“Nearly one in every four Michigan children lives in an impoverished household, according to the report, which measured trends between 2006 and 2013. Researchers found that 18 percent of children statewide were in poverty in 2006, but that number rose to nearly 25 percent in 2012.”
Two things crossed my desk this week that have been do-si-do’ing in my head. After a few years of seeing my information literacy work in one silo, my maker work in another, and my role as an instructor of contextual inquiry in a third, I’m just starting to explore the connections between them.
How does traditional research inform making?Does it help people know about and build on what’s already been created? Or would it be more rewarding to design something even if it already exists elsewhere else?
How does prior research impact qualitative interviews in the IDEO/design thinking/human-centered design/contextual design method. Does it give better information that leads to more knowledgable interview protocols or introduce biases that bleed into and impact interview answers?
Here are the this week’s additions to my thinking:
1. Purdue University’s Integrating Information into the Engineering Design Process, available as a free download or bound print volume.
From the Preface (Fosmire & Radcliffe 2014, ix):
Both engineering educators and librarians understand that novice engineering students tend to make quick decisions about what approach to take to solve a problem, then spend a lot of time develop- ing prototypes and finishing details, when they might have saved a lot of effort and created a superior outcome had they spent more time upfront attempting to understand the problem more fully and thinking more broadly about potential solutions before actually working to implement one.
Furthermore, many engineering students seem to believe that everything needs to be done from first principles. They waste an inordinate amount of time trying to redesign a widget that is already cheaply and readily avail- able commercially, and often spend months designing a new device, only to find out that something remarkably similar had already been patented years ago. This well-intentioned but wasted effort can be mitigated by helping engineering students adopt a more informed approach to engineering design. To date there has not been a systematic effort to develop such a model that resonates with both engineers and librarians. This book was conceived to meet that need.
What interests me about this is that there’s a tension here I can’t wait to explore. On one hand, we are building most library makerspaces around the idea of naive tinkering: just having fun exploring. Yet at the same time, for makerspaces to truly impact communities, tinkering isn’t enough. Moving to solutions — whether they be for personal, societal, or commerical use — is where the impact comes. And that means balancing tinkering time with the pragmatic need to build on what’s gone before, right?
2. A design charette about Ebola in this video from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design:
In this video — the length of which made me groan when I first opened the link and then made me realize the power of having extended coverage — we see people grappling with the real facts of Ebola transmission, clean-up, and prevention. They’re not just randomly tinkering around — they must design around what is known about the perniciousness of the disease. Research makes better designs. There’s still tinkering, but it’s grounded.
This pushme-pullyou strikes me as something worth tussling with. Maybe there’s a way to bridge these library-based silos. Maybe making and research should be more — not less — closely tied in library-based makerspaces?
(Cross-posted from MakerBridge)
A few weeks ago, Sharona blogged about Debbie Chachra’s “Why I Am Not A Maker” essay for The Atlantic. This is one of those articles that has gotten passed around in makercommunities. Chachra makes a provocative statement: that by setting up the world into “maker” and “not a maker” categories, and privileging one more than the other, we downplay those in our society whose roles are to be nurturers, educators, and supporters. On a traditional, binary level, it can boil down to “stereotypical male behaviors are good” vs. “stereotypical female behaviors — which make it possible for those stereotypical male behaviors to exist — aren’t valuable.”
But that all comes down, I think, to how we define makers. I have always used it to be an inclusive term and a part of the human condition: feeling productive and impacting the world around us is what makes making making.
Chachra pushes against this, saying:
I am not a maker. In a framing and value system is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is superficially the same, year on year. That’s because all of the actual change, the actual effects, are at the interface between me as an educator, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like “design learning experiences,” which is mistaking what I do (teaching) for what I’m actually trying to help elicit (learning). To characterize what I do as “making” is to mistake the methods—courses, workshops, editorials—for the effects. Or, worse, if you say that I “make” other people, you are diminishing their agency and role in sense-making, as if their learning is something I do to them.
Is making solely about artifacts? Sometimes, artifacts are means to another end. When my fifth graders refashion clothing, they often step into worlds of imaginative play, up to and including class- and curriculum-based skits. (One created a lab coat out of an old mock turtleneck and promptly decided he was ready to begin coding.) Does that count if the artifacts are a means, not an end? A pathway and not a destination?
