“More than mere consumers of technology, we are makers, adapting technology to our needs and integrating it into our lives. Some of us are born makers and others, like me, become makers almost without realizing it.” – Dale Dougherty, MAKE Magazine, 2005
This quote is from MAKE magazine, one of the many readings in Dr. Horton’s Critical Making course assigned to encourage dialogue in the course on what it means to be a maker in our current society. In a similar way that makers are born, evolve, or unknowingly morph into who they are, I notice the very same thing occurs with students as they transition into teachers.
Makers might start their transition by burning their first music CD, getting their Wi-Fi working, or taking their digital camera on vacation. Students might start their transition by catching up their friend who missed a lecture, creating a study guide to share with their study group, or leading a review session in Hillman Library (or virtually). In my opinion, this is the most natural and worthwhile transition that occurs at the undergraduate level, and this fellowship facilitates a tangible outlet for it.
Thus, my understanding of teaching grew. I gained a new appreciation for the sliding spectrum of being a student and teacher as I simultaneously led my independent study research experience, attended courses, and served as a teaching assistant. I found myself teaching my professors about social media phenomena like Tik Tok or better ways to organize and communicate with students through Canvas. I found myself learning from the Critical Making students about different maker techniques and how to optimize experiences such as adapting to a hands on course in a virtual space. This experience did change the way I look at student learning in and outside of the classroom. We are all simultaneously student-teachers, ever teetering and tottering between these two entities. By accepting this dual existence, it allows us to fully embrace learning opportunities that often present themselves inside and outside of the classroom.
The most valuable aspect of my Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship was the experience of creating a sense of community and timelessness within the virtual spaces we are all forced to inhabit. This class especially was an instance where students were severely impacted by the coronavirus restrictions and seriously missed out on the class’s resources. To foster a sense of excitement about future projects and their current achievements, I hosted a Critical Making Workshop through the Center for Creativity. This 45-minute event for students and faculty served as a platform to share projects and learn about makerspaces on campus. There was a brief overview of maker spaces open to student use, project presentations, and break out rooms to share work, ask questions, and conduct activities to “break through creative blocks”. This event was geared towards anyone interested in meeting other makers, in a presenting opportunity, or looking for some inspiration. This experience taught me to persevere and highlighted the wonderful ideas and creations that could come out of these daunting times.
After the conclusion of this fellowship, I plan to continue creating. This class reminded me of the reflection that accompanies critical or meaningful making, and that is a concept I will apply towards my next project on sustainable fashion.
I would like to sincerely thank Dr. Horton, Pitt Maker Spaces, Center for Creativity, and the Pitt Honors College for not only providing me with this wonderful opportunity but supporting me throughout.