Wednesday, October 1, 2014

From the Makerspace to Language Arts

Two weeks ago, I received a much-anticipated package from Amazon - a wireless document camera! I was excited by the possibility of being able to mark-up a book or write in my Writer's Notebook and have it project to my whiteboard. Unfortunately, the camera did not play well with my Apple TV, and I could not get it to project wirelessly. I had to send the device back. Needless to say, I was bummed; until I ran into Mr. Mussoline. Rather than viewing my issue as a setback, he took it as an opportunity to exploit the potential of our makerspace, Nerdvana.

Together, we planned to have students compete in teams to create a document camera stand for my iPad. The makerspace would provide all of the parts and tools, and the kids would supply their ingenuity and know-how. Through a first come, first served process, three students from each advising class signed up to build a device that would allow my iPad to function as a document camera.

Click for photo gallery

During two days of Community Time last week, the teams of students planned, gathered materials, and constructed their document camera stands. Mr. Mussoline and I helped them only when they needed assistance operating a tool, otherwise we let them explore and learn on their own. It was a powerful experience, and the excitement was palpable as kids measured, sawed, and drilled. Over and over again, they tried ideas and made adjustments in order to make their visions a reality. I was astounded by the level of engagement with the project as well as the students' perseverance in making their team's product the best one. In the end, all four document camera stands made it to completion with varying degrees of success. Yet, it wasn't really about the final product, it was the process. Kids were there because they wanted to be there, not because they were forced to comply. They were encouraged to follow their instincts and use their individual strengths in order to meet the expectations of the activity. And, they were allowed to fail with the chance to recover.

I'm not sure who took away more from the experience. In those two days, I learned more about passion, choice, and coaching than I ever expected. Now, it's time to figure out how to bring those insights to my English classroom.


  1. What a fabulous project, Mr. Dunning! It is truly an authentic one. What a great way for students to experiment in Nerdvana for a needed device. Framing it as a competition was also spectacular! Do you think that I could borrow one of the devices? :)

  2. Thanks, Lori. The kids really enjoyed the project, and I obtained an awesome tool! You are welcome to borrow one anytime.