From MakerBridge: “What is a Makerspace? (Day 5)”

cross-posted from the MakerBridge blog

MakerBridge, we’ve each taken a turn this week defining what makerspaces mean to us. Today, as we wrap up our five-day series, we think about how others define it. Here are some definitions from around MakerWorld.

“A makerspace is a physical location where people gather together to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. Makerspaces provide tools and space in a community environment – a library, community center, private organization, or campus. Expert advisors may be available some of the time, but often novices get help from other users. The makerspacce – sometimes referred to as a hackerspace – is often associated with fields such as engineering, computer science, and graphic design. The concept emerges from the technology-driven “maker culture,” associated with Make magazine and the Maker Faires it promotes. This idea of a collaborative studio space for creative endeavors has caught hold in education, where the informal combination of lab, shop, and conference room form a compelling argument for learning through hands-on exploration. On campus, the makerspace is being embraced by the arts as well as the sciences, and a new energy is building around multidisciplinary collaborative efforts.” - Educause

“The maker movement in libraries is about teaching our patrons to think for themselves, to think creatively, and to look for do-it-yourself solutions before running off to the store. In short, a makerspace is a place where people come together to create with technology.”- Caitlin A. Bagley, ALA TechSource

“Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn.””- Ellysa Kroski, OEDb

“It’s the place where an idea turns into a thing. A makerspace is the distance between your head and your hands.” - Allison Parker, Make It At Your Library

“I like using a simple definition for Maker Spaces: “A shared work area where people build things collaboratively.” - Michael Groenendyk in Public Libraries News

“[A] way to bring together generations of learners who can share and build on each others’ knowledge and skills that will benefit both the individual and the community.” - Peggy Watts

“It’s not the tools and resources that define a makerspace — A makerspace is defined by what the people create using the available information and resources.” -Patrick Molvick

“Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process, and they are what set makerspaces and STEAM labs apart from single-use spaces.” - Jennifer Cooper, Edutopia

Your turn … how do you define it?

Posted in 3D Printing, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Leave a comment

Free Makerspace Webinar Oct. 7

Banner image announcing October 7 Booklist webinar about makerspaces

Join us Tuesday, October 7 at 1pm Central (2pm Eastern) for a free webinar about makerspaces in libraries:

When someone mentions “makerspace,” do you hear, “Buy a 3D printer?” While digital fabrication tools can be a robust part of a library makerspace, they’re not the only options. From lanyards to laser cutters and crochet to coding, all kinds of crafts and skills are welcome in makerspaces. In this free, hour-long webinar sponsored by Cherry Lake, Kristin Fontichiaro, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, will discuss strategies to help create a maker culture in your library that welcomes and supports all patrons and their creations. Moderated by Booklist’s Books for Youth editorial director Gillian Engberg.

Register here, and if the webinar occurs during your school day, your registration will enable you to watch the archive of the live presentation.

Posted in Makerspaces/Hackerspaces, Webinars | Leave a comment

Over on the MakerBridge blog: Defining a Makerspace

Over on the MakerBridge blog, we’re running a special week in which each of our core blogging team shares her definition of a makerspace. (Yup, despite the male-centric view of makers that occurs in some circles, we’re all women.) Hope you’ll hop over there and see what my colleagues have to say!

Here was my contribution:

I spend much of my time during the academic year in Michigan Makers, after-school mobile makerspace projects in local K-12 schools. I often start to describe maker culture by quoting two people. First, Dale Grover of Maker Works, who says that makerspaces are “tools plus support plus community.” I might also quote Thomas (2013), who uses the triad of people, process, and place.

Definitely community. Definitely process. Definitely shared tools. Definitely space.

Yet when I step back and really think about it, what is it that makes my Spidey sense say, in the midst of a maker activity, “Ahhh, this is it!”? That takes me a bit longer to verbalize. Then I realize that it’s a feeling that comes over me, some combination of seeing and hearing, that tells me we’re in the zone or what Czikszentmihalyi (2004) calls “flow.”

I know our makerspace is working when I look around and realize every kid is working on something that interests him/her and, for one brief moment, they’re doing it without me. (Don’t get me wrong: mini-lessons and peer instruction are critical for skill development, but after 45 minutes of threading needles, a moment when everyone is in the groove is a wonderful feeling.)

Maybe one kid is showing another how to use the stop-motion animation app she likes. Another is manning the Silhouette Cameo, showing a peer how to rearrange elements and “weld” them together. Someone else is spending some solo time with LEGO; a boy is running the foot pedal on a sewing machine while a mentor guides the fabric, and a girl is churning out handmade infinity scarves for her friends. Some kids are in the hall, competing to keep their gliders in the air. In those moments, I sense what Dewey (1900)called a student’s “center of gravity,” when they’re settled into themselves, concentrating on what they chose to work on, and intently focused. I feel the same sense when I visit Ann Arbor’s Maker Works and All Hands Active: a kind of focus even within a larger social setting.

