Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Measuring up to Maker Spaces

I often have conversations with myself about balancing progress with the rest of Life.  At times I find myself feeling like I'm behind my edge-pushing colleagues when it comes to the latest, greatest ed trend, app, book, or pedagogical method; I feel like I should be pushing harder to be in the know.
One area I feel a bit removed from is the Maker Space. One definition of a maker space says:
        "Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more."  Ellyssa Kroski

My first thought is, 'how come I never did this?' Then I start thinking back on my own teaching experience, and remember craft tables smeared in glue and glitter and googly eyes; finding pipe cleaner snippets in the ruler bucket, or a neglected doll's shoe ditched between the bookshelves. Those items were all part of a maker-activity at some point, but it just wasn't called that.  

I'm not suggesting that the craft centre and a maker space are the same thing. Organizations like assert that maker spaces encourage DIY projects using technology.  Until recent years my hands-on projects were for an art activity, or perhaps an artifact to compliment a book or science concept. Mary Beth Hertz, in this blog post points out that maker spaces are an answer to the US's mediocre performance in STEM education.  It seems schools are more frequently investing in kits, 3D printers, and other high-end tech products to help students develop creativity and problem-solving skills; yarn and Tinker Toys at the cozy craft table don't cut it any more. 

What if that's right where we are today? Are we doing a disservice to kids by offering modest tools to foster creativity? No. While we need to give ourselves props for being capable, competent educators in this moment, we want to be better than that in twenty moments from now. A next step would be to think about when and why students should be makers: Is this particular context an appropriate one to introduce techno-DIY, model building, movie creation? Why not let students build or create something as one option to express their learning? Are they fully engaged in their learning without having an extensive creativity space? 
Part of why I'm not there yet is because I haven't tried much myself.  I owe it to students to grow, improve, ask questions, try stuff, fail, and try more stuff, all in the name of being satisfied that I tried to push and own my learning. There are countless websites, blogs, books, and Twitter feeds that can all help us; we are far from alone here. Like we tell our students, set a realistic goal, and work towards that one small improvement that makes us more comfortable with maker spaces.
What are your favourite maker space resources?


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  2. My favourite makerspace recources are printers. Printer's because you can print anything you could possibly dream of!

    1. I think 3D printers have amazing potential too. Hopefully one day they will use environmentally renewable materials to create with, instead of plastics.

    2. I think 3D printers have amazing potential too. Hopefully one day they will use environmentally renewable materials to create with, instead of plastics.