Math and Making Open Conference Notes
2. What is the role of staff and educators?
Facilitator: Jean Ryoo
Points people brought up in free discussion :
How support staff? “Thinkers” at the Thinkery or museum educators – training them to be educators? Or focused on customer service?
- What are your struggles with this?
- What tools or resources are needed to support staff teaching math in the museum environment
- Elementary school teachers who choose their teaching role because they don’t feel like they can teach math and try to avoid math – this can be similar for museum staff. How do you get rid of math fear in educators?
In Makerspace have both makers and artists – but the rest of the museum the focus is customer service approach; management has fear of education and providing staff with an educational experience
- How do you create routines and systems with part-time staff and all the logistical constraints we are under (e.g. money, time, etc.)
How to find common language between staff and educators – labeling, how to introduce it, do you say it’s math, does it scare people off, does it make it more approachable? – these are issues that educators/staff are dealing with and when certain educators are overzealous about math it can push people away
- But if math in making, what are ways to introduce math in ways that are relatable
Arkansas – new museum so has option to develop new routines, not just change routines and have a smaller staff so gives certain affordances – have ‘zinglets’ or little experiences that people can be enhanced by facilitation – how do you make facilitation that much better – “I have a zinglet”
- Can be something you do quick PD around
- If zinglet is math focused, etc.
- Also have an educator resource room
Also when doing PD outside of our spaces – how do you translate what you know about effective PD to support teachers for some sort of conception of productive instructional practice
- Often teachers arrive to PD focused on a particular tool or activity
- Want to shift toward how do you use these tools/activities in service of a learning goal that they might have
- How connect so that teachers see the value in relation to their classrooms – content
- Can also think about on the floor of the museum – when a family comes in, being able to nurture their goal in learning
- Importance of labeling math so that educators can see connections to their goals
Al sees a lot of proposals in this arena at NSF – really important that we realize that Making is really different from place to place, how people define and frame it can be really different – each of those spaces downstairs, for example, is quite different – and the whole “techy” area is also different. Some NSF folks tend to think that Making is techy. It’s important that proposals, when they talk about Making, that they talk about the experiences, goals, and how that varies from audience to audience (public, school groups, afterschool program, etc.) – all of that affects the question of how much and to what extent the facilitation happens. All these parts of the system need to link to one another, so the skills it takes to do technical stuff might be different than in something like Happy City. Also, how do you recruit folks, not only how you train educators/staff. How do you decide the person who is able to handle all the dimensions (including funds of knowledge, etc.), then monitor and evaluate what is going on after train and as they teach.
- Want to see more rigorous research around these things
- But also realize that museums have budgetary issues, logistical timing things, etc.
- Math Moves exhibit : giving orientations with all staff so that they understand approach to exhibits and learning, trying to help staff realize that it’s okay for anything to happen in the exhibit; visitors don’t have to use things in one single way, but can explore; but then there is always a staff member who wonders: ‘but how does this all work? What do the numbers and gridlines mean?’ Then there is a desire to explain and shift into geeking out about the math and pointing out the triangles created, etc. Knowing when to shift into the moment when you go into those details vs. giving space to play
Big challenge with volunteer recruitment – retirees from Raytheon, for example, have specific ideas about what math should be that are different from the museum; can be difficult to coach educators to think about how to support visitors when they feel insecure about their math ability; people feel comfortable with telling children who say they are bad at math that it’s okay and that things can change, but when parents say that, people freeze. How can we coach facilitators to help in those moments?
- Staff mentoring parents through their kids, helps parents come back into the conversation and reengage
- How address when parents drive their child’s experience in ways that reinforce and perpetuate discomfort with math/science and reinforce norms
- Or how help when parents are disengaged?
- Connections between math, music, and making
- Role of staff to come up with new ideas that management staff hasn’t come up with yet?
Conversations that are important and take place during Making activities
- The arguments that they have to make toward administrators and management
- Wish had more time with educators to work on that
Assessment of own staff
- Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: Developed a system of routines to support staff to design good experiences of learning vs. management personal stuff which is separate – set of learning practices of what we define as making
- Certain type of engagement with practice
- Setting aside time and create conditions to reflect and move forward as a group
- Time set aside specifically for this
Labeling math concepts/vocabulary as they organically come up – Making affords opportunities to do this
- Adding the layer on top that offers functional knowledge to what kids and families are bringing in
- But you need to be extra conscious and aware of the terminology and ideas as a facilitator/educator
- How recreate these moments for staff so that they can organically experience these learning moments
- Important for educators to physically do activities that their students or museum visitors will experience – then they can understand the questions and discomfort and experiences youth/visitors will experience
Recruitment of staff – intentionally hiring working artists from the community to work with kids
- In most communities, Makers and artists working in their own garage and need to find these folks and bring them into these learning spaces
- Language you use to engage folks in the explicit math
- Facilitation of Making card game – Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
- Short time for PDs with volunteers – makes difficult
If math is focus, does facilitation have to shift?
- Pedagogical maker knowledge? Knowledge of content, pedagogy, and making?