To quote a certain judge, it’s something where “I know it when I see it.” And when I see it, it’s a pretty magical moment.

Photo from the Michigan Makers project; copyright 2012 Regents of the University of Michigan

Posted in Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Leave a comment

IKEA’s Apple-style catalog ad

Posted in Delight | Leave a comment

A Charter for Your School Makerspace?

Image showing the words, "Make things for other people," a quote from Mythbusters' Adam Savage

I got to talk a lot with educators and librarians this summer about makerspaces, maker-friendly culture, and even (gasp) assessment of maker work. Now I’m back in the rhythm of the school year, with a bit more desk time during which I can reflect on all I have learned and solidified in my mind since the last school year – and maker season — came to a close.

For a long time, I’ve been reminding folks to “know their purpose” and how important it is to have an answer for why you’re adopting/hosting/creating a makerspace. It could be to support academics, to supplement academics, to bring in new faces, to provide a safe and social space, to develop soft skills that our frenetically-paced classrooms can no longer make time for, etc. Just saying it’s about STEM or “21st-century” isn’t enough … what exactly about STEM are you developing? Because let’s face it … STEM is a pretty wide field, and just think of how most the projects we hear about related to STEM are really about technology and engineering. Poor M … the poor relation of T and E.  Collaborative skills so kids can code in pairs? Animal identification to support biology class? Geometry skills to help future mosaic makers? Memorized multiplication tables so engineers can calculate more quickly in their head?

I’m being a little bit snide here,  but the point is that if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you want your makerspace to accomplish, then it’s harder to get buy-in, donations, attendees, volunteers, etc. And, as a result, your makerspace is more likely to be a fad that will pass in a few years instead of a vibrant space.

I have used words like “purpose” or “the spine of your makerspace” to describe this to others and have suggested that they take advantage of Mark Hatch’s invitation to hack the Maker Manifesto (first chapter available free here) as a launching point for conversations. One of the smartest thinkers I ran into on my summer travels suggested the use of the word “charter” instead, meaning a working agreement, which bears great promise as being even more direct about roles, purposes, outcomes, etc., than a manifesto (and sound slightly less Marxist to conservative ears?).

Another option — either to launch a discussion or to hack (with attribution, of course) is to have your planning team examine this video of Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, talking about his Ten Commandments of Making:

  1. Make something
  2. Make something useful
  3. Start right now
  4. Find a project
  5. Ask for help, advice, and feedback
  6. Share
  7. Recognize that discouragement and failure is part of the project
  8. Measure carefully
  9. Make things for other people
  10. Use more cooling fluid

I see most of these play out in our most successful maker pilot site (exception: cooling fluid, but hey, the kids are ten years old). Notice how nine of them are about mindset and preparation for making, not tools or skills, which reinforces what we’ve found all along in our Michigan Makers work: that making without maker culture is a series of activity stations. Making with a robust culture that thinks about the items that Savage discusses above? It’s a makerspace. And it’s feels better, too.

 

Posted in Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Leave a comment

Quotable: On Teaching and Letting Go of Control

“I myself became a decent teacher only when I started to relinquish some control over the classroom—stopped worrying so much about “getting my points across” and recognized that those moments of disorder that would sometimes occur, those spontaneous outbreaks of intelligence, were the most interesting parts of the class, for both my students and myself. We were going somewhere new, and we were going there together.”

- from the very interesting article on the role of college “Spirit Guides” by William Deresiewicz in Slate

Posted in Quotables, Teaching | Leave a comment

What is the spine of your makerspace? {A day with Plano ISD librarians}

Image with the quote, "What is the spine of your makerspace?"

 

Hello, Plano ISD folks! Here are the resources from our maker learning day together, along with some links to things we talked about that aren’t in the slides.

I hope you’ll keep me posted about your thinking! You gave me lots of great ideas already. I love your ideas of Maker Mondays; setting aside one week each for making, literature, technology, and research; focusing on making during Teen Tech Week, and other “test the waters” paths forward.

Resources in the order they were discussed in the workshop:

Whew! I think that’s everything. If I left something out, let me know so I can track it down!

Best,
Kristin

 

 

 

Posted in Makerspaces/Hackerspaces, Participatory Learning/Engagement | Leave a comment

Hello, Denton ISD!

