What do programmable books, multimedia poetry and DIY clubs have in common?
They're all examples of ways that a growing number of educators -- in school and out, at libraries, museums and other cultural institutions, at home and at community gatherings -- are engaging in making things and leveraging the learning associated with that very human impulse to create.
This summer, the National Writing Project, the place where I work, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, is leading an effort called Educator Innovator. It's an initiative in which a constellation of organizations (including Edutopia) are providing dozens of opportunities for educators to do things like joining webinars on innovative practice, or building a game register for a MOOC focused on making and learning.
It's all free and all open to anyone. And all projects were conceived with an aim toward supporting educators as they see for themselves the learning potential involved in constructing -- with bits and bytes as well as with hands and heart -- and as they determine how they might implement something new and, yes, innovative in the year ahead.
The Summer of Making and Connecting
Undergirding these opportunities is a set of design and learning principles called Connected Learning. These principles focus on learner pathways powered by interest, passion, peer mentorship as well as peer collaboration, and interaction through open networks.
Educator Innovator is itself part of a larger effort, The Summer of Making and Connecting, which includes a youth-oriented initiative called Maker Party 2013 led by the Mozilla Foundation. Set to launch June 15, Maker Party is a worldwide phenomenon focused on providing youth with tools to be creators of the web, and not just consumers.
As a sneak preview of Maker Party, here are two "hacktivity kits" -- remixable web-based learning activities -- created by NWP teachers using Mozilla-developed tools as part of the Educator Innovator collaboration: Making Stopmotion Movies by Kevin Hodgson and Maker Cards by Chad Sansing.
A Community of Creators
I'm lucky enough to be with the team that is helping to develop the Educator Innovator ecosystem. As part of that work, I recently attended Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, during its Education Day. At a celebration of the one-year anniversary of the launch of its Maker Ed Initiative (also an Educator Innovator partner), Maker Faire's founder Dale Dougherty pointed out that making is not about curriculum. Rather, it's about developing a community of creators. He then referenced the thousands of students and teachers who attended that day and left with visions of robots and light-up textiles and mashed-up toys and, ultimately, a sense of the possible.
"The kids are pushing us in this direction," Dougherty said of the making and learning movement.
Let yourself be pushed, too. Join the Summer of Making and Connecting. Join Educator Innovator. Join a community of creators. Make, write, remix and share.