Andrew Goodin is a Personal Learning Coach on the Design Thinking Team at Purdue Polytechnic high school, a brand-new learning model where students learn to problem-solve and think critically through real-world design challenges. Previously, Andrew was a makerspace teacher and facilitator at the Grand Center Arts Academy in St. Louis and the co-founder of The Disruption Department, a St. Louis-based non-profit that provides STEM support and programming. Andrew’s passion is to engage students in exploration, tinkering, and creation on a daily basis. As a result of his work, he’s been awarded the Peabody Energy “Leader in Education” prize, the Loeb Prize for Teaching Excellence, and St. Louis Public Schools Science Teacher of the Year. Andrew was a 2008 Teach for America St. Louis corps member where he taught 11th grade chemistry.
A MINDSET SHIFT FOR STEM EDUCATION
Thriving Schools: When you look at STEM Education across the country, what do you think we could be doing better?
Andrew: I think we have a lack of creative confidence from everyone involved, from teachers to school leaders and even education officials. I can tell you here at Purdue Polytechnic it’s definitely scary at times to be completely revamping the way students learn. But because we have the support of Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute at the University and our leadership team, we have the creative confidence and data systems needed to try new things and adjust course as necessary!
Thriving Schools: What mindsets do we need to move away from to embrace this creative confidence?
Andrew: There’s this prevailing mindset that “because I was lectured during high school and college, what’s wrong with that being my teaching style now?” But we make the argument that learning in this traditional way won’t prepare our students for the careers and opportunities of the future.
Thriving Schools: What advice would you give to newer teachers to encourage more creative thinking?
Andrew: I’d love it if every teacher could teach at a school like ours in their first 5 years because we’d eliminate a lot of the teacher-centered instruction that currently exists. Teachers would see first-hand what happens when you give students both choice and voice – deeper student learning and engagement. I don’t think anyone would ever want to go back to a traditional school environment.
WHAT IS A MAKERSPACE? AND HOW DO YOU CREATE ONE?
Thriving Schools: Let’s start with a definition. What is a makerspace?
Andrew: At Purdue Polytechnic, the makerspace is a place where students can use tools and materials to prototype their solutions to our design-cycle challenges. The goal of the space is to provide maximum flexibility in designing solutions and we have a number of digital and physical tools to help make student visions a reality. For example, we have a 3D printer and it’s a fantastic tool for students to use in prototyping solutions. In our last design cycle, students used this tool to create a redesigned compost bin. But honestly, a majority of our tools are low-tech so as to encourage taking action through prototyping!
Thriving Schools: For a teacher wanting to create their own makerspace, how should they think about these low-tech materials?
Andrew: I like to think about makerspace materials as being structures, surfaces, or connectors (because combining materials in these 3 different categories can be used to create anything). A “structure” would be something like cardboard, toilet paper tubes, or pieces of foam. “Surfaces” would be fabric, paper, or aluminum foil. And “connectors” would include paper clips, rubber bands, and hot glue.
TOOLS AND RESOURCES TO IMPROVE YOUR STEM AND MAKERSPACE PROGRAMMING
Thriving Schools: We want to help as many schools and teachers understand how they can incorporate your STEM ideas at their own schools. What’s the best way to begin?
Andrew: I think an excellent way to begin is by thinking about how you can utilize your community! For instance, at Purdue Polytechnic we believe that our community is our school. Let me give you a few examples. Our first design cycle revolved around redesigning a component of our school. Our second design project focused on conservation and we used the local zoo as our partner there. And in our third design cycle we partnered with a local farm to ask questions about global food shortages. So I really do believe that the content connections lie within the community and we find a way to connect them to the standards.
Thriving Schools: What materials and resources would you recommend?
Andrew: The #1 resource that we found is called the Makerspace Playbook, which is a free PDF from the Maker Education Initiative. For pedagogy, I would say you need to check out Invent to Learn book which explains the what, why, and how for makerspaces at any grade level. For design thinking, the Stanford D School has a 90-minute crash course in design thinking that anyone can participate in helps people understand how design thinking can be used. There’s also a Design Thinking for Educators toolkit which helps teachers understand how to implement these strategies at school. And then, of course, there’s the book called Creative Confidence (that I mentioned before) which was written by the creators of the Stanford D School and I’d recommend that one for everybody!
