What Are The Challenges In Shifting Content From “What” to “Where” and “How?

I see changing my mindset as the main challenge in shifting content from “what” to “where” and “how”. One way that I am working on changing my mindset is by having designated time for building learning centers every day as part of my classroom makerspace. I still struggle when I get the “look” from other teachers as they pass by my classroom. I know that they see my room as loud, out of control, and chaotic during building center time. I feel the judgment in their eyes about my students having “play” time again. I also am aware that I may be interpreting their looks as negative because of my own insecurities about allowing my students to have so much “play” time. I have been having serious inner turmoil over my building centers/makerspace. I wonder if they are really learning higher order thinking skills. I know they are building social skills, but that is not my ultimate goal. I want my students to creative thinking skills through building centers in our makerspace. “Creative thinking involves creating, discovering, imagining, supposing, designing, what if-ing, inventing and producing. Forming creative ideas means coming up with an unusual, novel, or surprising solution to a problem. People who have creative ideas are able to apply problem-solving skills in a new situation. They see relationships others just don’t see until they are pointed out. Inventors such as Thomas Edison took the information they had and regrouped it until something new happened. Creative thinking has novelty, flexibility and originality” (Thomas & Thorne, 2009). I believe that creative thinking promotes a “where” and “how” mindset. Instead of thinking, “what should I do?” they begin to think “where should I put this piece?” and “how can I make this fly?” I see and hear my students talk about their ideas every day, but I still worry about what my colleagues think and whether I should be using the time for reading, writing, or math.

Reading the chapters this week has helped me reaffirm my commitment to the building centers/makerspace. I agree with the text, “Only when we care about experimentation, play, and questions more than efficiency, outcomes, and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination. And where imaginations play, learning happens” (Thomas & Brown, 2011). I have seen my students build Fiddle Stix musical instruments and Zoob robots. They love creating Tinker Toy purses and Domino houses. I also had my students use Puppet Pals this week on the iPads. “Puppet Pals allows students to design, tell and produce a puppet show using a variety of characters and sets. They can also create their own characters and sets. Students move the characters and change the set while recording their own voices telling the story. Puppet Pals HD fits into the “creating” category of higher order thinking skills. Apps that fit this category encourage students to generate ideas, create design and follow through with production” (Mann, 2014). My building centers are the start of a makerspace for my elementary school. I wanted to start it in my classroom before opening it up to other classes or grades. I have started with construction toys, but I will be moving into incorporating more technology into our makerspace. Another goal of my building centers/makerspace is for them to boost resiliency in my students. “Designing becomes easy and risk free as students have freedom to tinker and create prototypes as they please. This deviates from the misconception that mistakes are expensive and instead encourages students to try new things and overcome personal challenges” (Kaplan Early Learning, 2014). I really feel that it is important for my students to learn that mistakes can lead to a positive learning experience and I hope to promote that mindset through our building centers/makerspace. I know that the building centers/makerspace are very exciting for my students and I know that they are building their higher order thinking skills. I am hoping that with time, my mindset will shift for good and I won’t need to keep reminding myself that the building centers are the right choice for my students.


Kaplan Early Learning. (2014, June 5). The Maker-Inspired Elementary Classroom. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from Kaplan Early Learning: https://www.kaplanco.com/blog/post/2014/06/05/The-Maker-Inspired-Elementary-Classroom.aspx

Mann, L. (2014, March 16). App Evaluation Rubric & Evaluations of Puppet Pals and Endless ABC. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from Laura Mann’s eLearning Tales and Trails: http://elearninglauramann.weebly.com/13/post/2014/03/app-evaluation-rubric-evaluations-of-puppet-pals-and-endless-abc.html

Thomas, A., & Thorne, G. (2009, December 7). How To Increase Higher Level Thinking. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from The Center for Development and Learning: http://www.cdl.org/articles/how-to-increase-high-order-thinking/

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


4 thoughts on “What Are The Challenges In Shifting Content From “What” to “Where” and “How?

  1. You wrote: “I also am aware that I may be interpreting their looks as negative because of my own insecurities about allowing my students to have so much “play” time. I have been having serious inner turmoil over my building centers/makerspace.”
    I totally understand this feeling. I have been trying to incorporate more PBL in science and social studies. I have been feeling inner turmoil over the fact that my colleagues are teaching from the text and I am doing my own thing. I have also been thinking about creating a Friday afternoon maker time, but have been struggling to overcome the feeling that parents and other staff might feel I am wasting time. So I have been trying to think of ways to make a maker time more structured, but doesn’t that go against the whole maker motto?


    1. It is hard. I am going to talk to parents about it and maybe make a mini brochure for conferences. Something they can look at and see what the benefits are on their own. I think I will include questions they can ask their child. I have tried to explain it to other teachers…at least the ones who I know will be supportive. I think that is a good place to start. It really shouldn’t be structured, which is also hard for me. We could meet for coffee or something sometime and talk about one for you. I’d love to get some ideas from you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My room is similarly loud and active, but rather than struggle with perceptions, I have anxiety about the students in my room whom seems to find it too much for themselves. I’m unsure if I’ve got the balance right.


    1. I have a student that cannot handle unstructured time. He has autism and it really is too much for him. Every day I give him the choice to do the centers in a group, take some parts and pieces to his desk and work, or draw trains (he is very focused on trains right now and drawing them allows him to tune out the chaos around him). He constructed a 3-D train out of paper and it was over 6 feet long. It was detailed and amazing. I didn’t tell him how to do it, he figured it all out on his own. I think it is okay for students to choose not to take part in centers on any given day if it is too much for them. I also think that it is okay for you to give overwhelmed students parts and pieces and have them work at their desk. I’m not sure if that helped, but it’s something to think about.


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