Today is the first day of the 2016 Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. This is a four-day conference where educators work collaboratively on creative projects with the mentorship of thought leaders and experts who champion and embody the maker movement. Our first day began with an introduction by Dr. Gary Stager, who encouraged all of us to take off our teacher hats and put on our learner hats. I liked the reference he made to 'mouth down' frustration vs. 'mouth up' frustration. He did a wonderful job explaining the philosophy of the institute and helped us to understand the huge amount of expertise and experience present with us in the room.
The next part of our morning was an EdCamp-style process of idea generation for potential projects. The variety of ideas was stunning, and I put my name next to quite a few before deciding to join the 'Weasley Clock Project.'
If you are unfamiliar with the Weasley Family clock, it is a whimsical clock that hangs on the wall at the home of one of the families featured in the Harry Potter series, and has different hands that indicate the current physical location of each of the family members (notice that 'Mortal Peril' is one of the potential 'locations'...):
Shortly after making this decision, I found myself sitting at a round table with fellow educators looking for a place to start. After some introductions we began to talk through our ideas: how could we make the Weasley Clock come to life? We identified two main areas to focus on: collecting GPS information from family members and translating that information into a visual display on our clock. We talked for a while about the pros and cons of different displays: hands vs. lights, modern vs. antique looks, number of 'regions' on the clock, number of family members, etc. Google searches told us that this had been done before, and this helped give us hope that our vision was possible. (Check out this lovely example: http://mashable.com/2016/02/15/weasley-clock-diy-harry-potter/#LsqTfDHbJEqI)
We moved on to select our materials and received some useful guidance from faculty member Dr. Ben Leduc-Mills about taking things one step at a time. I think this advice was important because everyone in our group was coming to the project from different starting points. Focusing on something simple to start (like getting a device working properly to control ONE light) was reasonable, and actually proved difficult when the first tool we selected was not able to work on the hotel network. Some frustration and head-scratching ensued, but we were never truly discouraged.
Next? Lunch break!
(Delicious lunch at Dancing Lion Chocolate. How did so many incredible restaurants end up in this town? Our dinner last night at Republic was outstanding. Definitely stop in Manchester if you're ever traveling through New Hampshire.)
After lunch, we regrouped and spent some time selecting new tools and clearly defining a starting point for our project. At this point, it was time to divide and conquer. We focused on figuring out how to get fewer LEDs to light up - just finding connecting wires long enough to work in our clock project was a challenge. We also looked at ways to provide input to our clock using a potentiometer after a failed attempt at using a button. We worked on materials selection and planning for the design of the final clock. After much frustration with the task of coding the lights and potentiometers, we had a brilliant flash of success with only moments remaining before our end-of-day reflection time. Three and a half hours had flown by. At this point it is hard to envision how things will turn out, but a small taste of coding success is a great motivator.
Aside from the project work, meeting other educators from around the world has been a great learning experience. The huge variety in school philosophies, hometown demographics, and job descriptions has been a fascinating part of our discussions during work and mealtime. Everyone here shares a common interest in the value of making in education, and everyone is committed to taking the best of what they learn back to their schools to improve their students' experience.
I look forward to tomorrow, and promise to blog more as soon as I get a chance. :)
Click here for Day 2/3 Reflections