Sunday, March 19, 2017

Doing More With The Classroom Makerspace

When I was 6 or 7 years old I was at home on a boring rainy weekend. Being an inquisitive kid and generally looking for mischief I found some tools in a closet and decided something in my house needed taking a apart. I'd always wondered how a toaster actually made toast so it became the subject of my experiment. I spent a while taking it a part looking at all the pieces and, of course not knowing how any of it worked. When my mother found what I had done, not only did we not have toast for a while but I had to work extra hard to earn the money to buy a new one.

Making and tinkering have been around a long as there have been people asking questions about how the world works. Galileo. Newton. Edison. Those names that we associate with fundamentally changing human history were in some way makers and tinkerers. They looked for problems in their world and how they could solve them. Some created new mindsets of thinking while others invented new devices that impact us still to this day.

The idea of students looking away from ridged content focus all throughout the school day and giving them back some time to explore and make is gaining a foothold in many classrooms. Educators are turning towards ideas like the Maker Movement and tinkering to foster creativity and innovation in their classrooms and to get their kids thinking and doing more.

I've had the chance to visit several makerspaces in schools all over. It seems more and more schools are creating these spaces to give kids a creative outlet. In it's simplest form Makerspaces are places where kids can explore and, well, make stuff. The idea is that we provide the tools, resources and time to see what can be created. Many maker spaces are simple with just random supplies donated by parents. While other spaces are decked out with 3D Printers, electronics, the works. And there are spaces in between. The point isn't really what is in the space. The point is what comes out of it and giving kids the freedom to explore making stuff that could turn out to be pretty innovative.

Just like technology and how it is used in the classroom, makerspaces need to be less about the stuff that's in them and more about the questions that are asked and the problems that are solved. Sometimes when I am at a conference or read an article on the topic it seems there is more emphasis on the stuff rather than what to do with the stuff. And that sort of flies in the face of the idea of making and tinkering. Sometimes in that exploration purpose is found and questions we weren't even asking are answered.

The point is don't just have a makerspace and buy lots of expensive equipment and have kids make cellphone cases and door stops. Guide them and their exploration. What problems in their world do they see? How can making help? What are they curious about? How can one thing they take apart here, effect how something else works here? Makerspaces should be filled with more questions, problems and failures than answers, solutions and successes.

6 Resources For Makerspaces

If you need a great primer of Makerspaces there are several great books out there. My go-to is my friend Nick Provenzano's Your Starter Guide To Makerspaces. Nick's approach to helping create Makerspaces in any classroom is truly innovative. He is a high school English teacher and has successfully used makerspaces in his classroom for a number of years now. It goes to show that this type of learning doesn't have to be confined to the media center or a club outside of school. It can happen anywhere!

Maker Education Resources-This page from Edutopia has just about everything you will need to get started with creating and utilizing Maker Spaces in your classroom or school. Be sure to check out the post on the Maker Tools and how Problem-Based Learning can be enhanced through a Maker Lens.

Maker Faire Education-Maker Faires have been around for a very long time. On the site they have a whole section dedicated to making in schools. They also have other resources like kits you can buy and leads on Maker Faires in your area.

A Librarian's Guide To Makerspaces-Media Centers and Libraries are popular places for creating maker spaces and for good reason. This post is full of great content, whether you are a librarian or not.

Sample Hardware- Makerbot makes an awesome 3D printer at a super reasonable cost for schools. Little Bits are easy to use circuit boards that snap together that allow you to control all sorts of objects. And I am a huge fan of Sphero, programmable robots that are pretty awesome and easy to use.

Coding and Coding Resources-Some of my favorite makerspaces are those where what kids make is output on a screen rather than something physical they make. Coding should be a part of any maker space and bringing coding in is actually very easy. Here are tons of coding resources including sites to get started and ideas for creating your own coding makerspace.

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