My first attempt at bringing a class into the Fab Lab was an embarrassing failure. I thought that CNC machines, vinyl cutters, and 3D printer would be all that we need to keep engaged. Open-ended projects! Creativity and choice! A classroom Shangri La!
It was rough. Everyone who was working had a question or needed instruction. Anyone who was not working were not patiently waiting.
That summer was heavy. How could someone help students engage (or re-engage) their curiosity and creativity in an open-ended way? How to give instruction in so many different directions at the same time? How to manage a class with open-ended option with enough structure to help every student?
The questions weighed upon me and I didn’t have answers.
For five years, I’ve been going back to basics, trying, failing, and experimenting. Slowly, very slowly, I would stumble into something that worked. Over years, one problem at a time, I got better.
Lately, fixing myself has been the best bet. I’ve been somewhat transformed into a better teacher, even if I have to go against my introverted nature (and that is exhausting!).
But last summer was when the puzzle started to come together. I’d unearthed enough of the pieces to take it back to scratch and assemble a coherent curriculum.
Now, every day is productive. Things are working. Simple changes make a huge impact. The big picture is finally coming into focus. There are still years of daily work ahead. But the years of lessons learned are finally paying off.