Debbie Abilock and I are tickled to be in Texas for a two-day workshop on inquiry. It’s so much fun to see librarians internalize the big ideas of inquiry and apply them to traditional lesson plans.

Here are the slides from Day 1.

Posted in Inquiry, Presentations | Comments Off

Hello, Fort Bend ISD!

Good morning! I’m delighted to be back in the Houston area this morning, this time with the librarians of Fort Bend ISD.

Here are Thursday’s slides:

Keynote: Librarians as Staff developers

Breakout session: Elementary Inquiry (the Musical)

Breakout session: Secondary discussion on college readiness (not a musical)

Here are Friday’s slides:

Makerspaces in School Libraries

List of possible makerspace activities

Posted in Information Literacy, Inquiry, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces, Presentations, Research | Comments Off

PACE-ing yourself when planning maker learning

As maker learning moves from informal settings like makerspaces and libraries and into K-12 classrooms, I’ve found it useful to spend some time thinking about how to effectively frame that learning in the context of school. In the Michigan Makers work that we do, our primary goal is culture over tools or completed projects. If we can get the culture right, then the rest seems to flow more effectively.

And that means that when we approach maker learning, we are taking a participant-centered approach over a manager-centered approach. If we merely bring maker tools into the classroom, but tell students the steps and procedures required to “successfully” complete the project, then we aren’t creating makers. We’re creating directions-followers, folks who can paint-by-number but not grow as innovativ thinkers and creators.

Now sure, there are some mini-lessons that we might impose on students in order to give them a functional toolkit with which to openly explore later. For example, having every child practice with the same soldering 101 project gives them a chance to learn from each other and for the teacher to maxmize safety and opportunities for practice. Similarly, the inital Blinking LED Arduino exercise helps introduce students to the Arduino’s physical and computing environments. But if this is where maker learning ends, we’re doing our students a major disservice and betraying the makerspace heritage from which the maker movement emerged.

Too many adult-prescribed activities also means students learn that success comes from doing it the teacher’s way, not from following their own thinking paths. This actually minimizes experimentation and risk-taking, two key elements necessary if we say we are committed to maker learning leading to innovation in society and the workplace, as President Obama said in his proclamation at the first White House Maker Faire:

Our Nation is home to a long line of innovators who have fueled our economy and transformed our world. Through the generations, American inventors have lit our homes, propelled humanity into the skies, and helped people across the planet connect at the click of a button. American manufacturers have never stopped chasing the next big breakthrough. As a country, we respond to challenge with discovery, determined to meet our great tests while seeking out new frontiers

I am committed to helping Americans of all ages bring their ideas to life ...

Today, let us continue on the path of discovery, experimentation, and innovation that has been the hallmark not only of human progress, but also of our Nation’s progress.  Together, let us unleash the imagination of our people, affirm that we are a Nation of makers, and ensure that the next great technological revolution happens right here in America (emphasis added).

In other words, the pathway to future success means making room for novel ideas and iteration. So we need to have maker mindset in our schools, not merely skills and tools.

In an effort to develop a shorthand with educators (and to give my own middle-aged memory a mnemonic), I ask educators to PACE themselves when planning maker learning:

P – Prioritize process 

A – Promote student agency 

C – Provide choice

E – Value experimentation 

 

Process Over Product

So much of our schools’ accountability movement has focused on product: what’s on the walls at parent-teacher conferences? What are the students’ test scores? What’s their final grade? Maker learning focuses instead on process: on slowing down, looking around at what others are doing, chatting about options, and creating and later discarding prototypes. We encourage students to be productive, yes, but we recognize that productivity works at a different rate for different students. Instead of students rushing to complete something that works right away so they get that guaranteed A, we want them to try, iterate, change, update, mock up, and revise their work, with each revision adding a layer of understanding or insight. This may mean that we do not grade maker products in school. Perhaps instead we grade maker journals, Instagram reflection timelines, or artist statements. Holding students accountable for their process-driven experiences means no more, “Well, I just liked it that way.” Grading products leads to less-risky products. 

Agency

Makers are active participants in makerspaces. While they may go through some training sessions to qualify to use certain tools in a makerspace or to learn basic skills, the makerspace imposes very few rules on how they employ those tools and skills. Open-endedness and feeling as if one is, to use an overworked cliche, in the driver’s seat on one’s journey are essential. We want to strengthen students’ executive function: their ability to self-monitor, self-assess, and self-navigate. As John Dewey said in his essay “The School and Social Progress” in School and Society

I may have exaggerated somewhat in order to make plain the typical points of the old education:  its passivity of attitude, its mechanical massing of children, its uniformity of curriculum and method.  It may be summed up by stating that the center of gravity is outside the child. It is in the teacher, the text-book, anywhere and everywhere you please except in the immediate instincts and activities of the child himself.

