By T.J. Edwards
About this time last year Jim Tiffin and I were tasked with developing a scope and sequence for our newly emerging Maker Design Engineering (MDE) program. The truth is that we had been seeding elements of tinkering and fabrication in the school for a few years, but had not yet set a vision for how we might make the spaces – Studio (i) and HIVE – and the learning that is unique to MakerED available to all students. I’ll be honest…the idea of developing a scope and sequence or a curriculum document made me uneasy. It is not because I believe those pieces are invaluable – in fact they are essential. My apprehension had more to do with the tension I felt with Maker being a different kind of learning; one that is not easily tied to learning outcomes but readily observable through demonstration of skills and habits.
The reason it can be challenging to define curriculum within MakerED in particular is because curriculum evolves. It is a moving target. In other words, it is are hard to use the word “curriculum” without also using the word “development”. Instead of curriculum being a list of courses and learning outcomes, it seems more accurate to describe MDE as the process by which we ensure student’s experience in their learning matches stakeholders’ expectations for learning. Additionally, we often too narrowly define curriculum as a list of standards and perhaps lesson plans when other curricular documents should include communication of organizational goals and elements of program culture or ethos. With those sorts of thoughts in mind we created Cognitive Gearing which includes a subtitle of “from habits to active thinking.”
Cognitive Gearing is our first major curricular document that explicitly describes scope and sequence of MDE and implicitly communicates an underlying ethos. Regarding the latter, we hope that the Cognitive Gearing implies elements of fun and tinkering as well as our philosophy that learning is richer when there are opportunities for multiple attempts or “laps.” We hope that the interpretation of the gears is that learners will have multiple cycles of tinkering, hacking, and artistry (and thus fabrication, craftsmanship, etc) over their time at Mount Vernon.
Within this “one pager” there are at least four levels of organization:
- Meta Organization – The gears are a meta organizer for our maker pathways – as tinkerers (PK-4), hackers (5-8), or artisans (9-12) – but do not exclude the others. You can imagine a motor being applied to the tinkering gear for lower grades, for example, yet because of the gear assembly design there are opportunities for other pathways come in turn.
- What we value – The four call-out boxes and quotes on the periphery – Fabrication, Craftsmanship, Idea Exchange, and Observation & Judgement – represent what might be akin to value standards. We believe these to be the core skills of making at MVPS regardless of age level
- How we work – The bullets within each call-out box represent the ways we work to meet value standards and are akin to process standards. On any given day in our MDE program elements of these should be readily observable.
- How we share – The bold words at the bottom of each call-out box – Build Permit, Carecheck, pHail, and liquid network – describe how we collect and curate demonstrations of learning. They might be considered the hallmarks of our MDE program because these are the elements that were intentionally designed to scaffold our desired skills, habits, and values.
All told, Cognitive Gearing is a living document. It will be edited and evolve along with our program, but I’m so pleased with the value it has served over the last year. It is a tool to communicate what happens within the MDE program, a “north star” for program culture, and springboard for learner expectations and assessment.
Planetary Gears, retrieved from https://wkirwan.edublogs.org/files/2016/01/Planetary-gears-1do41tv.gif