PLAYBACK: Inspiring The Next Generation of Makers and Designers


Photo by Keith Simmons.

5.27.11 | Maker Faire in your classroom; new tool kit on design thinking for educators; concrete advice on how to talk with teens about social media; One Book One Twitter re-launches as 1book140.

Bringing the Maker Spirit into the Classroom: In education circles, more of us are starting to pay attention to and be inspired by the maker movement. The spirit of the Maker Faires (a big one just took place in the Bay Area last weekend), and what they have to teach about the power of hands-on learning and experiential education, are contagious—not to mention the awesome use of DIY digital technologies.

Many believe teaching students to creatively problem-solve is the most important skill we can share, and there’s no better way to learn than by building something of your own design from start to finish.

If you missed the Bay Area Maker Faire, there are many more scheduled all over the country, and there are great online resources about how to bring the maker spirit into your classroom.

You can browse photos online and read through people’s favorite Maker Faire moments on the Maker Faire Facebook page, including inspirational notes from parents about what the experience meant to their children.

But the most useful information for educators can be the found on Maker Faire’s educational outreach page. It includes instructions for how to do maker projects with your students—think robots and marshmallow shooters. You can also join its social network for educators wanting to connect around hands-on projects.

Last Friday, Maker Faire hosted 1,600 kids as part of “Education Day,” a sort of Maker Faire sneak preview. Watch the fun video below.

Inspirational Robots: If you’re still not convinced about the transformational power of making things, read this moving blog post about one teen’s experience at the Maker Faire New York. Writing at the Make Magazine blog, Gareth Branwyn shares this inspirational story about a 13-year-old from South East Pennsylvania who learned how to solder (join pieces of metal together) at the Maker Faire and then went on to plan and build a telepresence robot for a science fair project.

The project did more than help him learn important problem solving skills; the motivation also helped him recover from a serious illness. Read the full post here. And don’t miss our related post on MakerBots from last week. The 3-D printer is sparking the imagination of children and adults and inspiring a culture of sharing.

Designing Learning: We wrote about graphic designer Sandy Speicher’s work teaching design thinking in the classroom last month after she spoke at the TEDxSFED conference in San Francisco. Speicher believes design can help students navigate the complexity of today’s world by teaching kids to create for it.

Speicher, a principal at the design firm IDEO, has just launched a new website and toolkit at

“Teachers design everyday. They structure all kinds of solutions,” Speicher said in an interview at KQED’s MindShift this week. “At any given moment, they’re designing a response to a student and how they bring out content in different ways so kids can understand it if they’re struggling. All of these are design decisions.”

The toolkit is designed to help educators integrate the design process into classroom instruction and the school community. You can download the toolkit and check it out for yourself here.

Plus: Read more about design thinking for education and its connection to game design at the Huffington Post.

Guidance on Teens and Social Media Use: Christine reported last week on the great piece on in Salon by Rahul Parikh, a Bay Area pediatrician. Parikh has a helpful follow-up story this week that includes more details on research challenging the notion that the web has a negative impact on kids’ development.

“Indeed, the Web just may be the place kids learn to express themselves and learn in the most innovative ways,” writes Parikh, citing research from the Digital Youth Project and Mills College.

But most helpful is the concrete advice Parikh shares on how to talk with kids and parents about teen’s online lives:


1. Don’t talk to strangers. It’s clear from most of the research that teens primarily interact with people they already know on the Web. That’s good, but it’s worth emphasizing that the same rule we teach you when you’re two years old can applies equally well on your 13th birthday.
2. Use the Golden Rule: The Internet is like any physical community, and rules of conduct apply. If someone pushes my kid in real life, I want her to yell “stop it” and tell a grown up. Do the same thing if someone pushes you online.
3. Think before you click: Before you hit “send” or “post” ask yourself the following question: “Are you about to say or upload media that might haunt you when you apply to college, look for a job, or at another important juncture in the future? If so, then please move your hand away from the mouse.


1. Get a Facebook account: If you don’t try it, then you’ll never really have a feel for how social media works, which makes it hard to discuss and communicate with your kid about the risks and benefits.
2. Learn about Facebook privacy settings. Then help kids set and understand theirs.
3. Find out where your kid is going online, and who they are hanging out with: It’s the same two questions we want to know when we’re letting our kids go out in the real world. It’s good to know who and what their online peers are like.
4. If your kid is at-risk or has emotional problems offline, then beware of what they’re doing and how they’re feeling online. Since most research shows that the two are closely related, that’s when being more zealous might pay off and protect your child from danger.

A Gargantuan Online Read-Along: We wrote about the One Book One Twitter project last year. Journalism professor Jeff Howe was inspired by One Book One Chicago and other localized book discussions. Last summer he got 12,000 people from around the world reading and discussing Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.” The project now has a new home at the Atlantic magazine, a new name—1book140—and is going monthly.

The project’s first selection is Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin,” chosen by readers and the Atlantic’s editorial staff. A post from Mashable explains how it works:

The discussion bit, which kicks off June 1, will take place primarily on Twitter (hashtag #1book140) and in the comments sections of, with cross-promotion from the publication’s Facebook and Tumblr pages.

Howe will be authoring a series of blog posts to help bridge and contextualize the discussions taking place on each of those platforms, as well as bringing in authors and third-party experts to enhance those conversations, Cohn says.

Nominations for next month’s book will begin in mid-June.

Plus: We also covered how a group of teens in Chicago are participating in the latest One Book One Chicago selection – coincidentally another book by author Neil Gaiman, “Neverwhere”—by remixing and rewriting the story using digital tools. Watch the StudentSpeak webisode here.

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