Introducing the AbDLC

AbDLC member Bryce Taylor (Parts and Crafts, Somerville, MA) tinkers with a vintage German anniversary clock during the November 14, 2014 launch of the AbDLC.

AbDLC member Bryce Taylor (Parts and Crafts, Somerville, MA) tinkers with a vintage German anniversary clock during the November 14, 2014 launch of the AbDLC.

What happens when you put 32 maker and design educators in a room together for six hours? On a crisp fall afternoon this past November we did just that—we also added a few tools, some objects, time to think, learn, reflect, discuss, and have fun—and the results were fantastic.

After wrapping up the first phase of our action research collaboration with the Oakland Learning Community (OLC), on November 14, 2014 the Agency by Design team brought together maker and design educators from across the United States to launch the Agency by Design Learning Community, or AbDLC.

This talented group of techies and tinkerers hails from Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Toronto, and the golden state of California. Members of the AbDLC represent maker and design education programs in schools, after-school settings, museums, libraries, and a variety of makerspaces.

AbDLC members Mariah Landers (Alameda County Office of Education) and Rebecca Grabner (Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) explore the inner workings of a coffee grinder during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

AbDLC members Mariah Landers (Alameda County Office of Education) and Rebecca Grabner (Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) explore the inner workings of a coffee grinder during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

After spending two years developing a suite of Agency by Design thinking routines with our teacher partners in the OLC, we’ve brought together the AbDLC to pilot test our new thinking routines and provide real world pictures of practice of these routines in action. Consistent with Project Zero’s work developing learning communities, an additional goal of the AbDLC is to catalyze a national community of maker and design educators.

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Looking Forward—and Looking Back—to AbD’s Action Research with Educator Learning Communities

OLC members engage in an AbD systems redesign activity at Oakland International High School.

OLC members engage in an AbD systems redesign activity at Oakland International High School.

If you have been following this blog, you know that the Agency by Design research team has had the privilege of working with a group of educators from six schools in Oakland, California that we fondly refer to as the Oakland Learning Community (OLC). Many educators in this group have been partners in the journey of our project from its earliest days, and together we have come to learn some exciting things about what it means to bring a Project Zero research perspective to the emergent world of maker-centered learning and design education.

After two years of collaborating with our teacher partners we are looking forward to a new phase of action research that will commence this month. In the spirit of our work—which relies heavily on the power of reflection—we feel that before we move forward it is important to take a moment to look back on where we have been… and to note a few things we have learned along the way.

Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick Makers…

An anvil awaits the hammer strikes of emerging blacksmiths at East Bay School for Boys.

An anvil awaits the hammer strikes of emerging blacksmiths at East Bay School for Boys.

Throughout our early site visits and interviews our team has tried to determine what it means to bring maker-centered learning into the sphere of K–12 education. What are the real benefits of maker-centered learning? is a question that is now being explored across the country as districts and schools hear more about the promises of maker-centered learning and design education and determine how these pedagogies might fit within various school contexts. In response, some schools are building out high tech Fab Labs and developing coding curricula while others are adding looms, wood shops, and forges for blacksmithing. Some schools are emphasizing design thinking and entrepreneurial coursework while others see making experiences as salient reminders of the importance of project based learning and interdisciplinary studies. Clearly, it is an exciting landscape, but one that is very hard to define. Continue reading