Motorcycles, tools, and garages! A little bit of everything mechanical and technical.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

One possible solution to Education's Issues.

 I stumbled on Shop Teacher Bob's blog a couple of years ago, right when I got back into teaching.  Tons of cool stuff there and many awesome educational insights and links.  He posted this last week and I thought it was a GREAT idea- had to repost it here to share with y'all!

From Shop Teacher Bob:
I was prowling through my blog list yesterday and came across some info on the Milwaukee MakerFest at Handverker. First of all it amazes me all the stuff that Frankie Flood and his students are into on that site -  motorcycles, bicycles, VW's, and hot rods just like I am - and then there is all the high tech machining, printing and extruding creating artistic and functional items of all stripes.  I know very little about this new high tech stuff but what I do know is that this is the future of manufacturing.

With Maker Faires and Maker Spaces popping up the world over, (there's one in Rome in October), and the cost of college skyrocketing, maybe it's time for a new look at the traditional college model. At the community college where I'm currently employed, as near as I can tell, other than some digital photography and printing, we don't make anything. That's right. We make nothing. Since there are other campus locations throughout the state, I'm sure somewhere they're making something but maybe not. In the lab where I spend a few hours every week in my role as lab logistics technician, there are trainers for a variety of disciplines - hydraulics, pneumatics, electricity, electronics, etc. - but it looks like the main focus here is to turn out technicians for the local power company rather than making anything. I suppose that certainly is in keeping with the mission of a community college but from my high school teaching experience, I know people want to make things and they learn more if they are allowed to do just that.

Let us suppose for a moment that Shop Teacher Bob opens his own college. We'll call it the Shop Teacher Bob Maker School and dedicate it solely to the making of cool @#$*- might even want to make that as the motto, in fact. Anyway, have a two year course of study culminating in a maker degree. Keep the curriculum loosey-goosey and like Hillsdale College, don't accept any federal funds so the focus can remain on what really matters, giving the students a custom tailored education that allows them to make things. All types of things. Beautiful things, practical things, wooden things, plastic things, metal things, Steampunky things. Incorporate some old school skills like blacksmithing/metalsmithing, maybe some woodworking with hand tools - a nice blend of folk arts and CNC.

Think about it. A nice Maker Space/Tech Shop with a big garden. Maybe follow the Putney School model or the college in Berea. Work for your supper/tuition rather than a big ass student loan that will be hanging around your neck like a dead albatross you spent 40 grand for. Focus on the things you want to work on along side other creative individuals doing the same. Isn't that what Bell Labs used to do? Lots of potential for cross pollination of ideas. A hands-on approach but so much more. Granted there wouldn't be a football team but I suppose we could set up a couple of heavy bags and have the students design and build a few bicycles so we all get a little exercise instead of just the gridiron squad.

If one of you decides to start just such a school, let me know if you need a lab tech. I know just the guy.


Wouldn't that be awesome?!  Able to focus on each student individually instead or ramming a square peg in a round hole.  Really worried about this year as my class sizes have gone way up.  I'm just not going to make it to all of the students that need help.  Still not sure how I'm going to handle that.  On the bright side, I think the year isn't going to be as rough as I originally feared.  Been able to get a fair bit done in preparation for students that are showing up on Wednesday.

This is EXACTLY the kind of school I'm looking for to get my Masters in.  Hmmm... A Masters in "Making".  I'll keep dreaming.  And searching- if anyone knows of anything like this that exists and would be possible for me to keep my teaching job while I got it, I would be VERY interested!


Shop Teacher Bob said...

Thanks for the repost. I was just thinking maybe an associates in making but a master's? That might be enough to get me taking classes again.

Frankie Flood said...

I have been looking a lot at MIT's media lab (http://media.mit.edu) for inspiration. I don't have the brains for it and most of it is way over my head, but we need some kind of alternative to what we're doing now that teaches the things that we're both interested in sharing with our students. Some kind of Bachelor's or Masters in "solving difficult problems through "making" program". I've been searching for way to categorize this but can't seem to come up with what it is. It's some kind of Applied Engineering, Architecture, Art, Design, Trades Program. Too bad higher ed had to go a make everyone specialists and now we can't talk to someone who's not in our same field or use knowledge from outside our own course of study. Maybe it's a Masters in Jack of All Trades!

Unknown said...

This repost is great. I mean the idea of establishing something for the school and for the students is a great idea. They can hone their skills on a specific course and earn at the same time. With all the hot topics in education today, I think this will be one of the solutions to the biggest problems of students.