While we all wish we could be in person, there are some unexpected silver linings with virtual learning. Ram Mosher, KID Museum’s long-time Senior Maker Educator, explains:
What were your expectations as you started out in the spring teaching kids virtually?
I expected it would be hard. I did not expect it to be so exhausting. I expected it would be really tough for kids to interact with each other, which turned out not to be true. It helps that kids today are “digital natives” — they know how to interact online and use the chat function, and that makes a big difference.
What were some of the major challenges you encountered working with kids online, rather than in person?
It was at first a challenge to develop programming that didn’t require all our tools and materials. But I figured out I could teach kids how to make stuff out of cardboard and duct tape, and as time went on, the projects got a little more advanced and a little more complicated. I still miss not being able to look my students in the eye or being able to give high-fives.
Can you name a favorite moment from the past few months of online instruction?
At the end of the camp “Wacky Inventions,” we had a “Changemaker Challenge,” where we asked 5th-7th graders to use their cardboard construction, coding, and electronics skills to invent and prototype something to make an essential worker’s life safer or easier. The beauty of that project was not the inventions, it was the conversation we had about who’s an essential worker and why. That experience really showed us how maker learning opens up avenues for learning and discovery.
Has there been a silver lining to virtual instruction?
For me, it was the chance to bring maker learning to kids in MCPS Title I summer school. I sincerely believe that every single child deserves access to maker education. It should not be a privilege. It was truly rewarding to work with kids who’d never been exposed to maker learning before — and witness their “aha” moments.
What would you say to skeptics who don’t believe it’s possible to teach maker skills virtually?
I’d tell them to jump on a Zoom call with me, and I’ll teach you how to build a circuit or code a video game or make a car! You can’t tell me it can’t be done, because I’ve been doing it since the spring. If your child has an interest in science, tech, engineering, or art, then the place to come is KID Museum. We’ve figured out how to make it work!