Plan C Live: How Maker Educators Adapted During This COVID-19 Semester

Maker News
Plan C Live: How Maker Educators Adapted During This COVID-19 Semester

Education has been turned on its head this year and the struggle to teach and learn virtually is real for teachers and students of all ages and their families. For educators whose focus is on hands-on learning the disruptions are doubly challenging: They face the same transition to a virtual learning environment as teachers of standard subjects and the complications of both getting students the materials they need for their work and showing them how to make something work without being able to physically do so. Yet, maker educators and those who specialize in project based learning are uniquely adapted to this challenge—problem solving and experimentation are part of the core curriculum of any hands on learning program.

In this Plan C Live episode, hosts Dale Dougherty of Make: Community and Dorothy Jones-Davis of Nation of Makers are joined by maker educators who have found ways to engage students in making and adapt to remote teaching and other obstacles brought on by COVID-19. And, about what works and what hasn’t worked? Video-based learning highlights more than ever the importance of tactile and embodied learning methodologies for students. We will discuss the ways that maker educators have been able to organize activities and projects for students.

  • What they have learned in conducting a class online over these past months?
  • How do you engage students online?
  • How do students engage with each other virtually in an education space?
  • How do you account for the different home situations for students, especially with regard to supplies and space to do work?
  • How has the role of parents changed during this home-schooling phase?
  • How is this work different for younger versus older students?

The maker educators joining the panel come from across the U.S. and teach in the public school system or at public charter schools, as well as work with teachers advising on how to deliver hands on learning to students.

Rick Schertle After teaching middle school language arts and social studies for 23 years, his teaching and maker world collided as he was hired to start the Maker Lab program at Steindorf STEAM School. Now he’s teaching making to 500 K-8 kids a week. Rick’s a life-long maker and wrote his first article for Make: Magazine in 2008 on a compressed air rocket. Dozens of articles, two books and many Maker Faire’s later he’s loving his dream job combining his two passions. Rick’s recent interest is exploring the intersection between science, engineering and making and also researching state-wide maker certification. Learn more about his work at Steindorf Maker Lab.

John Phillips is Project Manager for Classroom Makers at the REMC Association of Michigan. The Classroom Makers program, in its fifth year, changed from offering in-person training opportunities to offering webinars to support teachers who are wanting to do making activities at home with their students. He also recently cohosted a webinar on the use of coding and AI for at home learning and has one coming up featuring two teachers who built at home kits for their students to use during the shut downs. More details can be found at As a Global Minecraft Mentor, John has been working with educators across Michigan to implement Minecraft for collaborative opportunities and providing students a tool to work with the design cycle while still maintaining social distancing. John can be found on Twitter at @bcgeek.

Michael Kim is a teacher at Oakland Charter High School in Oakland, CA. Michael first attended Maker Faire in 2017 and was inspired by seeing other high school maker classes and clubs. While attending Make Faire he thought, “this an amazing way to teach and learn, we should do this.” He then went back to his school and convinced his administration to allow him to create his own maker class, Creative Technologies. Now he has multiple sections of his level 1 and 2 maker classes and continues to improve and develop them.

Janet Hollingsworth is Director of Maker Experiences & Entrepreneurism at Washington Leadership Academy, a high school in Washington D.C.  Previously, Janet was a co-founder of BLDG 61 at the Boulder Public Library, Boulder CO.

Michael Carroll is a third grade teacher and coach in Philadelphia, PA. He has a passion for low-cost, high-tech projects so ALL students can learn about making and science. Michael is the writer of the first Dewey Mac Maker Mystery called Dog Gone Dog. It’s a story about Dewey and his best friend Ched. They are horrible detectives, but great friends. Dewey is a young inventor who builds gadgets throughout the story often resulting into the two getting into more trouble than successful at finding clues. More information and instructions for all of the gadgets can be found at

Juli Nash, Ph.D With teaching experience throughout grades TK-12, Juli is now enjoying her role in Steindorf STEAM School’s Middle School teaching 7th and 8th grade NGSS Integrated Science and a Food Science elective. Juli enjoys learning from others and is always excited to keep expanding her teaching tool box with new ideas to bring to her project-based STEAM school classroom. Juli was awarded her Science teaching credential from San Jose State University, her PhD in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, and her BA from the University of Colorado.  Between her research science and teaching careers, Juli served as a marketing manager for a number of biotech software and high performance computer companies during the boom years of the Human Genome Project. Learn more about her work at Nash Lab.

Pam Rissmann is a middle school STEM teacher at Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, CA. She “normally” teaches computer science, product design, and robotics. She is also the school’s competitive math coach, STEM Girls co-coach, and MakerSpace Club co-coach.

William Renner, III is a Middle School Teacher in Hastings, Michigan.  For the last two years, he has been teaching 7th & 8th Grade Innovation and Design and 6th Grade Success Skills with Technology. Prior to this role, he was a middle school mathematics teacher.  William was a Co-Founder and Lead Teacher for the WIRE Math and Science Camp at Western Michigan University and the Hastings WIRE STEAM Camps. He is an inaugural member of the Innovative Teacher Corps (IEC), he is a REMC 12W Maker Ambassador, and a member of the Southwest Michigan Instructional Tech Team.  When William is not teaching you can find him writing grants to bring additional maker materials into his program and tinkering with just about anything with his 3 boys.

Cover image courtesy of Nancy Otero and  Kitco.

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Jennifer Blakeslee keeps the Global Maker Faire program running smoothly and has been a maker at Maker Faire since 2011. Among other things, she really likes to travel, write, cook, hike, make big art, and swim in the ocean.

View more articles by Jennifer Blakeslee


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