Last summer I wrote this post about a day long “Makers Camp,” which I’ve excerpted here:
“We tried things, failed and tried again, a different way. We could see our mistakes, learn from them, and try again. That kind of learning is largely missing from our academic efforts. We might know that something we’ve written sounds a little weird, but the ‘what’ isn’t always obvious. We might not completely understand something we’ve read, but we often let it go with getting the gist of it. And we accept that as okay.
When you make something and fail, it is obvious. It works or it doesn’t. You can see whether the light comes on or it doesn’t. You try again, and maybe fail again and even again, and you learn something from each failure. Each time you come out with a new understanding of the project you are working on. You realize that failure is part of success, part of growth, and you learn not to be diminished by it. You go back and back until you either get it or don’t, but no matter the outcome you have learned something with every try. And it is in the failure that you find the success of the lesson.”
Morph to Tech Making:
For the past month I have spent every other Saturday with a group of Writing Project colleagues learning to make a web page. Writing HTML code, embedding and linking things, fixing what doesn’t work and exalting at what does. We made Wordles, Bitstrips and videos. The cycle of failure and success was intensified when working digitally, I think. When we were making puff balls and the paper tore, I could just tug the tissue a little differently and cover the error. The exploded paper rocket could be retaped and it worked. As for the chain mail bracelet which I was completely unsuccessful at making, I just never-minded it, because I had successfully made the other stuff. No big deal, it was all forgiveable or forgettable.
The digital errors were a different story. If we made a mistake the page didn’t work. The link didn’t link, or the embed didn’t embed. Over and over we went back to the drawing board, re-examining the code, changing the dimensions of the thing we were trying to embed, fixing the links so they linked. We collaborated with others to figure it all out, hit the “Undo” button over and over again. Failure wasn’t an option if we were to come out with a web page that worked. And ultimately, we reached our goal, although I wouldn’t say m page is “finished.” As my friend Rochelle says, “Writing is never done. It’s just due.” The same goes for a web page, apparently.
I’m wondering, how does this type of making, in particular, tie to the Common Core? Consider the K-12 Anchor Standard 5 for Writing: “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.” In creating this web page I had to revise and revise, every single part of it. With every revision came new understanding of the task I was doing, and with the every new understanding came a feeling of capability, a daring to try something else.
What about Anchor Standard 4: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” In doing this project I used a variety of sites in collaboration to create my interactive page. Wordle, WordPress, Bitstrips, You Tube, Mozilla Thimble all connect to form my page. Every step of the way I collaborated with others, either in the role of teacher or student.
The specific connections to Common Core Standards are rife, and this blogpost could be extremely long if I continue to cite them here. The big answer to my question, “How is making a webpage connected to the Common Core?” is something like this: The Common Core is all about making connections between ideas and formats, collaboration and deep thinking, learning new things and sharing them publicly in a variety of ways. Making a webpage is the same thing. We collaborate with colleagues to solve our problems and celebrate our successes. We fine tune and revise over and over again. We figure out new things by doing them, look for connections between ideas and images and present what we learn as we continue to create and recreate.
Our learning is personal and public at the same time. I learn something new as I present the information in a digital way. If I am writing what I have learned on a piece of paper and handing it to someone else to read, the impact on the larger community conversation is small, confined to myself and whoever is kind enough to read what I’ve written. When I share my learning in a public, digital way I am taking a risk in opening a conversation that I will no longer control. In inviting the opinions and understanding of others I open myself to learning a great deal, and maybe (probably) having to readjust my own thinking. I believe this is the overall goal of the Common Core Standards, that we teach our children to be alert, knowledgeable partakers of the universal conversation, people who are willing to learn and change their minds as their understanding grows. We desperately need the ideas and thoughts of these people as our society grows and changes. I think this bodes well for the future, the one we all hold in common.