I came up with the Innovation Lab, our take on the makerspace, when I first got to Fair Haven eighteen months ago. The goal was to make an engaging technology “special” to replace our more traditional computer class which we pushed down toward the elementary school. I spent the bulk of this year’s afternoons working in the Innovation Lab with Ms. Smith and her 5th and 6th grade students. In the Innovation Lab, students learned about Design & Engineering, Computer Science, the Digital Arts, and, for a few months, Entrepreneurship. After our first full year in the Lab, I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson Learned: Blended Learning is best, but not without a learning curve. I blended my high school English class for the last five years I was there. My sophomores received little direct instruction. Instead when they came into class, student work and the resources they needed to be successful were already online in our Learning Management System waiting for them. This worked incredibly well for my Sophomores, so I decided to bring blending to the Innovation Lab.
I believe in student-centered learning. Part of student-centered learning is giving students voice and choice in the classroom. A few years ago, back when I was a high school English teacher, students were assigned a culminating project on Romeo and Juliet. Students had to show what they learned during the unit in a medium of their choosing. A student approached me and asked if he could show what he learned using Minecraft. I had no idea what Minecraft was, so after having him explain the game and how he planned to use it, I approved the project. A week later he brought in a video of Minecraft characters acting out his favorite scene from Romeo and Juliet in a gorgeous, block-based Globe theater. This is how I met Minecraft.
We are about a month into Innovation Lab, and even though that may sound like a lot, I only see each class once a week for an hour. In all, since we’ve had some days off since the start of school, I’ve only seen most classes twice. Not a lot, but between observations and collecting data, I’m starting to see some trends. So, in the spirit of the same Growth Mindset I hope my kids develop in the Innovation Labs, here is the first reflection from the trenches of the Innovation Labs.