My Mom and the Maker Movement

The Maker Movement brings together technology fans and traditional artisans in a shared do-it-yourself, crafting culture that celebrates innovation. Schools across the country are investing in Maker Spaces, where students can invent or build with a diverse range of recycled products, traditional tools, and technology.

It’s new. It’s hip. It’s the best thing going on in education.

And my mom did it in her kindergarten class more than thirty years ago. She called it the Invention Center.

In the 1970s and 80s, there were always paper grocery bags in our kitchen at some stage of being filled with empty paper towel rolls, plastic tops, cans, bubble wrap, milk cartons, and more. We’d help her deliver them to her Invention Center and check out all the kindergarten “inventions” being built there. Occasionally, she’d send a letter home to her class asking for Invention Center donations, and the coffers would fill to overflowing, because 20 families across the DC metro area spent their kindergarten year collecting for it too.

The best though was watching those little kids walk down the carpool line barely able to carry structures bigger than they were to moms whose mouths were open in surprise. “Wow! That’s amazing!”

And the kindergarten “makers” beamed with pride as mom tried to fit it in the back of the car and they explained all the intricacies of what they’d created, how many times it had fallen apart, how they fixed it, and where they wanted to put it in their house.

I don’t know if my mom has heard of the Maker Movement, but I like to think of her as one of its pioneers.

 

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When He Grows Up, He Will Be…

Yesterday, as our family walked through the airport, I realized something had changed. Our oldest, who usually moves a step slower than the rest of us, was walking ahead of his younger brothers and me. He wasn’t whispering to me at the back of the line “I’m tired” or “I hate airports.” I wasn’t whispering back, “keep up with Dad”, because….

…he was walking at a fast clip with Dad.

Father and son moved through the airport together, stride for stride, in lively conversation, making each other laugh. Two peas in a pod.

They share a goofy humor tinged occasionally with wit and old soul. They compete over technology purchases and know-how. Our son has adopted his father’s odd mix of political opinions, peppered with a splattering of mismatched ideas of his own.

Over the last fourteen years, I have often thought that they are happy with each other, so non-judgmental, because they are nothing alike. I was wrong. Watching their backs, their easy comfort in each other’s presence, I caught a glimpse of the adult he is becoming.

Like father, like son.

What is Old is New Again

Remember those old photos of families sitting around a radio listening to world news? Boys, now grandfathers and great grandfathers, waiting to hear the score of the Yankees game or the next episode of Gunsmoke, imagining the scenes in their heads?

Technology has brought us so far!

Or has it?

Today, I walked past my sons huddled around the laptop on my desk watching the numbers change in the Falcons-Texans game, because it’s not being televised.

“It’s a touchdown!” Cheering erupted when the Falcons’ 7 changed to 13.

…Not even a sound from the screen.

What Blended Learning Looks Like

I recently participated in a webinar to learn more about Blended Learning, which combines highly individualized computer instruction with small group discussions. This approach is being used in classrooms across the country to address the fact that kids are coming to school with a wide range of skills and educational preparedness. It is an answer to the call for more personalized approaches to teaching. To check out the webinar, which includes a video of a school that has implemented it, please read my article on Yahoo. I did not think I would be won over as easily as I was.

http://voices.yahoo.com/blended-learning-providing-more-personalized-learning-12126097.html

Advertising and Kids

I can imagine the conversation that took place years ago around the boardroom at some up-and-coming advertising agency.

“Who’s your target audience?” asked the executive.

The new gal froze. She desperately wanted to impress, but she’d been up all night with this annoying tune in her head that her kids were singing while doing their homework.

“Kids,” she said.

A few of her colleagues snickered.

The executive’s eyebrow went up, typically a sign that he was about to fire someone. “And why would you target kids in a television ad for cleaning fluid?”

“Because they repeat everything they hear a million times. They sing the songs over and over again until you can’t get the lyrics out of your head… They ask their parents why don’t we have that cleaning fluid. They never stop. And they believe everything they hear. It’s a good way to grow brand recognition.”

That new gal earned a promotion.

It must be so. Here’s a snippet of the conversation my kids and I had in the car yesterday.

“Mom, do you have Verizon or AT&T?” asked the ten year old.

“Verizon.”

“Do you think AT&T lies about Verizon not being good?”

“I don’t think they lie exactly. Companies who are competing just try to make you think they are the best,” I said.

“Which one works best for the iPad?”

“No idea.”

“Which one works best for the phone?”

“Depends where you are. Verizon is better in some places, because they have more towers or satellites there. Then AT&T has more somewhere else.”

“Oh,” he paused. He’s a thinker. “What about Sprint? You can hear them everywhere.”

“I don’t think it’s great in parts of Colorado.”

“No, you can hear everything on Sprint phones everywhere, mom. Really!”

Silence.

“Can you hear me now?” he grinned.

Then he added, “When I get a phone, I’m getting Sprint.”

“Me too,” the five year old piped in.

Then the ten year old again, “How come we don’t use 409? Don’t you want clean counters?”

Serial Killer

I have a notoriously bad relationship with my cell phones. I drop them in the street, crack the screen, mysteriously blow the speakers, mute important calls with my cheek, have friends who my phone refuses to ring for, and now…

I dropped it down the disposal.

The good news? The disposal wasn’t running.

The bad news? There was water in it. The phone isn’t working 24 hours later. It was new.

I even bought a cover to protect my new phone. Green and glittery and cute. And I strutted with confidence that this phone and I would get along.

It was going so well…

…until I killed it.

I am a serial killer of cell phones.

I need to go into phone therapy. The guilt. The cost. The near certainty that I will do it again. The loss of friends who think I don’t care to return their calls.

I am in cell phone pain.

And I am off to Verizon for my next victim.

Technology and Kids

I keep reading editorials in the New York Times and other sources of news that bemoan the effect that technology is having on our children. Children are no longer able to converse, don’t look us in the eye, are more violent, cannot relate to each other. I am pretty sure that our parents’ generation read the same types of things about television when we were little.

However, as a parent, I struggle with age appropriateness regarding access to certain technological tools, as well as to the Internet. At what age should they get this? How closely do I monitor that? How do I empower my kids to benefit from the amazing things that technology will do for them without turning them into violent zombies incapable of carrying on a conversation with me, or their future spouse, or teachers or friends.

I put my thoughts down, and they were posted on Yahoo Voices at http://voices.yahoo.com/technology-kids-evolution-conversation-11275158.html.