Ed Week Story on School Libraries and Makerspaces

Thank you to Jacob Bell and Education Week for including Michigan Makers and me in “School Librarians Push for More Makerspaces,” which appeared in the May 12 digital edition and the May 13 digital edition. We were especially charmed to see two photos from our project illustrating the article!

Some excerpts from the article, as access may be limited if you aren’t a subscriber:

In response to her students’ needs, [librarian Angela Rosheim] applied for and received an $8,000 grant from the Liberty school district to create a “maker space” in the school’s library. The grant, along with donations and her budget, allowed Ms. Rosheim to stock the space with craft supplies, sewing machines, snap circuits, Lego sets, and a 3-D printer …

“When I go to speak to a group of librarians at a conference, it’s standing-room-only to talk about maker spaces,” said Kristin Fontichiaro, a clinical assistant professor in the school of information at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a faculty coordinator for the Michigan Makers maker-space project, an after-school program that helps students develop technology skills by tinkering with and creating things. “There is a real hunger; there is a sense that there’s something about this that’s powerful for them.”

An Evolution

The term “maker space,” Ms. Fontichiaro said, has no single definition. The spaces can be high-tech, low-tech, part of the school curriculum, or part of an after-school program. Some aren’t even called maker spaces. The only central theme is that of creation and innovation.

Facilitating student creation has been a largely overlooked but increasingly important role for school librarians, according to Leslie Preddy, the president-elect of the Chicago-based American Association of School Librarians. Along with new STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics—and inquiry-based movements in education, this role has prompted more school librarians to push for maker spaces …

Librarian-in-training Alex Quay helps 4th grade student Kandyce Barnes work on a hand-sewing project at Mitchell Elementary.

Librarian-in-training Alex Quay helps 4th grade student Kandyce Barnes work on a hand-sewing project at Mitchell Elementary.
—Daryl Marshke/University of Michigan

Evaluating Impact

Overall, however, the scientific community hasn’t come to a consensus about how maker spaces serve as effective learning environments, according to Lee Martin, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, whose research deals with how youths learn from making experiences.

“In terms of outcomes, I haven’t seen a study that’s really looking at those kinds of specific, quantitative, measurable outcomes … that you really generalize and say, ‘Look, making is effective for x, y, and z,’ ” Mr. Martin said.

The lack of data around maker spaces can present problems for administrators and librarians when justifying the need for the spaces in their schools or when determining the scope of their maker-space projects.

“Formal schools—public schools specifically—have a little bit less flexibility, because they still need to make sure students are prepared to take standardized tests … ” said Stephanie Chang, the director of programs at the Maker Education Initiative.

More commonly, researchers are gathering data on individual or anecdotal levels…

In the Maker Education Initiative survey, for example, about half the surveyed representatives of maker spaces reported alignment with Next Generation Science Standards, and about 40 percent reported alignment with the common standards. What’s more, about 50 percent reported fostering skills such as problem identification, effective communication of ideas, and evaluation and refinement of creative ideas …

Ms. Chang and others have said that the perception that maker spaces must be expensive is another obstacle facing their implementation in schools.

“People think, ‘Oh, I need a 3-D printer that’s $2,300. I can’t afford that,’ ” said Ms. Fontichiaro of the University of Michigan. “You can afford a junk box. You can afford a ream of paper. You can afford a white board that you can make out of [materials] from the home-improvement store” …

Rather than money, time limits are the biggest challenge affecting Ms. Rosheim’s maker space, she said…

Student-Centered Shift

The changes Ms. Rosheim made to her curriculum and school … are also part of another trend: a nearly 30-year shift from libraries being more facility- and collection-centered to being primarily student-centered.

That shift, according to Deb Levitov, the managing editor of School Libraries Monthly, culminated in 2009 with the release of guidelines from the AASL stating that being a teacher is the primary role of a school librarian.The focus, then, of school librarians is to meet the instructional, emotional, and cultural needs of faculty and students, according to Ms. Preddy.

“The maker space is important in a sense that it helps kids try things out, try things on … maybe not even for a career, but just for a personal interest or a hobby or a talent or a strength they had that, without the tools and resources in the maker space, they would have never been able to sample,” Ms. Preddy said.

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A new reason to promote making among all ages?

Self portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn 1659 from Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Another reason to promote making across generations? New research by Mayo Clinic researchers that finds correlations between mid-life arts and crafts and late-life computer use among elderly and lower risk for mild cognitive impairment, which sometimes develops into Alzheimer’s or full dementia. From an article on Medscape:

Engaging in arts and crafts and social activities in mid-life and late life and using a computer in late life were associated with a reduced risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in elderly patients, a new study has shown.

“The key point we want to get across is that you need to start these activities early,” said lead author Rosebud Roberts, MB, ChB, professor of epidemiology and neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. “There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and there’s no treatment that lasts beyond 18 months to 2 years.”

Part of that message is that if you start these activities earlier, perhaps in your 20s, “keep doing them throughout your life; don’t stop as you get older,” said Dr Roberts.

