic win because it is this kind of intersection.  One with a pulse and a heart.  Like Michael, Greg and their team’s creation (pictured below).  It can be beautiful and meaningful all at once.  But, it is confusing.  It’s closer to art than to the school I know, but I am pretty sure that’s a good thing.

Heartbeat Wall from CMK 2014 on Vimeo.

 I feel it.


“I do not remember the school ever staying with a beautiful idea long enough to have it become part of children’s lives.”

-Angelo Patri


What is the Voxer?

Voxer is and app that functions like a walkie talkie that you can use with friends to chat and leave messages.  Thanks to Jon Samuelson a.k.a. iPadSammy for turning me on to Voxer.

Who cares?

In Dale Stephens’ book Hacking your Education, he promotes the idea of uncollege and learning on your own. He talks about how one way to create your own learning environment is to host a salon type experience at your house or dorm or wherever. Invite intelligent people over, feed them some yummy food and discuss.  Voila! Your very own incubator for ideas and inspiration at the low cost of a pizza or a home cooked meal.  Then today, thanks to recommendations from two friends on Voxer, I visited and stumbled upon an article about the importance of a support group for creatives.  The article spoke of a “creatives anonymous” type group.

Then, I realized how Voxer is my version of the Salons.  These groups are becoming increasingly valuable as my creative support groups.  It’s a wonderful island of concentrated talk (and sometimes just silly jibber-jam and skim-skam chat with our own lexicon of choice words) in a sea of tweets, blog posts and conferences that don’t seem to carry enough of a continuous relationship to really keep my feet grounded and my head reaching ever higher up.

The future of social networking and your PLC

I am a connected educator.  This is not a lofty title or self promotion.  All this means is that when I have a question, I can tweet something out and there are people who tweet back to help me.  All it means is that I have contributed just enough good to the ecosystem of education technology that I can occasionally dip from the vast well for help and support.  All it means is that I can speak to the Internet, and it speaks back.  I think once a learner is at the stage where the Internet speaks back, the learner is on the edge of a richer interaction and learning system.  The next step is to use tools to break out and have longer, sustained conversations with your favourite people on the Web.  Enter Voxer or whatever tool for creating smaller groups for hanging out, messing around and geeking out.

This is the fifth of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. For the final blog post in the series, all thinkers are from TVDSB.

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This is the first of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. Meet Angela, Lisa, Courtney, Kristin and Alline.

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This is the third of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Jo-Ann, Alison, Cathy, Cyndie, and Michelle.

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This is the second of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. May I introduce Amy, Tanya, Holly, Victoria, and Jaime.

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This is the first of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. Meet Rachelle, Rafranz, Sue, Megan, and Carolyn.

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Test toys from the 3D printer at UnLab.

Test toys from the 3D printer at UnLab.

On Thursday, July 25th I had the pleasure of visiting with Stuart Clark the treasurer and chief tour guide to London’s own hacker and maker space UnLab run and operated with sister company/organization UnLondon.

My tour through London’s hacker haven


Podcast StudioStuart was instantly welcoming and happy to show me around this tech cave of treasures. Stuart is the host of the Canadian Tech Podcast and has created a podcasting studio at the UnLab for his show and for UnLab members and guests to make use of. The room is complete with:

          • 4 microphones on booms.
          • 2 guests via Skype or Google Hangout.
          • Apple computer for capturing and editing with GarageBand.
          • camera in top right corner of the room to capture a live feed of the interview.
          • Large table that guests can sign there name to upon completing the interview.

It’s pretty much what Jian Ghomeshi has for running Q on CBC, right?  Stuart has also offered PodCamp and you can catch examples of campers fine work here.

What else will you find at UnLab?

collage unlab

    • 3D printers
    • Sewing machines
    • Soldering irons
    • Power tools
    • Servers
    • Books
    • Nuit Blanche projects
    • Cable, tones of cable
    • Honeybadger (if you look really closely!)

People and 3D Printing

The guys hanging out in Unlab are working away on various projects.  Some projects are for your-eyes-only when you go and are not for sharing online since the artists are working for companies and have NDAs in place. Of course, this slight bit of secrecy only makes it more appealing to me.  People were happy to talk about what they were working on and share ideas for working my way into creating maker spaces for youth in London in classroom spaces or elsewhere.  Vice suggested looking into TinkerCad and gave me a quick demo.  He also had two great insights about 3D printing. Both I should have already known, but what can you do. They are:

  1. You don’t just get a 3D printer. You need a reason/problem to design something. Or else you will be stuck downloading projects from the Internet and printing them out. That get’s boring pretty fast.
  2. If you own a 3D printer you spend most of your time fixing the 3D printer.

