Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Krummeck.
Katie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career as a traditionally-credentialed secondary teacher. I always loved school and admired my teachers. It seemed like a great fit for me. But early on I knew I didn’t want to be part of the business-as-usual school. I had a passion for creating empowering learning experiences that were relevant to the real world and put students in charge of their own learning process. Quickly I realized I would probably not be happy with a traditional teaching position in a traditional school, and luckily, I got the opportunity to do something different.
An adjunct professor of mine at Whitman College (a liberal arts college in the small, rural town of Walla Walla, WA) was interested in starting an experimental school. Washington State didn’t allow charter schools at the time, so it would be an independent school. I had always imagined myself to be a public school teacher, but this opportunity was interesting and I said yes. Dan and I launched the school, which was akin to a one-room schoolhouse, where students in middle and high school learned together and alongside each other. We created interdisciplinary, project-based learning experiences that were grounded in the community.
We experimented with different programs and policies. We put students in the driver’s seat as much as possible. I learned a ton designing and launching that school. And, my hunch that education was my life’s work, but also that my involvement would also be on the experimental frontier, was affirmed. From there, I moved to China for a year to have an adventure and push myself out of the comfort of a small, tight-knit community. I taught English at a University and traveled and practiced humility and ate a lot of dumplings.
When I came back to the U.S., I relocated to San Francisco and decided to transition out of the classroom. I got a job at an education non-profit start-up called the Spark Program. At Spark, we asked underprivileged middle school students what their dream jobs are and then placed them in apprenticeships in real workplaces. I did curriculum design and program development and was eventually tapped to launch Spark’s first and second national offices. My work at Spark perfectly bridged my interests in empowering students through real-world learning experiences.
Along the way, I connected with a community of educators who were using design thinking to create innovative learning experiences and positive change in the educational system. Eventually, I took a job working at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, where I first worked on the Operations Team and then transitioned to the K12 initiative. While working with the K12 group, I trained educators and school leaders on how to leverage design thinking to make a positive change in schools. I also worked on a mobile makerspace project called the SparkTruck.
In 2015 I needed to move to Dallas for personal reasons and was lucky enough to get hired at SMU as the director of the Lyle School of Engineering’s makerspace called the Deason Innovation Gym. During my time there, my team and I built an open and inclusive culture that invited everyone on campus to flex their maker muscles. Through designing and running complex projects (building a high tech foosball table from the ground up, creating human-scale foldable boats, building a public solar-powered charging station made of plywood), I engaged learners in real-world projects that pushed students’ technical skills as well as skills around communication, collaboration, curiosity, and resilience.
All the while, educators in the broader Dallas-Fort Worth community were interested in my work in K12 schools. When I got the opportunity to adopt the mobile makerspace and bring it to Dallas, I knew there was plenty of excitement and interest in this work. Six months ago I transitioned to working full time on bringing maker education to Dallas K12 schools. Through workshops, conference presentations and general outreach, I have been working on supporting the integration of making and design into K12 schools.
In the fall of this year, we launched the SMU Maker Education Project which is dedicated to catalyzing transformational maker-based learning experiences for students in K-12 schools. Our mission is to support a robust and sustainable maker culture in K-12 schools, to create lasting change. We do this by training educators in our innovative approach to maker education, Maker-Based Instruction. I work on an amazing team with Professor Rob Rouse and DiMitri Higginbotham to make this happen.
Has it been a smooth road?
As I look back over my career, where I have landed makes perfect sense. But, to say that it has been a smooth road would not be true! I think anyone working in an emerging field has to have a lot of tolerance for ambiguity and a lot of stamina for figuring things out as they go. This has not always been comfortable for me, but as I continue to follow the development of these new fields, I find myself having to develop the resilience and persistence to keep going. As I look back at every transition point in my career (and there have been some big ones!), I know that I was going through that intense mix of excitement about the potential of this pivot and fear of the unknown.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Maker education is emerging as a new way of engaging diverse learners in various contexts. Colleges and universities are launching maker spaces, public libraries are initiating maker programming, and K-12 schools are allocating resources to support maker-based activities for students. In addition, maker education has captured the attention of industry leaders interested in supporting the development of the next generation of innovative, creatively-confident leaders and problem solvers.
The SMU Maker Education Project is dedicated to catalyzing transformational maker-based learning experiences for students in K-12 schools. Our mission is to support a robust and sustainable maker culture in K-12 schools, to create lasting change. We do this by training educators in our innovative approach to maker education, Maker-Based Instruction. Maker-Based Instruction introduces students to new tools and technologies while supporting educators who want to implement student-centered, maker-based activities. We believe Maker-Based Instruction can help educators develop self-actualized and resilient students who are excited to take on the toughest challenges of the 21st century.
The SMU Maker Education Project is a partnership between the Lyle School of Engineering, the Simmons School of Education, and local districts and schools.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I have been so pleased with the progressiveness and innovative thinking I have found in the education community in DFW. There is so much interest in thinking differently about how we educate young people here, both from independent schools and public schools. I have been thrilled to work with these folks to integrate making and design into their schools and I am constantly meeting new potential partners. Dallas is definitely an exciting place to be as an innovative educator and as a student who needs or wants to learn differently.
- Website: http://smumakeredproject.org/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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