Last week I attended a “minds-on” learning experience in Manchester, New Hampshire titled Constructing Modern Knowledge. This was very much an “unconference” type environment where the participants spend a bulk of their time working on self-selected projects with daily presenters who talked about their passions and experience to inspire our learning. Describing the four-day long learning environment is challenging but imagine an adult maker-space with wildly creative educators challenging each other’s thinking while using computers and electronics as learning and art tools.
The week kicked off with a presentation from the CMK organizer, Gary Stager, that launched into a collective brainstorming session with one prompt, “What do you want to make?” Ideas like giant robot arms, interactive sound garden, robotic high-five, automated chicken coup, drone, etc. were written down on giant Post-its and hung around the conference hall. From there, attendees started self-organizing into groups based on interests in bringing ideas to fruition. The days that followed were a milieu of thinking, making, trying, failing, and collaborating all in the name of learning. There was a bevy of electronic components to play with and enhance the making process. This was also a tremendous learning opportunity for me. I’ve dabbled in the world of programming and computer parts but the CMK environment immersed me in a pool of things like Ardiuno, MakeyMakey, LittleBits, Scratch programming, LEDs, sensors, wire, soldering and basic computer-based making. It was an exceptional opportunity to apply newly acquired knowledge and have some fun doing it! At the end of the week I found I had learned more from the people around me than I could have expected. It reinforced the idea of learning as a social activity and function. I learned by making, sharing, asking questions, playing, and interacting with the people around me. I Googled things I didn’t know, asked someone that knew more than me and helped others with things I knew about. The level of knowledge, collaboration, creative energy, and appetite for learning was unparalleled in my professional learning experiences. On top of it all, was the opportunity to listen and learn from an assortment of world class guest speakers. Mitchel Resnick, Edith Ackermann, Pete Nelson, Cam Perron, Marvin Minksy, and Gary Stager shared their expertise in areas relating to education and learning. Not only did the speakers talk to us and answer our questions, many of them spent time exploring our projects, asking us questions, and helping with our making. It was truly an open-ended learning environment where trust and autonomy were paramount in my “unconference” experience.
To see a video that overviews a little of my learning experience, click here.