Hi! Today is the Booklist webinar on Making in Early Elementary Grades! These links may be helpful:
Barack Obama is guest-editing this month’s Wired. Gotta say I will miss a president who can name-drop Grace Hopper. From his editorial:
[W]hat really grabbed me about the film [The Martian] is that it shows how humans—through our ingenuity, our commitment to fact and reason, and ultimately our faith in each other—can science the heck out of just about any problem.
I’m a guy who grew up watching Star Trek … [w]hat I loved about it was its optimism, the fundamental belief at its core that the people on this planet, for all our varied backgrounds and outward differences, could come together to build a better tomorrow…
I believe we can work together to do big things that raise the fortunes of people here at home and all over the world…
Let’s start with the big picture. By almost every measure, this country is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, 30 years ago, or even eight years ago. Leave aside the sepia tones of the 1950s, a time when women, minorities, and people with disabilities were shut out of huge parts of American life. Just since 1983, when I finished college, things like crime rates, teen pregnancy rates, and poverty rates are all down. Life expectancy is up. The share of Americans with a college education is up too. Tens of millions of Americans recently gained the security of health insurance. Blacks and Latinos have risen up the ranks to lead our businesses and communities. Women are a larger part of our workforce and are earning more money. Once-quiet factories are alive again, with assembly lines churning out the components of a clean-energy age…
This kind of progress hasn’t happened on its own. It happened because people organized and voted for better prospects; because leaders enacted smart, forward-looking policies; because people’s perspectives opened up, and with them, societies did too. But this progress also happened because we scienced the heck out of our challenges. Science is how we were able to combat acid rain and the AIDS epidemic. Technology is what allowed us to communicate across oceans and empathize with one another when a wall came down in Berlin or a TV personality came out. Without Norman Borlaug’s wheat, we could not feed the world’s hungry. Without Grace Hopper’s code, we might still be analyzing data with pencil and paper.
That’s one reason why I’m so optimistic about the future: the constant churn of scientific progress…
Because the truth is, while we’ve made great progress, there’s no shortage of challenges ahead: Climate change. Economic inequality. Cybersecurity. Terrorism and gun violence. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Just as in the past, to clear these hurdles we’re going to need everyone—policy makers and community leaders, teachers and workers and grassroots activists, presidents and soon-to-be-former presidents … We need researchers and academics and engineers; programmers, surgeons, and botanists. And most important, we need not only the folks at MIT or Stanford or the NIH but also the mom in West Virginia tinkering with a 3-D printer, the girl on the South Side of Chicago learning to code, the dreamer in San Antonio seeking investors for his new app, the dad in North Dakota learning new skills so he can help lead the green revolution.
That’s how we will overcome the challenges we face: by unleashing the power of all of us for all of us. Not just for those of us who are fortunate, but for everybody. That means creating not just a quicker way to deliver takeout downtown but also a system that distributes excess produce to communities where too many kids go to bed hungry. Not just inventing a service that fills your car with gas but also creating cars that don’t need fossil fuels at all. Not just making our social networks more fun for sharing memes but also harnessing their power to counter terrorist ideologies and online hate speech.
The point is, we need today’s big thinkers thinking big. Think like you did when you were watching Star Trek or Star Wars or Inspector Gadget…
We must continue to nurture our children’s curiosity. We must keep funding scientific, technological, and medical research. And above all, we must embrace that quintessentially American compulsion to race for new frontiers and push the boundaries of what’s possible. If we do, I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s Americans will be able to look back at what we did—the diseases we conquered, the social problems we solved, the planet we protected for them—and when they see all that, they’ll plainly see that theirs is the best time to be alive. And then they’ll take a page from our book and write the next great chapter in our American story, emboldened to keep going where no one has gone before.
Gosh, we’ll miss his optimism!
Last month, I wrote about some of the things we had learned traveling the state with maker professional development.
This month, I’d like to focus in on one finding in particular: the relative lack of awareness of Make magazine and the ensuing implications in rural and underserved communities.
Partway through the summer, we changed our summative activity that the end of the three-day workshop. Our colleague Amber created a blank parody cover of Make magazine called Made, and we invited participants to imagine that Made was going to create a special issue focused solely on their makerspace. They were asked to provide the cover headlines that would relate to the vision they had worked on during the workshop.
And that’s where things got interesting. Overwhelmingly, only one or two attendees had ever heard of Make magazine.
So what are the implications of this? What does making look like when the flagship publication isn’t a reference point?
