Page 32 - THE Journal, May/June 2018
P. 32

| MAY/JUNE 2018
Brick Makerspace. One is a system called NoRILLA (Novel Research-based Intelligent Lifelong Learning Apparatus), which uses mixed reality technologies and artificial intelligence to allow students to experiment with physical properties. Essentially, students are given a task that involves constructing a structure (out of Lego Duplo blocks), then seeing how long their structures can stand when the platform moves.
According to Nesra Yannier, a researcher at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and founder of NoRILLA, the mixed reality and interactive guidance provided by the system’s AI have been shown to improve learning by a factor of 5 when looking at pre-tests and post-tests.
“We did a lot of research where tests showed that having the mixed reality system and having the interactive guidance provided by the virtual on top of the physical, hands- on experience improves kids learning by
five times compared with tablet or computer games, as well as improving their enjoy- ment,” Yannier said. “So they enjoyed it more when they did it in the real world with interactive feedback, and they also learned much more [about physical principles be- tween] pre- and post-test. We also saw that if you just let them play with physical materials like in most makerspaces, they don’t learn as much unless they have the interactive guid- ance on top of it.”
The interactive guidance also helps teachers, especially those without science backgrounds. Teachers said the interactive system helps them with their teaching. “So our goal is not to replace the teacher but
to aid them in the class. We create a lot of lesson plans for teachers to be able to use it in the classroom easily.”
Yannier’s colleagues Ken Koedinger and Scott Hudson, who were not present at the makerspace opening, were also involved with the development of the system.
Another CMU group, the Entertainment Technology Center, set up a station in the Brick Makerspace called the Animation Studio, where students can build sets and props out of Legos and create stop-motion animations with the use of a GoPro.
Lessons are mapped to ISTE standards
and cover a wide range of disciplines, as CMU’s John Balash explained: “In help-
ing design the prototype for the Animation Studio, we wanted to be able to mirror some of the vision of the Entertainment Technol- ogy Center at Carnegie Mellon University,” he told us. “One of the co-founders of our department was Randy Pausch — known for ‘The Last Lecture,’ but also known for head fakes — the learning objectives that aren’t nec- essarily visible right away. In the Animation Studio and what you’re making, you’re learn- ing all the techniques with the cameras and the cuts and the angles, but in the same way
According to Gregg Behr, Remake Learning council member and executive director of The Grable Foundation, there are now more than 180 documented makerspaces in and around the immediate area of Pittsburgh. (A partial map of those can be found on Google Maps.) There
are also 19 professional development programs in the area “supporting educators as they integrate maker mindsets in their instructional practices,” Behr explained.
“Over the past decade, more than 500 schools, museums, libraries, early learning centers, after school organizations,
At least as far as the school and district budgets were concerned, the Brick Makerspace was just about free.
you’re learning about narrative; you can learn about social and emotional learning and also how to work as a team. So those are the less visible but equally — if not more — important values.”
But at What Cost?
Well, Pretty Much Nothing
At least as far as the school and district budgets were concerned, the Brick Makerspace (aside from the facility itself, which was part of the original construction) was just about free. Bricks were donated
by parents. A literature library and props were donated by a local Barnes and Noble. Students built parts of the space. And grants provided the tools and technologies involved in the NoRILLA and Animation Studio from Carnegie Mellon.
Part of a Larger
Movement in Pittsburgh
Montour’s case may be stand-out, but the school is one part of what appears to be a large and growing movement in the Pittsburgh area to advance STEM and STEAM education, hands-on learning and the maker movement.
ed tech companies and institutions of higher education have banded together to advance relevant, engaging and equitable learning opportunities for our children,” he said in his opening remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. “In STEM classrooms, in STEAM labs, creative corners of libraries, educators are remaking learning in and out of school, pre-K through higher education and beyond.”
“We work with a lot of districts all across the country, and a lot of people are figuring out how to make makerspaces work for them,” Lego’s McDonald added. “What I love that the district did here
is they really involved the parents and community .... I think the collaboration that they’ve done with the community leaders, as well, has also helped to scale what they’re able to offer, and this is definitely a best-in-class offering.”
David Nagel is editor-in-chief of THE Journal and editorial director for 1105 Media’s Education Group.

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