Design Principles at UnLab

Gary Stager simplifies the design and invent process down to three words: think – make – improve.

K-12 Design thinking in the style of uses six words to capture the process: understand – observe – define – ideate – prototype – test.

The Unlab takes a simple approach with three words:

  • gather
  • create
  • improve

In the End

I am very glad that openness prevails and that UnLab was happy to have visitors and potential new members stop by.  I can see myself, along with Greg, hanging out on Thursday nights and looking for partners to work on Arduino projects, some simple design and 3D printing and podcasting.  Also, I think I just want to hang out and be a fly on the wall as the others work and talk away. I think I could learn so much about the making and the social aspects of making by spending time at UnLab. Maybe I will just begin an ethnographic study of the place. I’ll try to join and gather stories of makers and hackers.

I see so much potential in this type of space for younger people too. London Public Library needs a maker space. Thames Valley District School Board classrooms need maker spaces.  Something feels right.


Day 1 ISTE

June 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

I dropped out of my session because I couldn’t resist doing some education hacking with ISTE Unplugged.  Really, look at the schedule and all the mind tickling topics for conversation.

Key Learnings from #Hacked13

Deeper Thinking with Ed Tech (Moderated by Scott McLeod)

1) Sharing does not always lead to deeper thinking. We must carefully scaffold and build and nurture the social discourse that surrounds artifacts shared.

2) If you can Google it, it’s not going to lead to deeper thinking.

3) People liked my reference to Gardner Campbell’s “Ecologies of Yearning” which I took from his talk here.

4) The usual suspects appeared: inquiry, problem solving, problem posing, collaboration.

5) I suggested that deep thinking arises from projects that are iterative.


Personalized Learning

This one left me with questions:

1) To what extend does personal learning break-down the interdependency and potential for collaboration in a classroom? I am all for each student having personal goals, but we must also strive for students who want not only succeed and grow, but want to help a peer to that also.

2) What is the difference between differentiation and personalization?

3) How does a classroom teacher manage 20-30 Individual Education Plans? If we are to personalize for each child, how do teachers like me manage that workflow? How do students organize themselves?


Microsoft is giving away 10,000 Surface tablets. So, I was one of the first to get in line and pick mine up. I somehow thought this was impossible so I wanted to be one of the first to see for myself. Yes, they were giving them away. It’s typical Microsoft design: safe and functional and totally void of connecting to my imagination and sense of awe and wonder about the world. Sorry Surface, that is my first impression. But I’ll give you some more time, particularly since my board will only go in your direction.

Surface Give Away ISTE13

Spoiler Alert to #tieco13: This is a sample from the the presentation I will be giving tomorrow with Master LaPlante!

Logan LaPlante is an incredible person who is doing amazing things and will do amazing things in the future.




He is a super communicator, highly adaptable, embraces change, is highly connected and positive.  On YouTube, his TED talk has over 200,000 views with 4,000 likes. A top comment on the video says “You guys, seriously we should all do hack schooling if it turns out kids like this” and I am compelled to agree.  His current and future success, as he points out, are also due in large part to his mom and dad, David and Jessica. I commend them for doing what feels right for their child and for having the courage to seek a path less followed for Logan.  I do believe that being happy and healthy is a worthy goal. Plus, if you are a hacker in the traditional computer sense, you live in a world that has a surprising abundance of humour and laughter. In Logan’s case, I also appreciate the emphasis on creating a life and not just working to create a living.  I think all of us want an opportunity to live a full life.  The eight strategies for happy and healthy living from Dr. Roger Walsh makes for an interesting list to consider.  I noticed that the Colorado Department of Education has adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative back in August 2010 and full implementation is expected by next school year 2013-2014.
Since I am speaking in Colorado, I went looking online at the “Comprehensive Health” curriculum  I found the word “happy” once and the word “stress” or “stressor” 35 times. The word happy was as an example for how to deal with stress.
Happy vs. Stress
I think the educators and policy makers in the state of Colorado might want to take a page from Logan LaPlante and work on being happy as opposed to finding ways to deal with stress. To me this seems like working on healthy eating as opposed to effective weight loss and dieting.  Relaxation and stress management is one category of the 8 Therapeutic Lifestyle changes or TLC. I would expect to see many curriculum standards for exercise as well as diet and nutrition if I were to go through the curriculum.  But what about the other 6: time in nature (perhaps in sciences), contribution and service, relationships, recreation, and religious and spiritual. Should these be the responsibility of public schools?  Is it reasonable to make happiness a core part of the curriculum?