On that basis there is not much to be said about the life of the child.  A good deal might be said about the studying of the child, but the school is not the place where the child lives.

Now the change which is coming into our education is the shifting of the center of gravity. It is a change, a revolution, not unlike that introduced by Copernicus when the astronomical center shifted from the earth to the sun. In this case the child becomes the sun about which the appliances of education revolve; he is the center about which they are organized.  

If we take an example from an ideal home, where the parent is intelligent enough to recognize what is best for the child, and is able to supply what is needed, we find the child learning  through the social converse and constitution of  the family. There are certain points of interest and value to him in the conversation carried on: statements are made, inquiries arise, topics are discussed, and the child continually learns. He states his experiences, his misconceptions are corrected …

The ideal home would naturally have a workshop where the child could work out his constructive instincts. It would have a miniature laboratory in which his inquiries could be directed. The life of the child would extend out of doors to the garden, surrounding fields, and forests. He would have his excursions, his walks and talks, in which the larger world out of doors would open to him.

Now, if we organize and generalize all of this, we have the ideal school. There is no mystery about it, no wonderful discovery of pedagogy or educational theory. It is simply a question of doing systematically and in a large, intelligent, and competent way … The child must be brought into contact with more grown people and with more children in order that there may be the freest and richest social life. Moreover, the occupations and relationships of the home environment are not specially selected for the growth of the child; the main object is something else, and what the child can get out of them is incidental. Hence the need of a school (1900, pp. 51-53).

Dewey’s century-old visioning of the dawning of a new student-centered education may still feel like an unachieved goal, but his metaphor for the “center of gravity” couldn’t be more spot-on. Dewey’s “center of gravity” should be evident in our students when they are making. For some schools, this concept is so contrary to the day to day realities of school (and let’s be honest: reduced funding, fewer staff members, higher expectations, more diverse students, and more students overall are very real challenges we cannot brush off or ignore) that maker learning is better suited in a standalone setting: a separate course, an enrichment activity, or a lunchtime club. In that way, it can fully flourish even if the rest of school cannot take a student-centered approach.

Choice

If agency is the sense of oneself in the world, then choice is the ability to determine projects, project partners, desired media, and more. In maker learning, we want students to feel they have options and choices, not that they must complete a project in the same media, style, or timeline that we do. This is important for all students. Students from higher socioeconomic classes often have velvet constraints — their school trajectory often pre-plans what courses they will take in order to get into college (which is always an assumed stage, not an optional one). Many suburban, middle-class kids are, in a parent’s well-intentioned desire to expose them to many activities, shuttled from activity to activity, often with little choice in how soccer practice unfolds or which piano music they will learn. Students from lower socioeconomic communities sometimes face a paucity of choices. Their schooling, in another well-meaning gesture, may be narrowly focused on intensive drill and practice on limited subjects (primarly those measured by standardized tests). Lack of funding can mean lack of exposure to options for creative expression at home, in school course catalogs, and in after-school enrichment activities. These are broad generalizations, but the bottom line is that choices — digital or physical LEGO? Engineering a pattern for a stuffed animal or one for a wooden treasure box? Graphic design or HTML? — are a key factor in student satisfaction and engagement. Again, the realities of the school day may or may not be conducive to choice in materials or activities, so consider out-of-school-hours options instead if necessary.

 

Experimental

If maker learning claims to promote innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, then we need to find or save time (see earlier notes about the very real constraints of school!) for experimentation, prototyping, trial-and-error, and revision. James Dyson famously made over 5000 prototypes before mastering the world’s first bag-free vacuum. Thomas Edison reportedly said, “I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” (Imagine if we evaluted Edison solely from his dyslexia-challenged educational output.) Our educator mindsets struggle to grapple with how to teach revision in writing, yet revision is natural in making. We have a vision in our mind’s eye that we want to carry out, and we’re willing, much of the time anyway, to keep trying until we get closer to the outcome. Our teacher mindsets must adjust for the amount of time this takes, the amount of expertise we need in order to guide students into new paths, and the shift in mindset for our anxious, high-achieving academics in the classroom.

As I’ve said a few times in this post, some of what I’m discussing here seems to fly in the face of everything teachers are being asked to do each day. So if you have to make the choice between jamming some thin lessons into a classroom or building a new course, club, or lunch group that can do the deep dive, I vote for the depth. What about you?

- Kristin Fontichiaro

This entry was cross-posted to the MakerBridge blog

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off