Takeaways from The Learning Jam

The Learning Jam, presented by Toddle, was a 24-hour PD event and celebration of all things STEAM. The expert teachers and designers from around the world facilitated sessions on a range of topics, all with a connecting thread of making, tinkering, design and innovation.

I was unable to attend all of the sessions but I thoroughly enjoyed the ones that I did catch. Below, I have written a summary of each and a short reflection, mostly to consolidate my own learning. If you would like to watch the sessions yourself, the recordings are still available on the Agenda page. They will soon be transferred to the Toddle Learn page, but they will still be available to watch and rewatch for free.

I have also included links to the speakers’ Twitter profiles (where applicable) so that you can connect with them, share your learning and ask any follow-up questions.

Think with your hands – Gever Tulley

This keynote presentation by Gever Tulley (founder of SF Brightworks and Tinkering School) got The Learning Jam off to an incredible start. I really appreciated the messages that he shared about maker education, student autonomy and learning with students to solve real problems. He also advocates for the use of real tools, physical diagrams and placing trust in students. In particular, the following quote really resonated with me because it captures the power of maker education:

“You don’t know what you don’t know until you try to build it.”

Gever Tulley

Making your NetWork – Dr. Leena Bakshi

How do I incorporate anti-racism and social justice into my everyday STEM teaching and learning? This was the thought-provoking question that guided this powerful session. Dr. Leena, founder of STEM4Real, shared the root causes of social issues, including the reasons why ethnic minorities are underrepresented in STEM fields. She suggests addressing these issues by connecting with students and their experiences, promoting creativity and cultivating classroom communities that are rooted in social justice.

Systems thinking through the compass – Laurence Myers

In this session, Laurence Myers introduced and demonstrated the Sustainability Compass. This is a simple but powerful routine that can be used to add a sustainability lens to topics and inquiries. The compass points (Nature, Economy, Society and Wellbeing) also provide a common language for teachers. By routinely adopting the Compass, teachers can continually reinforce the importance of sustainability. For templates and explanations of more Compass Education routines, click here to download the guide.

Hands-on learning: The secret sauce of future-proof learning – Manish Jain

In this entertaining session, Manish Jain spoke about STEM toys, the importance of engaging children and “bringing back the gleam in their eyes”. He showcased a range of toys from his workshop and demonstrated how they can be used in fun ways that also enhance learning. The straw trick that I shared on my Instagram (below) is an idea that I got from Manish’s session, just in time for our sound unit. It was, indeed, an engaging provocation that raised a lot of questions about sound waves and pitch.

Designing for impact beyond the STEM class – Ewan McIntosh

In this session, Ewan McIntosh outlined the three things that every STEM environment needs: clarity of purpose, communication and collaboration. STEM, he suggests, is open to misinterpretation and so it’s important to develop a shared vision. The session also offered advice on how to incorporate authentic design principles by creating a culture that values problem-finding, problem-solving and prototyping. Finally, he argues that students should have the opportunity to have a genuine impact.

Embracing a maker mindset – Armin Martin

In this interactive workshop, Armin Martin shared advice on how to promote a maker mindset through designated makerspaces and other learning environments (including the outdoors). In doing so, students are empowered and exercise agency. He spoke passionately about utilising loose items for maker projects and creating in ways that are environmentally-friendly. During remote learning, students can use items that they have around their homes. As participants, we were challenged to try. Can you identify the famous building that I have recreated in this photo? As Armin suggested, I avoided glue and tape so that the pieces could be taken apart again.

Easy woodwork – to get you started – and why you should! – Anne-Marie Evans

In this session, Anne-Marie Evans advocated for the return of woodwork. Students should have the opportunity to create using wood and real tools. As well as developing their creativity, this will help them to appreciate trees and look after the world’s forests. The presentation included many tips on how to get started and outlined some possible projects. Audience participation was encouraged and so I created this name sign for my dog. Although I opted for the simplest option and it wasn’t a serious project, I was weirdly proud of it! I haven’t made anything with wood since high school!

I hope that these session summaries have been useful. Remember, you can still watch the recordings using the links at the top of this post. If you attended sessions that are not mentioned here, feel free to share your reflections and takeaways in the comment section below. Finally, thank you to Toddle and the presenters for this excellent PD event.

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