by Brie Daley (Friends’ Central School, PA)
Every teacher is a maker. Inside my school community, I see an incredibly diverse bunch of makers — expert quilters, cartoonists, puppeteers, chefs, gardeners, origami masters, and airplane engineers — whose talents contribute to our maker learning program as much as experience with digital fabrication or other flashy tools.
To celebrate the diversity that I see and to share it with the whole school, I began to interview the faculty and document the rich and varied ways that they contribute to our maker learning program.
In my school makerspace, we covered every inch of wall space that we could with maker profiles.
What is the effect of our maker profiles?
- Children connected with teachers who shared interests in making similar things.
- Parents read in awe of the talented range of educators.
- Faculty and staff felt a new sense of belonging in our community makerspace as valued mentors.
Here’s how you can get started with your own collection of faculty maker profiles.
Maker profiles at a glance
Decide what “making” looks like together. Emphasize identifying all kinds of making taking place inside classrooms in every discipline. Brainstorm, discuss, map — whatever fits best for your school — then make a visual and find a central place to showcase it.
- Send a brief survey. Online forms offer an easy way to send a simple set of questions to start gathering information about the maker in each teacher. Since answers aren’t public, shy folks may offer more in their written answers than they might in conversation.
- Dive deeper through interviewing. Use the survey results as a starting point for personal interviews. Open-ended questions and “tell-me-more” prompts will result in deeper sharing and hopefully some powerful personal stories about making.
- Build relationships, add anecdotes. Interviews can just be a starting point to new relationships and collaborations. Observing or team-teaching with teachers during maker activities is especially helpful for pointing out strong facilitation skills and creative thinking.
- Write drafts, share for feedback, and revise. Since maker profiles will be highly visible, each person needs the chance to review what was written and provide feedback. It’s a great way to model the iterative process in writing!
- Post maker profiles in a highly visible place. Ideally maker profiles would hang in your school makerspace. Try to place them in entry ways and other areas where visitors congregate so they can interact and make connections while reading.
The maker profiles hanging in our space show each of us that we are unique and that through creating we are each a valued member of this maker community. The photos and profiles inspire us to reach out to others about their projects and process, and to see our own potential in our nascent ideas. These profiles empower everyone to realize their own maker-ness. – Tiffany Borsch, Science Teacher
A closer look at teacher surveys
Creating a survey to send to faculty and staff is a simple way to start identifying their inner maker. Keep it short and simple so participants will complete it quickly. Focus on three or four questions that feel most meaningful to your community.
Remember, it’s just a starting point. You can use the survey information to craft open-ended, specific questions for individual interviews.
- Name & Position at School
- What do you like to make?
- Tell me about a project you’d like to explore further?
- What kind of making do you identify with and why?
- What do you love to teach?
- What would you like to learn this year in our makerspace?
- What can you teach others in the makerspace?
A closer look at teacher interviews
Interviewing skills are an essential tool for design-thinkers and makers of all ages. Asking questions and deeply listening in order to understand another person’s viewpoint helps create empathy and trust — a great start to building a community in your school makerspace.
- Prepare open-ended questions. Avoid questions that result in “yes” or “no” answers. A good interview results in storytelling instead of a series of quick responses. Take time to generate a list of specific questions that will show your guest you are making the most of their time,
- Listen more, talk less. An effective interviewer speaks a small portion of the time. Many interviewers fall into the trap of quickly validating what’s been said or even worse, filling in what they anticipate the person being interviewed will say next. Give your guest the chance to finish their thoughts and elaborate without interruption.
- Use prompts to get more details. “Tell me more” or a simple “Why?” will encourage your guest to consider what they may have left out and what feels valuable to share.
- Pay attention to body language. Make eye contact and turn your body towards your guest to show you are interested and listening. Try recording the interview on a tripod so you don’t have to take notes or hold a recording device.
Students interviewing teachers
Depending on your community, students could be in charge of interviewing faculty and staff to get information for your maker profiles. Student makers need practice in order to become confident and effective interviewers, but it’s worth the investment of time. Once those skills are built, they will come in handy in all kinds of academic and social situations.
Here are some easy ways to make time for your students to practice interviewing:
- Write a Yes/No question of the day and challenge students to make it open-ended.
- Role-play interviewer/interviewee with partners. One person can only ask Yes/No questions while the other can only use open-ended questions. Students will see very quickly the difference in how much information comes across.
- Invite students to interview a family member or friend for homework. Prepare open-ended questions ahead of time. See how many new things can be learned about someone you already know.
- Introduce school guests by leading a mini-interview to model effective strategies for your students. If your school has a regular assembly day, give classes the opportunity to research and interview guests ahead of time in order to introduce them to the community when they visit.
Congratulations! Your community maker profiles are posted and being enjoyed by all. How can it grow over time?
- Highlight the wide range of maker projects by adding photos, student quotes, QR codes, and anything else that will help visitors understand the richness of what’s happening in your makerspace. Community members are often unaware of what’s happening in other classrooms, grades, or during clubs. Seeing projects displayed will help makers feel proud of their accomplishments and interested in the work of others.
- Your display boards should evolve like any other maker project, responding to yearly themes, personnel changes, and needs of the space. Allow time in the beginning of the year for new faculty and staff to be interviewed so that profiles can be crafted. Allow the profiles and the space that features them to grow along with your maker program.
- Broaden the range of maker profiles to include students, parents, alumni, administration and staff. If your makerspace is truly a community resource, show that by highlighting users from every group. Not enough room to display? Rotate the display, share digitally, highlight by grade, or send this design challenge out to your students to solve.
- Add profiles of a diverse array of technology leaders, engineers, artists, scientists, and other well-known, or unknown, makers of varying kinds. Highlight role models who will give your students “mirrors and windows” in which they can see themselves and see out to the rest of the world.
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