Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stop Trying to Assess Making #MakerEd #MakerMentality

The other day, I was doing a webinar for littleBits and I was asked a question I often receive when talking about Makerspaces.

"How do you assess the making that happens in a Makerspace?" This question and slight variations often come up because we are a system that can only understand something if it is assessed. For somethings, I understand the need to assess skills to see improvement. Assessing writing skills and reading skills can help a teacher better support a student in their class. If someone wanted, they could create assessments for soldering, wiring, coding, etc. Every aspect of a Makerspaace could be dissected and assessments can be created. However, that is the antithesis of making.

A Makerspace is another tool that students and teachers can use to accomplish different tasks. Project Based Learning and Makerspaces go so well together because the assessment in PBL is whether or not students demonstrated understanding of the topics assigned. They can do that through so many different parts of a Makerspace. The assessment given by teachers should not be about how well they used an LED or Raspberry Pi, it should focus on how well the students were able to demonstrate understanding.

Badging systems are in place in many spaces and we are looking to expand our badging system this year, but badges are in recognition of student skills, not an assessment. I know this might be semantics, but it is about the mentality of the makers that makes the semantics work. The benchmarks to earn a badge are there for students as they learn different skills. It is not something imposed on them with strict timelines. Students demonstrate their skills when they feel they have mastered them and they receive a badge to recognize that learned skill. No fear of failure or lowering of the GPA. They are learning because they want to learn.

If your focus is on how to assess making in a makerspace, you have lost what it is that makes a makerspace so special. It is supposed to be a place where anyone can come and explore design and creation without the fear of judgement. The minute you start putting assessment around making, you strip it of the purity of learning for learning's sake. With so many things assessed and measured, let's keep the makerspace free of archaic measurements and let people make in peace.

If you want to learn more about creating a specific culture around your makerspace, consider picking up The Maker Mentality to help make that transition happen. If you need to focus on building the space, then Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces is what you need. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Hacking and Making #MakerEd

One of the things that I love about Making is taking something older and doing something different with it or altering it in some way. I've done this in many different ways over the past few years. One that stands out is turning this old rotary phone into an Airplay device with a Raspberry Pi.

It was a fun projects that really tested my design skills and my soldering skills as well. It was one of my first big projects using Raspberry Pi that was not just recreating something someone else had designed and made.

I was thinking about doing something kind of fun and retro with an old Nintendo cartridge and came up with something pretty fun. I was able to take apart The Adventures of Zelda and place a Raspberry Pi Zero W inside of it.

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

For those interested, here are the steps.

1. Unscrew the back of the cartridge.
2. Remove the hardware on the inside of the cartridge.
3. On the piece that is the back, there is a little plastic lip near the bottom of the cartridge. You need to clip this away so the ports of the Raspberry Pi Zero W will fit.
4. Secure the Raspberry Pi Zero W in place. I used hot glue in the corners. It needs to be secure so it does not shift when you plug into the device.
5. Attach the HDMI mini adapter, a micro USB dongle, and the micro USB power cord. Make sure the cords you are using fit nicely when the lid is placed on. You can easily check this without screwing the cartridge together.
6. Place your micro SD card in the Pi with the image you would like.
7. Screw it all together and you are ready to go.

It was fun taking something from an idea and getting to work on it in my makerspace at home. I encountered some problems and was worried it would not come together, but it all worked out in the end.

These are one of the types of projects I will be encouraging students to explore in the school makerspace. Hacking something to change it in a way that allows it to be used differently is part of the Maker Mentality and it is a wonderful exercise in creative problem solving and design thinking. How have you hacked different projects in your home/school? I'd love to see them and share them around. Tweet me (@TheNerdyTeacher) and use the hashtag #MakerMentality and we can all share in the hacking fun.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Maker Mentality Podcast #MakerEd #MakerMentality

Hello Makers!

I've been thinking about starting a new podcast for quite some time. I had fun with my NerdyCast and people asked if there was a chance for a new episode down the line. I thought I would try something new and have a Maker focused show that allows other great MakerEd folks share some tips, tricks, and tools on MakerEd! I'm using Anchor to house all of my episodes, but you can find all of them on other podcasting platforms as well. Here is a list,

Google Podcasts
Pocket Casts

I will be recording and posting based on the availability of my guests. I like this format because it allows people to binge listen if they want. I also promise to keep episodes in the 15-20 minute range. That is tough for me because I like to hear people share awesome things, but I want to make these podcasts episodes be digestible for the average listener. Here is an embedded widget that has the most recent episode, so feel free to listen right here if you want.

If you have ideas for guests or topics, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or by leaving a comment below. Thanks for all of your support and I can't wait to hear all of the amazing things Makers are going to share on the podcast!

Hugs and high fives,