Note: I'm going to throw out a lot of resources and links in this post. I'll aggregate all of the links in a section below entitled: "Getting Started with Makerspaces: Resources".
So, don't worry about writing them down or missing a few of them. I've got you covered.
In this series I'm going to focus on ways that you can go above and beyond for your students, their families, and your professional identity. Once you've got your day to day responsibilities out of the way (lesson planning, assessment, classroom management, etc) there are things you can do and materials you can create that will really upgrade your overall instruction. This might be a reading list that pushes your students from GE into GT, or it might create ongoing activities that expand your pedagogical offerings past the standards and into genuine 21st century skills. In this post I'm going to discuss makerspaces, what they are, and why you should try and incorporate them into your instruction.
Full disclosure: I LOVE MAKERSPACES. When I was growing up I loved to make things with my hands. I built computers out of junk parts, I built skateboards from broken ones, and since my formative years I've maintained my obsession with figuring out how everything works. Steve Jobs famously said, "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again." (link to video)
First things first, what is a makerspace?
First, let's answer a few basic questions about Makerspaces, like "What is a makerspace?" and "what should I know about them?"
Makezine has probably done the best job of defining what a Makerspace is:
"Makerspaces are collaborative workshops where young people gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. They provide a flexible environment where learning is made physical by applying science, technology, math, and creativity to solve problems and build things." Source: Makerspace Playbook
Sounds cool, what are the highlights?
A makerspace is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.
Many are still primarily places for technological experimentation, hardware development, and idea prototyping.
The makerspace emerged initially as a powerful learning force in the nonacademic community.
Makerspaces are zones of self-directed learning.
Space in learning facilities is often at a premium.
Eventually makerspaces may become linked from campus to campus, encouraging joint project collaboration.
- Makerspaces allow students to take control of their own learning.
Alright, I want to get started... What do I do?
Here I'll go into three different types of implementations of makerspaces/principles in your instruction. I'll break it down based on how long you want to implement some of these strategies in your class, and further differentiate based on hardware/software.
Daily, informal engagement/implementation of STEM and Makerspace principles
Hardware: Little Bits
Little Bits are modular kits that allow teachers to challenge their students to perform particular tasks with zero technical knowledge. They're designed for K-8, but hobbyists of all ages use them to rapidly prototype ideas without picking up a soldering iron. If I put on my teacher hat I would challenge students to design a device using Little Bits that accomplishes X and further challenge them to explain the process behind what they did.
Software: CodeSchool, Code.org, curveball resource: Invision
Here, I've selected a few (from a huge list) of sites, organizations, and products that I would work into my lesson regardless of what subject I teach. CodeSchool does a great job of offering full coursework with companion resources and a look that appeals to grades 6 - 12 students. I've also included Code.org which is arguably the most widely adopted implemention of computer science in K-12. Code.org also has a huge list of partners that offer free/discounted resources aimed at schools. I've also included Invision here because wireframing student ideas can be as helpful as getting into the code itself. Using Invision in class would let students know that they don't have to be behind a computer terminal to contribute the creation of a great app. I believe Invision offers one free app wireframe per free account... so If each student signs up, they could literally design their own app which they can then learn how to create using the other coding resources.
Longer term, project-based STEM/Makerspace engagement
Hardware: Arduino, Raspberry pi, beagleboards, Intel Edison, Adafruit DIY projects, Makezine projects
There are a huge number of low cost fully-integrated computer boards that students can use for a million different projects. Some of these boards have operating systems, others are basic electronics boards. all of them are under $30 and come with a plethora of resources and projects that have been fleshed out and are totally conducive for students of all ages.
Bonus! Check out my Raspberry Pi project "Pi in the Sky"
Software: Unity, Khan Academy, Dash, CodeSchool
(on here twice because of how robust the curriculum is)
So there are a lot of longer-term projects that students can pick up, learn a few basics, and start creating projects of their own (or address relevant challenges). Unity is by far my favorite... they have tutorials that teach you the basics of creating various types of games. Unity also has realistic physics and renders beautifully on most platforms including Oculus Rift! That being said there are other platforms with fantastic platforms for learning programming, or computer science principles and going from there. Khan Academy has great curriculum that gets you off the ground, and Dash is an interesting, project-based tutorial experience created by general assembly.
Ongoing STEM/Makerspace engagement
So this is less of a Hardware/Software Dichotomy, and more of a "keep the snowball rolling (and accumulating snow as it goes)" kind of suggestion list. These are ways that educators can keep the momentum in terms of teaching and learning as it applies to makerspaces, Computer Science, and STEM education in general.
Well-formatted CMS website that highlights projects as they are going and archives projects attractively as students complete them.
A well moderated forum/discussion board: I would either include this into the website, or have it be a standalone thing.
Hackathons. Hackathons are intense 24-36 hour hacking sessions that focus on a single theme. Some of the most incredible projects I've seen KIDS complete were at events like this. Food, music, supervision, lots of equipment to use... They work. I linked Hack Gen Y, they run events similar to what I'm talking about. This is a great way to get people excited about solving a problem in all the different ways. Students good at coding and students good at pitching get together in teams, create a solution, and compete to win the hackathon.
Hackerspace/Makerspace. Hackerspaces are dedicated areas where someone with an idea can go and rapidly prototype it on their own or with others. This is really conducive to club creation/housing.
Does it have to be all about computers?
Nope! here are all the different types of "making" that can occur in your space. You can have a space that focuses on one type of invention, or on multiple types. You can also find "low tech" or "no tech" ways of discussing each of the kinds of creation with your class at resources like code.org.
Note: Each section has associated tools and materials you can find in the Makerspace "High School Makerspace Tool & Materials" link I posted below.
3D printing/ 3D design
App development (Python, JS, Swift)
Video Editing/Filming/Special Effects
Publishing, Blogging, Social Media
- Civic Engineering, IoT
Getting Started with Makerspaces: Resources
Here are a ton of resources to help you get started in your creation of the Makerspace! A lot of these seem like simply tech pieces, but the greater goal would be to use these tools/resources strategically in your instruction. What might your history class look like if you were to have students create mechanical models of soldiers on the battlefield, or famous athletes breaking records? What might an app in your english look like that points out spelling errors in a way that helps students improve over time rather than simply doing the right click corrections without a second thought?
Sharing is Caring!
That should get you started when it comes to creating your own makerspace. Please leave a comment letting me know what you think of the post, what strategies you liked/used and which ones I should add.
Also, feel free to leave general feedback in the comments section, or reach out on Twitter.
and remember to share,
sharing is caring...
Thanks for reading!
header photo credit: Octavio Fossatti