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Tracing trails of becoming: Using CHAT to understand relations between interest development and learning in makerspace classrooms

1.3 Learning, knowledge and agency
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
10:51 AM, Friday 1 Sep 2017 (27 minutes)
Making and tinkering activities have become increasingly popular in recent years and are increasingly moving into schools (Martinez & Stager, 2013), thus increasing pressure to understand what and how students learn in makerspaces. Understanding learning in makerspaces presents two dilemmas. First, makerspaces allow learners to pursue their interests. So not everyone learns the same thing. Second, makerspaces employ new tools and cultivate skills for a new labor economy that are difficult to assess through standardized tests. Consequently, I propose using CHAT to analyze learning in makerspaces, with particular attention to the concepts of history (Scribner, 1985; Vygotsky, 1966), production (Ingold, 2011; Marx & Engels, 1977), and lines (Ingold, 2011). I present the case of one fifth-grade student, Carmen, who participated in an in-school makerspace for one school year (90 minutes/week). In analyzing Carmen’s case, I draw on Vygotsky’s notion of history, identifying a learning outcome then examining the everyday activities in Carmen’s individual history that produced that outcome (Vygotsky, 1966; Scribner, 1985). I also employ Marx’s notion of production, that “[humans] produce themselves and one another…by reciprocally laying down, through their life activities, the conditions for their own growth and development” (Ingold, 2011, p. 7). Finally, I draw on Ingold’s (2011) notion of lines, tracing Carmen’s “trails of becoming” (p. 14) to understand how her interests shaped her learning. By year’s end, Carmen was recognized as a relative expert (Stevens et al., 2016) at 3D printing. But how did she acquire that expertise? First, Carmen expressed interest in 3D printing by observing and questioning others, as they printed or maintained the printer. Later, she did these things herself and helped others. This transition was facilitated by sociomaterial changes to the activity system (Engeström, 1987). First, the instructor moved the printer to a moveable cart, connecting it to an individual computer. This allowed Carmen to assume control of that computer. Then, the instructor was absent for two weeks, allowing Carmen to take on some of his tasks, like fixing the printer. These events and Carmen’s actions produced her learning. Carmen also connected her 3D printer experience with her developing identity, saying “I like helping other people with the 3D printer…when I grow up I wish to help cancer kids and become a doctor for them…the 3D printer is like a cancer kid...If it's broken, I get to cure it and fix it.” This connection emphasizes the importance of “tracing the multiple trails of becoming, wherever they lead” (Ingold, 2011, p. 14).
Northwestern University
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