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AUW Session 4 – email-concise


We covered a lot of ground in this session. From learning theories, to pedagogy and lesson planning, to maker culture and serious play, this session was all about changing minds through play and making.
  1. Learning Theories: We starting out by talking about how learning happens. We all are both lifelong learners and lifelong teachers. We constantly face the need or have the desire to acquire new knowledge and we also frequently find ourselves in situations where we seek to explain concepts or teach skills to others. Seldom do we reflect on how this actually happens. Several perspectives can help our understanding of learning and teaching (neurological, cognitive, metacognitive, social). We discussed both cognitive information processing (cognition and metacognition) and socio-cultural theories (embodied cognition, situated learning, social constructivism, constructionism). There’s a quick learn video under recordings and review you may find helpful:
  2. Playful Pedagogy: The learning sciences are one thing, the art of teaching is another. We talked about the two ways in which design thinking can support playful, innovative, effective pedagogical practices – design thinking as a teaching tool in the classroom and design thinking as a curricular planning tool. (1) Creating engagement, authenticity, and self-discovery by embedding design thinking, making and play based activities in lessons. I gave two examples of low-cost, high-impact activities: (a( marshmallow challenge, (b) cardboard cities. (2) Using design thinking activities for creative lesson planning / curricular planning. Our shared activity in this session was focused on lesson planning. You worked in groups to structure a content area with activities and input to create 120 minutes of instruction. I encouraged you to keep an eye out for threshold concepts whenever you engage in curricular planning – ideas that are crucial to the topic at hand, and deserve an extra dose of attention and creativity because they tend to be troublesome to the learner. If you have not done so already: Document your results for your final group presentation in session 6!
  3. Makerspaces / Do-it-yourself / Maker culture: Making is a highly popular approach to problem-based and student-centered learning. Michael Vaughn ( talked to us about why making works, and what problems it solves. Michael is the co-founder of Elon University’s first Makerspace, where he started a project called Elon Kickbacks, which was an opportunity for students to submit a proposal and say, I have an idea that I want to pursue, but I need a little bit of funding and I also need a lot of support. This project was a way to help support their ideas and train them through on how to actually make those ideas a reality. It went so well that Michael was invited to the Whitehouse and present the project to the Obama administration. These days, Michael is father to a new-born and a 2year old, he is still a maker, has a quite successful tic-toc channel and works for the company Open LMS. A few take-aways from his talk: Confusion is the sweat of learning; failure is the muscle soreness of learning. Making encourages humility and vulnerability, it is a desensitization therapy for perfectionists who avoid failure. Mess-up matter! Michael’s paper on making is part of the syllabus:
  4. LEGO Serious Play (LSP): I am a bit of a fan, so I was extremely excited about the guest lecture by Anat Shabi ( She taught us the two main rules of LSP: (1) Everybody builds, and everybody share. (2) Respect each other models. “The process of creating is very liberating. That’s why it’s called serious play. If our brain thinks that we are playing, then all our differences, all the things that we say to ourselves, they come down and our subconscious mind begins to to work.” We did not have any legos, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time doing a serious play activity. We each drew a tower, placed ourselves on that tower, and then looked back at our week and identified one good thing, which we shared with our partner. We learned quite a bit about ourselves, our relationships, and about each other by asking questions about the towers we drew. My partner was Anat and I want to share what I learned from her because it was the best facilitation lesson I ever encountered in terms of both depth and effectiveness (so much in so little time!). When it was Anat’s time to share her good experience, she encouraged me to ask questions about her tower to learn more about her design and the thoughts and emotions that went into it. I started to say: ‘I love those planks, is that wood, like in a ship?’, and Anat very gently corrected me: ‘You are not asking questions about my drawing, you are sharing your own interpretations.’ This is something I do. I am impatient and often jump to ideas, conclusions or actions before the other person is done explaining because I think I know when in fact I don’t. Anybody who has ever worked with, is friends with me or is married to me will attest to that. What blew my mind is that this activity revealed it in just a few minutes of interacting with someone I barely know at all – who was then able to help me do better, by asking better, more open questions, and experience the difference in outcome. I hope to have the opportunity one day to become a certified LSP facilitator, but at its core this is an open source method that anyone can use:


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