Or are we outgrowing “making” as a term? If it can be used to describe innovation-and-production hubs in China, pottery guilds in the Midwest, open-ended crafting and engineering activities for kids, the woman with the life-sized loom at a Maker Faire, coding practice for adults working toward new career opportunities, new factories and manufacturing hubs established by the Obama administration, and a parent and child hovering over the open hood of a vintage car, is “making” becoming a word that means something? Or nothing at all?
“For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out — in large part because they fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.”
A couple of summers ago, we heard that some maker groups were having success having a Silhouette Cameo in their makerspace and that it was helping to attract more girls into their K-12 maker project. We bought one for Michigan Makers, because we thought it might help us bridge between the physical making to which many of our elementary students were attracted and the digital making that was more closely aligned with our school’s mission. At first, we did small projects like learning how to arrange letters in order to “weld” them into a single sticker cut from Con-tact paper.
This year, we tried out freezer paper stencils cut on the Cameo. You find freezer paper near the aluminum foil in the grocery store for about $5 a roll (and that roll will last a very long time). One side has a light plastic coating on it. Place it face down on a garment and apply the heat of an iron, and the plastic will melt just enough to adhere to the shirt for a stencil that won’t move.
We bought lots of $1 thrifted clothing (we have enormous thrift stores here the size of grocery stores that run “5 for $5″ on merchandise that has been hanging on the racks for several weeks) — all kinds of knitwear and, as we saw how popular they were, various jean jackets and blazers, adding a few new choices to the big pile from which kids could choose.
We prepared these handouts to help students design their own custom garment:
- T-shirt design template
(we only had one Cameo, so this let some students think in advance with pencil and paper while they waited)
- Sample shapes to use in the design (these were preloaded on the Cameo after having been pulled from The Noun Project, Microsoft Clip Art, or Cameo’s built-in images; as they get more experienced, we can open up more choices to them and also let them draw and import their own art … it’s always important to remember, when we do more controlled work in makerspaces, it’s in service to them having more agency and independence — because they have more practice and skill — later. The long view matter here.)
We used Tulip brand puffy fabric paint, though we sponged it on in thin layers instead of squirted it from the bottle, so it was only a little bit dimensional. (Hint: bring paint shirts!) We also brought in a hair dryer to ensure that all the garments would be dry before kids put them on or took them home.
You can see our very first creation below. What I love about this is that the maker applied the paint very thinly, giving it an aged or antiqued look.
While it takes a long time to get this project started, because you need stations for planning, layout and cutting on the Cameo, ironing the freezer paper to the shirt, stuffing and painting the shirt, then drying it with a hair dryer before peeling off the paper, it’s also really satisfying to watch grow, because as our 4th and 5th graders got into the routine, they were able to start teaching each other (except for the iron … that is one scary tool to them!). And it’s a reminder to me that making is really, really, we’re not kidding, a process. And that means you have to build in manpower and time and patience as you develop skills in kids. That can be hard to balance with just one or two adults … but it’s worth it in the end, because suddenly you step back and see them doing it without you (again, except for the iron).
This was a project they could not do unassisted the first time. But the second time? They’re already chomping at the bit for their next turn, and we got some smaller Silhouette Portrait machines for $100 during Black Friday, so we’re going to have more stations that allow more kids to work simultaneously.
Meanwhile, the Silhouette company posted this video about how Betabrand is using the same tool to prototype new clothing. They use Silhouette’s iron-on materials more than stencils, but the idea is the same: customizing a one-of-a-kind stuff.
If we really want our makerspaces to reach all kids, we need many modalities and kinds of project. You might think that using a scrapbook cutting machine to make t-shirt stencils is a girly activity … but boys have been equally engaged with it. (The big difference? Girls tend to like blazers; boys like t-shirts.) Which just goes to show that if you plan for everybody’s interests, you’ll discover interests you didn’t know some of your makers had.
Here’s the Betabrand/Silhouette video. Maybe it will give you some ideas, too.
Results from a simple one-click survey via the ASCD SmartBrief site on teacher understandings of digital badging (sample size unknown):
An interesting corporate approach to making: “Cotton Makers”:
Have some time this Thursday, November 20? Join us for UMSI’s signature event, the John Seely Brown (JSB) Symposium, featuring author, BoingBoinger, and activist Cory Doctorow.
11am – public lecture
3-5pm panel discussion (see image below)