Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thing 23: Makerspaces

Wow!  I am so glad this was posted as an assignment.  This is a topic that I've heard about, but really had no idea what is was.  Even at meetings of library liaisons at Questar where they were talking about the shared 3-D printer, it was never very clear to me what they were doing with it or what it had to do ultimately with libraries.

Now, after reading several of the articles and resources posted within this assignment, I think I'm finally starting to "get it".  Makerspaces in the School Library Learning Commons and the uTEC Maker Model by David v. Loertscher, Leslie Preddy, and Bill Derry gave me a good overview of what all the buzz is about and how a variety of libraries are adapting this concept to fit the needs of their patron base.   Parker Thomas' 6 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Makerspace really helped me understand the feasibility of this sort of program in my own school community.  The Tinkerspace: Library Learning Commons interview piece really helped me to visualize what a truly exemplary makerspace program could look like, while Deb Collin's awesome Cool Tools blog post sort of showed me that it can truly exist and be successful on an elementary level without crazy gadgets and tons of supervision/prep.

So all of that said, here're my major take-a-ways:

First of all, I can definitely see the value of makerspaces in general, and now I more fully understand how they are being adapted into libraries.  I love the concept of moving to the next step of "expression" as the outcome of information analysis.  The Tinkerspace interview struck me as effectively pairing information resources, such as the origami books, with appropriate materials bins - while still allowing the kids to approach the experience any way that they liked - either the "follow the instruction" route, or the go it on your own avenue - or even something that might fall in between.  I can see where a makerspace would be very appealing to students because it's almost "free play" of sorts.  Also, one of the articles/resources talked about having the participants fill out exit tickets about their experience which helps justify it academically in a school setting, which is where I'm coming from.

Where I think I'm still not quite solid, though, is how this can be transformed into an academic program that relies on constant assessment to drive instruction.  As I said, I totally see the value of giving students time to explore and giving them access to interesting materials - but if everyone is allowed to approach the project independently and they are not given an end-goal per sae, and, most importantly, if not everyone is required to participate, then this can only be approached as an enrichment activity, not an actual "class" held to academic standards, right?  Or am I missing the point?  I understand that it has the potential to align with many Common Core Standards, but how do you turn an unstructured activity into something that can be definitively associated with a rubric or other form of assessment?  And who can determine growth when a student may chose to take risks and fail - which is a good thing as far as a makerspace goes, but not such a good thing when giving evidence of student growth. 

This leads me to my next point of discussion: How could a makerspace fit into my school library?  Well, first of all, let me remind the reader that I am only a 0.6 part-time librarian running a K-8 library program with fixed-scheduled classes as release time (prep periods) for K-6 teachers.  Therefore, I have no planning period, no lunch, and very few free blocks randomly spaced in a 6-day rotation, so right now, it could not happen.  BUT this is not to say that I could not approach the administration with this intriguing concept and see what they think.  Or maybe this is the type of program that might better fit in to the "Technology" class our middle school students participate in?

I'm still digesting all that I've read and learned this week, so I cannot say for sure whether I will pursue this with my administration now or not.  I would like to talk to Jen Cannell at Questar about what others are doing, say, with the digital printer.  From what was shared at liaison meetings, it sounds like it's mostly kids making bookmarks and other novelties from pre-existing templates.  Where's the tinkering or creativity there - besides choosing colors?  As you suggest in the activity, I think I need to see some more models of makerspaces in action to fully appreciate its implications for my own library program.  So let me end here, but just know that this exploration is by no means over for me.  This introduction may just be the beginning of something new for me and for my school.    

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thing 22: Create A Resource Guide

This was a fun assignment to end my winter break with!  That said, I fear I may have missed part of the point here.  The assignment overview alluded to the fact that we all in the Library trade tend to make lots of resource guides for our patrons - and I am certainly no exception to that assumption.  However, I am an exception, I guess, in my adamant unwillingness to make curating resource lists a full-time side job.  I absolutely refuse to upload apps to my tablet to add more material and update existing material "on the go" because I frankly already do enough gratis work from home just to stay caught up with the nuts and bolts of my supposedly "part-time" library job.  I hope you don't think this makes me a bad person.  I just have to draw the line somewhere - and here it is.

That said, let me first talk about some of the resource lists I already create.  I maintain an up-to-date web site for my library and all of my classes, with pages designed for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.  Embedded on various pages of my site are a variety of resource lists - including updated class syllabi, resource guides for specific library research projects, general reference resource links for use at home and in school, Common Core resources, etc. Here's my web site if you're interested.  I also rely heavily on NoodleTools in my teaching, and likewise, I always embed resource lists in the projects my students are working on, so they can have easy access to the materials they need right there with no further tabs than are necessary.  Finally, I love making pathfinders in OPALS, my online catalog, that I can populate with links, resources, and documents.  And lastly, I always keep my web links in OPALS updated, too, so students can get to our databases and other resources from one centralized location.  Check Out My Catalog. 

And that right there is the key to my stubborn refusal to subject my poor overloaded students, faculty, and administrators to any more Resource Guides than are absolutely necessary.  As the professional literature indicates, we librarians make all kinds of FABULOUS resource lists and guides, but the plain truth is that hardly anyone ever really uses them outside of structured assignments and lessons (Barbara Stripling, "Inquiry Through the Eyes of Classroom Teachers").  And I have personally found that students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike all appreciate having information streamlined for them - meaning less is more - WAY more.  It is much better to put your information in one location whenever possible.  It makes things less confusing and easier both for the user and administrator - in my opinion anyway.

So for the sake of this assignment, I did follow the steps and I did go ahead and create one more resource guide.  My administrator had asked me to put something together for February's Black History Celebration.  Ordinarily, I would have posted my resource list in one of the locations described above - either my webpage or OPALS, but instead, I went ahead and joined Diigo and compiled my sources there, and just linked the page to my usual locations.  I like Diigo a lot and thought it was very easy to use, and I like how participants in the group can all share ideas and post information as a collective.  I can see that is a drawback to my existing resource guides on my web site and in OPALS.  Despite that, though, I still would prefer to compile my resources in fewer locations to make access easier for my audience.

But here it is - Ms. Fecura's Guide to Resources for Black History Month ~ enjoy!

My Resource Guide.