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Agency by Design:

Building Sensitivity to Design through Maker-Centered Learning

May 6, 2017

In the featured workshop, participants discovered how maker-centered learning can be accessible to all learners with researcher and author from Harvard's Project Zero, Jessica Ross. They learned thinking routines to develop the capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity. Through directly experiencing these routines, making connections to their own work, and looking at examples of these ideas in action, educators saw how fostering maker dispositions can develop a sensitivity to design and result in maker empowerment and student agency. These strategies were developed through the action research strand of the Agency by  Design project and recently published in the book Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds.
In all the breakout sessions, the big ideas of the day were unpacked and explored in ways that made connections to the worlds of the participants. 
Jessica Ross is the Project Manager for the research project Agency by Design (AbD), which examines the promises, practices and pedagogies of maker-centered learning.  AbD is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was also the Education Coordinator of the Project Zero Classroom Institute and a teaching fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Framing Question: What does it take to develop deep thinking capacities through maker-centered learning, such that students have agency in their worlds?
Dive in - Close Looking Opportunity
Participants look closely at an object, sketching several iterations and making observations, using the thinking routine: Parts, Purposes, Complexities
Design Challenge: Materials Exploration
Using paper, foil and masking tape, participants have 5 minutes to create something. Anything. Yes, that's right, you only need 5 minutes and very little material to bring this into your classroom!

"Maker centered learning is not a space, it is a mindset for allowing students to tinker." - Participant Comment
Taking a Look at Systems
Participants investigate systems through observations, interviews and discussion.  Using design tags as a framework, they explore what the systems designers' intentions were and how they might redesign or "hack" the system. They were introduced to the thinking routine: Parts, People, Interactions
Power Point Presentation
Click to download Slide Show

"I used to think that Makerspaces would be a huge expense for me, but i learned that it doesn't have to be expensive." - Participant Comment

Going Deeper:
Classroom Choices - What Results Do You Want?
This enlightening session was led by Wanda Lincoln of Impact 100, author, educator and lifelong learner. Participants were able to benefit from Wanda's wealth of experience as they looked at classroom structure and management that puts students in the driver's seat of their own learning.
Foundational Practice: Mindfulness in the Classroom
Participants learn mindfulness strategies that are powerful for both teacher and students. Led by Kelli Mejia, Fifth Grade Teacher at Fellsmere Elementary and Yoga instructor at Yoga Pagoda.
Moonshot Moments in Action: Portraits of a Moonshot Classroom
Participants hear stories from the field shared by Betty Barth, 1st grade teacher at Sebastian Elementary and Karen Pagan, 3rd grade teacher at Fellsmere Elementary.
Betty shared about special connections made with students through extended teaching/learning opportunities. Karen shared several of her unit plans that she is creating with her students. Facilitated by TLA's Fran McDonough.

Thank you, thank you for another fabulous day! I met so many dedicated and enthusiastic teachers.  Learning Alliance is such a wonderful organization.  The children of Indian River County are so lucky because of you!  - Participant Comment

I used to think Building in the classroom was hard. Now I think it is necessary and fun!

-Participant Comment

Going Deeper:
Making the Most Magnificent Things
Participants explore ways to help their students learn about empathy while building magnificent things. Based on the Stanford design thinking process, they used their imaginations to build exciting objects with the help of a popular picture book and everyday materials. Led by Cindy Gibbs, Fourth Grade Teacher at Beachland Elementary.
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