Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Learning for Real

I'm excited and exhilarated, despite the late hour and the exhaustion of chugging into the end of a VERY long week (with three too many long rides into Tel Aviv). But I was at one of my favorite places there today, at one of my favorite learning opportunities: a Google Teachers' Academy alumni reunion at Google Tel Aviv.

We heard about the hopes and plans of the people at Google, learned about what it is like behind the scenes at one of the world's biggest extravaganzas of taking advantage of the wisdom of the masses: Waze. Then we went for dinner. (As important as the presentations and lectures are, no less important is the schmoozing done between the sessions.)

When we came back from dinner we were ushered back to our seats through a part of the hall that had earlier been filled with rows of chairs, now set up with tables and paper all over the place. We were told that we were going to experience one of  the latest teaching trends.

We were handed clear bags each containing a piece of colored plastic with holes in it, batteries, a box for a motor, assorted plastic paraphernalia, a gazillion rubber bands and some suspicious looking wires. We were told that we could scan a barcode that would show us an instructional video, but were encouraged to try and figure out for ourselves how to "go forth and build a Drawbot"!

I couldn't view the video properly on my phone, anyway, and I was chomping at the bit to crack this one on my own. It took a while, and I needed a few leg-ups along the way, but I finally did it!

I looked at my beautiful (albeit wonky) DrawBot with pride, kvelling over the way it puttered along (even if it only moved in a straight line, rather than in graceful circles like the really "cool" ones did... a Bot only its mother could love). And then I looked up, and saw a room full of some 50 teachers all building and helping and laughing and watching their DrawBots -together and separately - draw a montage of mechanical drawings on the huge sheets of paper on the floor.

This is Maker Space.  This is Maker Culture. This is when the magic happens. 

Can you imagine bringing this excitement into the classroom?  I haven't processed the idea enough yet to figure out how to harness this energy and experience for the EFL classroom. I asked one of the presenters. He said: "It's all about language! Following instructions in English!"

Hmmm.... but WE didn't bother to follow instructions. We preferred to figure it out. Why would our students?

Still...... I have no doubt that there is great potential here.  What do YOU think? How could this be used for EFL?  You can find out more on their website: ForReal

Digitally yours,