Flammable Learning

Our mini-golf hole: The Decapitator with motor, flashing LEDs and feathers (of course)

What is it that makes learning really catch fire and take hold? I recently read an article titled ‘Incendiary Learning’ by Chad Walsh from Time and Space Education.  They propose that some learning is like a flame–it sparks and burns but eventually the embers die out and the student moves on. Other ‘incendiary’ learning stays with us and drives us to learn more. A level of engagement and autonomy is achieved that takes hold. It left me wondering how often am I providing the sparks to provoke and ignite this kind of deep, passionate learning? I think it’s relatively easy to get a few kids engaged, but how can I make that more widely accessible? What are some of the necessary ingredients to create that fire?

Incendiary learning: A stark contrast. One is perishable and one is enduring. -Chad Walsh

I attended the Makeology Maker Summit at Zurich International School last weekend. The vibe and atmosphere of the conference certainly set the stage for sparks to fly. Making itself is all about finding your passion, digging in and working through the challenges to create something. On the second day I attended a workshop with Gary Stager, one of the pioneers of the maker movement in education. He introduced us to the Hummingbird Robotics Kit and set our groups the challenge to create one hole of an 18 hole put-put golf course. He gave us limited directions and almost no training on the Hummingbird board. It was up to us. For two hours every group in the room worked on their project. We talked, laughed, figured things out, advised, borrowed ideas from other groups, jumped in with our expertise–whether it be sequin gluing or programming motors–and were completely engaged. At the end each group had a working golf hole–each completely different to the others and unique in every way. We proudly laid our golf holes out in the large hallway to create our course and everyone grabbed a club and played, admiring each group’s creativity as we went. A perfect learning experience and a key ingredient to incendiary learning.

Since last weekend, I’ve been caught up in the feeling this experience created. I think we as educators can forget what it’s like to be students. It’s good to have these kind of experiences where we get to be learners again–especially in a rich and dynamic learning environment. It’s nice to take off the teacher hat of responsibility and be able to get in and just make stuff! This is what I love about the maker movement and why it’s so important to foster this in our schools, classrooms and students. This shouldn’t be separate from the curriculum but a huge part of it. Incendiary learning isn’t going to come from worksheets and sitting in rows–it comes from experiences that are rich, meaningful and personal. Making and creating are one way to bring these ideas into the classroom. So what are some of the key components to ignite learning?

Personalize learningindividualize learning, whatever form it takes or looks like, choose the right approach at the right time to connect, develop and strengthen their identity of who they are. Work from that point, work from within! Let students determine their own identity and not the other way around! It is our role to play a hand in nurturing and nudging them in positive ways to see their own potential. –Chad Walsh

From Gary Stager’s keynote on the power of making in today’s classrooms: Makeology Maker Summit.

I’m working hard to incorporate these ideas into the planning sessions I have with teachers and to find ways to infuse it into our school learning environment. Find the opportunities and set the scene for sparks to fly–sometimes it’s just a small change, a question, a prompt that can get everything started. One lesson.

How will you light a spark for your learners this week?

Image Credits:
• The Decapitator


Featured Image Credit:
• is licensed under

Pedagogy Ponderings
Previous Story

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply