Experiences Are the Best Teachers

When I think about my education, I think about experiences I had in the classroom with teachers. I remember the projects and the creativity. I remember the passion my teachers brought to class and their dynamic lesson plans. I do not remember the multiple choice tests or the times teachers stood in the front of the room and talked to us for 45 minutes. As a teacher, I feel like it is my job to create experiences for my students as often as possible. Not every day is going to be a high octane, fast paced experience filled event, but most days will be. The real task is trying to find new ways to make these experiences authentic and not just a canned lesson that I roll out every year.

One of the big changes I have made this past year is the introduction of a Makerspace to our school. I wanted to create a space where all students were welcomed to tinker. I knew there were students who would love this, they just needed a space to thrive. We set up Chromebooks and a 3D printer to encourage students to design and print. I connected a SMART Board 6065 interactive display to my Mac so students could manipulate their 3D designs by hand. This experience was so great for the students because they were able to stand and look at their design on a very clear HD screen and move the object around in a very simple fashion. It also allowed multiple students to interact with the design instead of just one student sitting at a computer with others staring over the shoulder. It was great to see students pointing out the work they were doing and looking for flaws as a team. It was fun to watch them explore and learn about design on their own.

Another wonderful experience for the students was letting them use the SMART kapp for their design process. Having a dry-erase board is nice when you are trying to figure things out. By using kapp for the design process, it enabled students to follow along on their device. Multiple students could take part in the design process and offer comments without having to get up from their chair. SMART kapp iQ is also wonderful for the design process. Students can switch from their 3D model to the SMART kapp iQ whiteboard and work on ideas. This ability to bounce back and forth can really help the creative design process.

Giving students the right tools to create something is very powerful. It gives them the opportunity to create their own experiences. As teachers, we want to provide our students with every chance to grow as a person and explore the world around them in a meaningful way. By creating a Makerspace for my students, I gave them access to right tools at the right time so they could experience learning in a way that mattered to them. Years from now, I hope my students do not remember the times I talked to them about writing thesis statements all the time, I hope they think about the experiences they had in my class and what they learned through them. Their experiences will be the best teacher they have ever had.

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Nicholas Provenzano
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About Nicholas Provenzano

Nicholas Provenzano is a high school English teacher and an education blogger. He writes on his website, TheNerdyTeacher.com, Edutopia.org, the ISTE blog, as well as many other prominent educational websites. He has been featured on CNN.com, The New York Times, Consumer Report, and many other media outlets. In 2013, he was awarded the Technology Teacher of the Year by MACUL and ISTE. Nicholas is Google Certified Innovator, a TEDEd Innovative Educator, Gates Foundation Community Advisory Committee Member, and Evernote Education Ambassador. His book, Classroom in the Cloud, was released in November 2015 by Corwin Publishing. Nicholas can be found tweeting plenty of nerdy ideas on Twitter.

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