Thriving Schools: And where do you get the more traditional, subject-based curriculum from?
Andrew: Curriculum vendors don’t work for us because they assume a structure of school that doesn’t exist here. So that means we have to rely on collaboration to make this work. In my previous decade in the classroom, there’d be days where I never interacted with another adult. But here, because collaboration is at our core, we’re always teaming up to utilize the best resources we’ve found that work in the past. And we’re constantly re-mixing those resources to fit our model because schooling like this has never really been done. So yes, we’re making up a lot of this as we go along. But we’re constantly using data to know if we’re hitting the mark.
Thriving Schools: And could you give us an example of how this collaboration results in the curriculum you use?
Andrew: In the first part of our conversation, I described how students are using systems of equations to model the cost and revenue functions of their design solutions. So in this case we’re interfacing the math concepts with the design cycle so that the concepts lead to the skills which lead to the final products students are creating. You can check out Summit Public School's Learning Platform to get examples of curriculum that works great for this!
HOW TO FIND FUNDING, PERSUADE LEADERSHIP, AND BRING A MAKERSPACE TO YOUR SCHOOL
Thriving Schools: What resources would you recommend to teachers who want to fund or gain support for a makerspace at their school?
Andrew: My advice is they need to become design thinkers themselves and start small! It’s very easy for teachers to start an after-school club or hold lunchtime design sessions with their students. If there’s a broken computer around, have some students take it apart and try to fix it. In terms of funding and administrative support, I think that comes as soon as they see engaged students driving their own learning. For example, just this morning we had a student who was telling us about her idea to crowdsource farm management to solve problems related to glyphosate, an idea that wasn’t even mentioned in our curriculum. But because she had choice and voice in her education she decided this would be her focus for this design cycle.
Thriving Schools: I love your suggestion about having students fix the broken computers! We all know our schools have closets of these things laying around . . . What other ideas do you have to get students more tinkering time?
Andrew: Well, that’s actually how we started our makerspace in St. Louis. We were donated 30 broken laptops, I started an after-school club to fix them, and we ended up having a set of working computers. And because we needed something else to do as a club, we started learning programming, circuitry, and other things!
Thriving Schools: What other resources would you suggest for educators looking to bring projects like this to their classrooms or schools?
Andrew: I’ve got lots of great ideas. The first one is for engineering-related design projects, and the site is called Try Engineering. It is a collection of engineering design projects, but it’s also a great place to connect classroom curriculum to design type thinking. The next one, which I mentioned previously, is the Invent to Learn book which has a lot of great starter projects. There’s a documentary called Project H, which is a great example of human centric design and makerspace mindsets used within high school classrooms. I’d also recommend the professional development that ASU supports called Modelling Instruction.
Thriving Schools: And how about ideas for projects that allow students to tinker?
Andrew: Again, you just need to get started! As another example, I worked with a colleague who was at a different school on what we called the Chip Challenge, where students had to send a single Pringle chip through the mail to the other school. And so we had students design what they felt was the best package to send the chip in, based of course on research about USPS and the shipping process. Another idea - Caine’s Arcade, is a video on YouTube about a boy in east LA who designs his own arcade. And so we decided to work off that idea to have students integrate simple circuits into an arcade game that they had designed and then iterate on their game design to meet the needs of younger students. Then, of course, we invited these younger students in to play the game. And then I’d have to say one of the best resources teachers should look at is Twitter. If you go to #makered or #dtk12 (which stands for design thinking in k-12) you can see what teachers who are doing design thinking with their kids are doing all across the country.
Thriving Schools: Final question Andrew! Because the majority of students in traditional high schools haven’t been taught in educational environments like this, what do you do to ensure that students stay motivated?
Andrew: I’ll say it again, but our school leaders are big advocates of student choice and voice. So we make sure that in everything we do, students experience that. So students here are not learning because they want to please their teachers, but rather because they need to develop an understanding that’ll allow them to create awesome solutions. Also, students present their projects to an authentic audience of community members who are experts on the topics and they need to be ready to address their questions and concerns. So again, we feel like a combination of student choice and an authentic audience leads to maximal learning. We’ve also found that if a student is not engaged, it’s likely due to a knowledge or skill gap. So our school model also allows us to offer the differentiation sessions that effectively address those gaps.