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.    

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