Making, making, making
ACTMA stands for Assessing Computational Thinking in Making Activities. What an intimidating mouthful! I prefer to stick with ACTMA and to only say the full name when needing to refocus on the goals of this ambitious project–which is often. What happens when you put researchers, in a room with experts in assessment, an evaluator, an artist, and a writer with the task of shepherding a group of teacher-consultants and student-consultants to create physics-related making activities? You get a lot of creative tension. And I think it’s a good thing. There has been a lot of pushing and pulling between keeping things open and emergent versus limiting options so that something gets done. As a result so far, the process has been a learning experience for all involved
It’s a fine balancing act we’ve created for ourselves. Teeter too far into predictive activities and the activities will lose their personal relevance. Teeter too far into the personally relevant and we might have an unmanageable unruly group of makers on our hands with different focuses. (We can’t really create a working teleportation device, can we?) Finding the correct balance, we hope to experience that sweet moment of grace, where youth are learning Physics concepts by making things that are personally relevant and the observers are witnessing obvious examples of Computational Thinking.
The planning meetings have shown themselves to be yet another example of making. We have a diverse group of thinkers at the table bringing all their expertise and experience to the task of creating just the right mix of parameters, openness, tools, and information to support the consultants in this work. We are making a system by which we hope the consultants will create something amazing that we can implement in a maker space. It’s as if we are playing with Matryoshka dolls. We are making a collaborative space for the consultants to make activities, for the library mentor at YOUmedia to make connections with youth, who will hopefully make and learn physics.
Being a part of the first meeting with the teacher and student-consultants makes me confident that it can be done; the teetering and tipping over and readjustments and refinements through conversations, emails, and planning meetings is working. We will have activities ready to go. But I anticipate we’ll have a lot of shaky moves as well as moments of grace in the process.