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All posts by Emily Eissenberg

“Focusing on student learning to use technology enables them to be consumers of technology. Teaching them how to create new technology enables them to be designers, innovators, and problem solvers.” – Dr. Chris Stephenson, 2012 Executive Director of CSTA
Happy Computer Science Education Week! Computer science is finally becoming a core component of a complete education in our 21st-century, digital world. According to  CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association), by 2022, 1.3 million jobs in computer and mathematical occupations will be created. We are already well into the digital age, and yet an overwhelming majority of students are graduating their K-12 education without a complete computer science education. The students who are exposed to technology are often taught through the lens of consumers rather than creators and designers. But just as basic economics and mathematical principles are included in a comprehensive education to provide students tools to make informed decisions and analyze the information around them, students ought to be introduced to how technology such as banking apps, messaging systems, and cloud storage actually work. As reported by Miles Berry in CSTA’s “Voice” in 2016, England has already introduced computer science into its national curriculum. Through feedback from teachers, they determined the most effective computer science pedagogies. Computer Science Image In the same vein, CSTA revised their National Computer Science Standards in 2017 to include practices that mirror the findings in England: Even students who are too young to have developed strong abstract reasoning can “code” with Cubelets blocks without needing to use a computer interface. Because Cubelets are designed with three types of blocks (SENSE, THINK, and ACT), students learn the importance of inputs and outputs, weighted averages, persevering through a rapid redesign process, and “making” towards a goal. As students grow and become more complex computer scientists, introducing Cubelets Blockly is the next step. Blockly programming is very similar to Scratch programming, which even college students regularly use as their introduction into computer programming. The current Cubelets Blockly tutorials introduce concepts like variables, timing, loops, conditionals, and more. Looking for some inspiration about what to build next with your Cubelets? Check out ModRobotics on Youtube or some Robot Recipes on!
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“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas Edison By now, many of us have heard of makerspaces. There’s likely one at our child’s school or local library or a nearby museum. What’s exactly in a makerspace is a mystery, however. When we think of makerspaces, many of us think about high-tech equipment like laser cutters or 3D printers; but while many public makerspaces do include these neat tools, any space can be a makerspace. After all, makerspaces are actually exactly what their name suggests: a space to make things. Makerspace Overview Humans are natural makers.  From infancy, children are constantly imagining, creating, and testing the world around them.  The purpose of maker spaces are to foster that creative and critical thinking – and to keep supplies in an easy-to-use area. Children do not need fancy makerspace tools, like a 3D printer, to continue to be inventors. They just need stuff to create their ideas and test them. In the words of Nancy Cole, “I’m realizing that much of my house is currently a makerspace. We already have Legos, blocks, pipe cleaners, fuzzy pom-poms, a glue gun, aluminum foil, bendable wire and multiple containers of markers, crayons, colored pencils and paints. Oh, and random pieces of cardboard. I just need to carve out a dedicated space in our home to gather it all together and allow my children to explore the endless possibilities of their imagination.” So what can we do as parents to support our creative problem-solvers? The first step is to change our lens: look around your house for maker supplies you already have. Some of the best maker materials hide in plain sight. Tissue boxes, paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, and envelopes with the clear plastic address box all make incredible building supplies. You may need to consider getting a couple rolls of different types of tape, glue, and a pair of scissors, as well as some drawing supplies if you don’t already have these at home. Once you see how many makerspace materials you already have, you just need to make a space for them.  Once you find a space – in a play room, a corner of the living room, or even a spare bedroom; bring in your kids as the designers. They will have ideas you never considered, and by creating the space themselves, will be more likely to take ownership in keeping it clean and stocked. To see how others have designed their at-home makerspaces, take a look at some of these:

A recipe for a dedicated Makerspace

A recipe for toolbox Makerspace

Recipes for single-shelf Makerspaces

Remember, any space can be a makerspace. Whether it’s a small bookshelf in the corner, or an entire playroom makeover, it’s the freedom to get messy, persevere, and learn through failed attempts at solving problems that “make” the makerspace. In the words of Janette Hughes, “In these spaces students are learning how to tinker collaboratively with a problem and keep trying until they find a solution. They are learning to be thinkers, innovators and problem-solvers rather than mere consumers of information.” Remember, too, there may be a public makerspace in your city, too! A simple Google search could uncover hidden gems at your local library or museum. After a visit, see if there are any ideas you can bring home with you. Happy making!
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