SchoolArts Magazine

May 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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I recently attended a workshop at Level 5 (thelevel5.org), a mak- erspace at the Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. The workshop leader, John Burns, demonstrated how constructionist learning is an important pedagogy for understanding how to inte- grate technology and cre- ativity in the classroom. Papert's Approach Constructionism marries constructivist learning theory with the hands-on approach to working with physical materials in the real world. In his essay, Situ - ating Constructionism, Sey- mour Papert explains how his inspiration for the development of constructionism came from observing an art classroom and imagining the possibilities of what a similar engage - ment of materials would look like in a math classroom. Intentional Constructionism At Level 5, Burns instructed us to quickly figure out how to create and manipulate shapes with the 3D mod- eling program Tinkercad (tinkercad. com). Next, we wrote out on a white board all of the tools that we had dis- covered. Later, we were asked to imag- ine what simple things—no larger than a 20 x 20" (51 x 51 cm) cube—we could make with a 3D printer. We integrated our ideas and built on the knowledge that we acquired as a group to begin designing our indi- vidual projects. Circuitry Challenge For our next investigation, Burns asked us to play with circuitry com - ponents called Little Bits (littlebits.cc). These building blocks of electronic parts snap together with magnets, allowing students to quickly proto- type electronic devices that can move, light up, and interact with their envi - ronment. After just a few minutes of exploration we were given our first group challenge: Use these parts, a sewing needle, and whatever else we could find around the room to create our own working record player. This type of challenge creates a climate of comfort, with testing and failing before reaching a working model. Upcycling Cardboard Next, we experimented with Makedo (make.do). The kit includes plastic tools, screws, and brackets Constructionism in the Artroom that allow you to endlessly repurpose and quickly build large-scale models with cardboard. This type of hands-on learning can help students get up and move around as they mock up their ideas. It is also a great way to get young children started on work - ing with tools. Essential Pedagogy The workshop ended with an open challenge to create a work of interactive art. Using all of the processes and materials that we'd learned and experimented with over the course of the day, my group created a small installation in which a mouse would pop out of its house when a button was pressed. Another group created a cat that purred when you rubbed its belly, but screeched when you pulled its tail. Although they were simple, both of these projects were done in under forty minutes. As an art teacher, it's hard not to imagine the possibilities for integrating these products and others like them in the creation of interactive art at every level of the curriculum. In the artroom, constructionist pedagogy can help students take ownership of their own learning, empowering them with a sense of their own creativity. Rather than ask them to be creative with ideas and strategies that come from the teacher, they can build on the foun - dations of knowledge that they've already created. David Gran teaches high school art and film classes at the Shanghai American School in China and is the author of The Carrot Revolution, a blog about twenty- first century art education. carrotrevolu- tion.blogspot.com, dsgran@yahoo.com Constructionist pedagog can go a long wa owards helping students take ownership of their own learning. 20 MAY 2016 SchoolArts David Gran M E D I A @ r + s Image courtesy of Makedo.

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