edu-it

education, technology, and everything else

Make

Posted by Miranda on March 15, 2007

Two things got me thinking the other day about how kids learn.
The two things: First, my son received issue # 4 of Make magazine from his uncle. Make magazine is a magazine about making things. It isn’t directions or plans on how to make specific things, it’s not a craft or hobby magazine but rather a magazine full of articles on what other people have made. All sorts of things, mostly using bits of technology. The best thing in issue # 4, and the reason Uncle Chris sent it I know, was the World’s Biggest Mp3 Player made by Mr. Jalopy. I wish I could post a picture but I’d be running into copyright trouble. It consisted of a turntable, computer, cd burner and iPod all fitted out in a huge wood console, garage-sale stuff. Our family does a lot of transferring old LPs to CD so this is of vital interest to us. It is truly a thing of beauty.
Other gems in issue # 4 included an amplifier for headphones built into an Altoids tin. My son has been devouring this magazine since it arrived pretty much non-stop, good thing it’s sturdily bound as I’ve read it cover to cover several times myself.
The second thing was a posting on our town listserv from a local science teacher Marc Chabot. I’ll quote here from his posting:

The young engineers and the community members work together to produce inventions designed to improve some aspect of an illness or disability. This past year, work included a box to secure loose oxygen tanks in a car, an improved method of transporting a kayak for a wheelchair-bound person, a tool to raise and lower a foot platform for a wheelchair, head protection and several others.
Sometimes these devices are so useful that they continue to function today,years after they were designed and built. Other times, the devices are a good start, and lead to a great deal of learning and relationship building.

and from a community member who took part:

“I was asked if I had a problem that might be solved by some inventive Thetford Academy seniors. I said, ‘indeed I do: tanks, clanking and banging around in my Tracker’. These tanks are vitally important to those of us with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD for short. I’d gotten used to the tanks,except for the clanking and banging! Very early one morning, in the TA bus circle (after the buses), I had my first meeting with my team of three. They sized up the tanks, the car,and we agreed to meet next at my house. At that time, they brought with them a popsicle stick model of a possibility. We discussed that and they said they’d soon bring a prototype. This turned out to be a well-built structure with all of the finishing touches. The next time I saw it, it was complete, and just right. An in-place holder with a sliding platform to make it easily accessible.I was most impressed with it, and the three young men who created it:intelligent, focused and ingenious young men. The program that brought them into my life requires imagination, skill and initiative and is, in my opinion,outstanding”

Both these things, Make Magazine and Marc Chabot’s science class are about the same thing I think: learning by doing, and doing something useful. Or that can be used, I suppose many would not see the World’s Biggest Mp3 Player as useful, although I certainly do. Solving problems and not just math problems.
And that, in my opinion, is one of the best ways in the world to learn for anyone.

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