Why ‘Making’ is a Priority in Tynker Educator Jen Gilbert’s Classroom
The Tynker Blue Ribbon Educators are a dedicated group of teachers who are determined to make coding for everyone a reality. Jen Gilbert is one of those teachers, and she’s leading the charge in Illinois when it comes to the maker movement. Tynker is also a big part of the maker movement. With Tynker, students can program connected devices like Sphero, LEGO WeDo, and Parrot MiniDrones, in addition to building web apps and mobile apps. The Blue Ribbons are working on building the Tynker teacher community, including having weekly Twitter chats using the #Tynkerchat hashtag. Jen will be moderating Monday’s #Tynkerchat. Here’s a little more about Jen:
Jen Gilbert is a Learning and Behavior Specialist with her Masters in Science Education, finishing her Early Childhood Technology certification. When not creating innovative activities or working on social media integration projects, she can be found presenting on education technology topics. Jen provides professional development on computer programming and robotics along with how to infuse maker education activities into the classroom. She also loves animals and if you ask her about her research on The Science of Flying Dogs™, she will teach you that dogs can fly and physics is a part of your everyday life. You can reach her on Twitter at @msgilbertrocks.
This week, Jen shared her passion for making and coding with us:
1. You’re a real STEM “maker” teacher. What’s the most fun maker project you’ve done with kids?
One of the fabulous parts of working in maker education is that it lends itself so well to collaborative opportunities. Some of my favorite projects are those that involved collaboration with our incredible art teacher for the 3rd grade art show. We have done interactive Makey Makey projects along with 3D modeling, laser etching/cutting, and Drawbots!
2. How do you find time for “making” in the classroom, while other teachers may not? Is this a mindset?
We have to shift our mindset to a “maker mindset.” You definitely have to shift your mindset to include opportunities for hands-on making in the classroom. Planning and flexibility are key! Our first tech project collaboration for the 3rd grade art show started small – with one project (only Drawbots). By year two we were able to tackle two projects. Just this past May we were able to complete three projects by planning time for stations where the kids rotated through to learn about Drawbots, Makey Makey, Scratch, and the laser machine. Having such a supportive collaborative partner helps tremendously.
3. What’s one of your favorite physical (hands on) tools for making?
Personally, I love the laser machine at my local public library. I am fortunate to have access to that type of equipment and make use of it for projects in and out of school. I mainly use wood and acrylic to etch/cut and bring designs to life. Just this week, I designed and cut out a small display box and shelves to use for my LEGO® minifigures. That design is a work in progress on Thingiverse.
4. When it comes to coding, what do you tell teachers who are afraid of computer science? How do you make coding palatable for any classroom teacher to integrate into their class?
Teachers need exposure to the tools that are used for computer science in school. Providing opportunities for professional development (both formal and informal) allows teachers to see computer science activities in action. I like to share relevant examples with teachers across different content areas. For example, one of my lessons to reinforce programming skills uses the concept of retelling a story through a coding tool (ScratchJr, Tynker, Scratch) and even includes an extension to use a robot to “act out” part of the story. Using these tools to enhance existing content allows teachers to integrate coding without feeling like they are taking time away from something else. Hopefully when they see the engagement and excitement around the tools they are inspired to weave more into their other lessons.
5. What should teachers be reading/watching this summer?
Teachers should definitely check these out:
READ: Secret Coders series (Gene Luen Yang), The Computer Code Mystery (Justin Taylor), Shift This! (Joy Kirr)
WATCH: Hidden Figures (if you missed it), CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap (available on Netflix), and all of the superhero movies recently released/coming soon!
Thanks again Jen! We’ll look for you on Twitter at @msgilbertrocks.
Join Jen as she moderates #Tynkerchat for us this Monday.