Reflecting on #teachtheweb Week 1: Making as Learning

Last week we launched #teachtheweb, a Mozilla Open Online Collaboration (MOOC – more commonly “Massive Open Online Course”). The first week was all about Making as Learning, and today, I’m going to write a reflection. Not an update about Webmaker stuff, not a plug for the MOOC (which is awesome, and you should totally join it), but a reflection on the idea Making as Learning and whether or not that’s always true.

During Week One of Teach the Web, I was thinking about why I’m such a proponent for this type of learning, and I tried to develop a healthy level of skepticism. I was asking myself whether or not Making is always Learning. Over the weekend, I paid extra careful attention to tasks I would consider making and considered whether or not I had learned.

I did learn. But does it count?

  • I learned that there’s a farm nearby that delivers organic vegetables. I learned this when I was preparing to make dinner.
  • I learned that using metal brushes to restore old painted wood works well in combination with heat guns and spatulas. I learned this when I was making a piece of furniture suitable to be brought inside.
  • I learned that New York still holds mystical power for 15 year old girls, as it did for me at one point. I learned this when I launched the first German Storycamp at a high school nearby. I learned this through their making.

I think Rafi Santo said it best when he said “Is making, in fact, learning? The short answer: yes, but it’s complicated.” In addition to nodding to everything he says in that post, I find myself thinking about this bit in particular:

“And it’s why I prefer talking about the Maker Movement as having strong lessons for learning, as opposed to just making, which can be construed as more solitary. Making in and of itself can sometimes involve the sorts of steps I described here, but not always. That’s why the answer is complicated. I’m willing to say that someone is always learning something when they’re making, but they learn best when it entails the sort of process, community and well configured structures of participation I describe above.”

Learning something vs learning best. How deep does the learning have to be in order for it to be considered intellectual growth? Who defines what “emotionally mature” means and when a person has reached that maturity? Is it necessary to make a distinction between what I learn as I’m making and what I learn through other people’s making? Are the lessons I learn through making, however trite they may seem, worth more when I learn them in a community of practice? At which threshold do we say that a particular pedagogy is working?

Despite my attempt at skepticism this weekend, I agree with Rafi that you always learn something through making. I think that something, no matter how small it might seem, is a lesson that has value – if you take the time to reflect on why it has value. But then perhaps I’ve already learned how to learn.

None of this in any way negates the fact that making and learning together is where it’s at. We’ll explore that in more depth starting today, with Week 2: Connected Learning in Practice.

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Reflecting on #teachtheweb Week 1: Making as Learning

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