Their findings, published online April 8 in Neurology, also showed that MCI risk was increased with the APOE ε4 allele; hypertension onset in midlife; and having comorbidities, vascular disease, and depressive symptoms … Participants were asked how often they did arts (eg, painting and drawing) in mid-life and also within the last year. They were asked about crafts pursuits (eg, quilting or woodworking), and they were queried about social engagement (eg, if they went to movies, concerts, theater; went out with friends; or traveled).

The risk [of developing MCI, which is followed often by Alzheimer's] was reduced in those engaging in both mid-life and late life in artistic activities, crafts, and social activities.

Why artistic pursuits would have a bigger effect on preventing MCI than doing crafts may be because one is producing something for use (eg, a quilt) while the other is producing something with aesthetic qualities (eg, a painting).

“It’s a question of how these activities are impacting the brain,” said Dr Roberts. “With artistic activities, you are actually creating something and wracking your brain to bring it forth, and so it may be that that actually maintains the brain or stimulates the brain or develops new neurons.”

The MCI risk was also reduced for those using a computer in late life …

While self-reports of how often one engaged in artistic or social activities many years ago could be contaminated with reporting bias, the new findings help to clearly demonstrate the benefits of cognitively and socially stimulating activities…

If these correlations are replicated, what are the implications for your space? What kinds of activities would you want in your space to make this possible?

{cross-posted to the MakerBridge blog}


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Youth Bibliography: Maker Mindset

Thank you, Booklist, for posting online our bibliography and article about maker mindset in children’s literature!


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Booklist Webinar: Hacking Fashion

Logo for April 30 Booklist webinar: Makerspaces, Hacking Fashion, and e-Textiles

Here are some resources for today’s webinar:

Please leave a comment if you have other questions or ideas!


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Making Maker Learning for K-8 Educators, Day 2

On behalf of Michigan Makers, particularly Sandy Ng, Alex Quay, Amber Lovett, and Stephen Liu, as well as special guest Jeff Sturges of Mt. Elliott Makerspace, thank you to everyone who attended our two-Saturday conference Making Maker Learners on April 18 and 25. Check out the design thinking challenge completed by one group above: creating a locker combination practice prototype!

Here are some links to materials we used:

Please fill out this evaluation and sign up if you’d like to hear about future events.

And, as a recap, here are the links from Day 1 (April 18):

This workshop was made possible by support from the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative and the University of Michigan School of Information Founder’s Fund. We are about to begin a three-year IMLS grant to provide additional statewide professional development about making and make-to-manufacture. Stay tuned for more news about physical and virtual workshops in 2016 and beyond!

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Quotable: On Kids and Tinkering

“There are not enough opportunities in a child’s life to be taken seriously, to be given autonomy and to learn authentically … I think they need learning opportunities that respect and incorporate their ideas.”

- Gever Tulley, in Allison Arieff’s “Learning Through Tinkering,” New York Times, 4/3/2015

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Making Maker Learning Workshop for K-8 Educators, Day 1

Howdy! Thank you to everyone who attended today’s workshop on Making Maker Learning. Here are the resources from today’s workshop:

If you attended today, please fill out the evaluation form!

We’ll look forward to seeing you for Day 2 next Saturday, April 25, from 9am – noon at the Engagement Center (same location as last time). Remember to bring a plastic grocery bag’s worth of recycled materials from home!

This workshop is made possible by support from the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative and the University of Michigan School of Information Founder’s Fund.

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Chalkboard sign labeled hashtag LibraryMade for ALA's National Library Week

This week is National Library Week, and this year’s theme is “Unlimited Possibilities at Your Library,” complete with a social media hashtag of #LibraryMade, in which patrons are encouraged to share their library-facilitated creations.

It’s a theme at the forefront of my mind because my co-PI Silvia Lindtner and I have just been granted a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop maker-related professional education for Michigan libraries, schools, and communities. From the announcement:

The University of Michigan School of Information will develop a multi-step approach to developing maker culture in Michigan libraries in underserved communities. This will include a statewide “road trip” to share knowledge of making, maker culture, infrastructure, tools, and community building with rural libraries and their communities, as well as closer partnering with two libraries for the purpose of engaging them in making on a more sustained level. The school will share its findings in an online maker handbook and in a free virtual conference at the project’s conclusion.

We’ll be making monthly updates at the MakerBridge blog to share what we’re learning in the field and are eager to hit the road beginning in Summer 2015.

What have you made because of libraries this year? Financial decisions? Home improvements? New inventions? Term papers? We’re eager to hear what you’ve learned — or would like to learn — in libraries.

- Kristin Fontichiaro

{cross-posted to MakerBridge blog}


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Quotable: More Homework Doesn’t Mean Better Learning

The optimal amount of homework for 13-year-old students is about an hour a day, a study published earlier this month in the Journal of Educational Psychology suggests. And spending too much time on homework is linked to a decrease in academic performance.”

- Liana Heltin, “Heavier Homework Load Linked to Lower Math, Science Performance, Study Says,” Education Week

Heavier Homework Load Linked to Lower Math, Science Performance, Study Says

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Quotable: Charlotte Danielson’s study on “innovation fatigue”

The feedback also revealed several challenges about tackling the new standards. In a nutshell, it’s hard.”

- Charlotte Danielson,  “Helping Educators Overcome ‘Innovation Fatigue,’” Education Week

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