Our observations are that without that supposedly canonical reference point, making in libraries and K-12 schools (our two primary audiences) tends to be:
- the STEM tinkering model of commercial kits, not raw materials put to work to create a personal vision
- more focus on soft skills
- less focus on drones and more integration of stereotypically female activities like sewing, quilting, and knitting
- more focused on low-cost activities that can scale up for groups rather than individual activities that cost $50+
- less focused on Arduino and professional-grade coding
Do you notice anything similar in your space?
Cross-posted from the MakerBridge blog
What’s not to like about this, from a set of animated GIFs made from National Archives footage?
h/t Kathy Ishizuka, SLJ Newsletter
Here’s what I’ll be talking about:
Primary-aged children are natural makers. They couple their imaginations with the physical and digital worlds as they poke, prod, push, pull, pixelate, and produce. Whether using digital tools, circuits, robots, or recyclables, many of the core questions are the same: What is our role as facilitators of maker mindset and purposeful exploration? How do we set up spaces that welcome creative interactions with materials and peers? In celebration of the launch of the Makers as Innovators Junior series for K-2 students, Cherry Lake Publishing invites you to engage with these concepts and build or refine your vision for playful thinking. Presented by series editor and University of Michigan School of Information faculty member Kristin Fontichiaro and moderated by Books for Youth editor Dan Kraus.
You can register here. If you cannot watch the webinar live, an archive link will be sent to you a few days after the live event.
I’m delighted to be joining Paul Orselli and Lisa Brahms in a workshop on making in museums for the American Association of State and Local History. You can find my slides here.
Thanks to funding from IMLS, I spent much of the summer on the road, working with librarians, educators, and community members to envision and think about community-responsive making in rural and underserved communities. Here are some things I learned (or re-learned) from stepping outside the current maker narratives:
- Balancing traditional maker activities (e.g., log furniture) with new technologies (e.g., CNC routing) remains a challenge, in part due to financial constraints.
- Future Farmers of America and 4-H remain highly influential avenues to making and hands-on learning in communities.
- One powerful, persuasive personality can mobilize many others.
- 3-D printing, seen as a critical tool in many urban and suburban maker narratives, simply isn’t financially viable in many rural libraries, though they might be found in local high schools.
- The maker movement in libraries is codifying around youth and STEM primarily, with a big emphasis on playing with pre-made items (e.g., Snap Circuits, LEGO, K’Nex).
- Despite the current youth and making focus, we got a lot of questions this summer about making and senior citizens, something we’re really interested in, too!
- Underwater remote operated vehicles showed up as an in-class or extracurricular activity in three of our sites. Robotics was even more popular (in part because Michigan’s governor has actively supported and incentivized the incubation of FIRST Robotics programs).
- Incubator kitchens are specially licensed facilities to help nascent food businesses get started. That this is a state-licensed activity tells me there is more support for non-tech-based small businesses than we previously anticipated.
- Multiple communities pointed to farmer’s markets as a hub for creative handmade products.
What did you learn this summer? I’ll be back next month with more learnings.
Hello! I’m participating in a Google Hangout for the SWON library consortium in Ohio today. Here are some handy links:
As part of the Making in Michigan Libraries project, we’ve been traveling the state of Michigan this summer for multi-day professional development workshops. On the evening of the second day of the workshop, we host a small MakerFest in the library. We have some variation in what we bring to each workshop. Lately, we’ve had a sewing machine at MakerFest, and we’ve noticed some really interesting things happening:
- This finding isn’t new, but it remains consistent over the years: boys and girls visit the sewing machine in equal ratios. Sewing a bean bag — our gateway activity — welcomes kids of both genders.
- Moms often talk to their kids about how there is an unused (or, in one case, a never-opened Mother’s Day gift!) sewing machine at home that they’ll need to get out to keep the sewing going.
- Moms occasionally sew alongside their children, waiting in line for their turn at the sewing machine. (Dads do not.)
- In one town, one of my teammates overheard a mother saying something like, “My mom sewed but never taught me.”
- With some parents, conversations start about how someone sewed clothing for them when they were growing up. We realize that there was a time when sewing one’s clothes was less expensive than buying new.
What I’m starting to realize is that the sewing machine represents more than a new machine to explore. It’s a station that connects people back to their families.
What in your space provokes family stories?
Image: “Sewing Machine Precision” by venturaartist on Pixabay.com. Public domain.
Cross-posted from MakerBridge