Monday, April 6, 2015

The Nitty Gritty on Makerspaces

Makerspaces are "the big thing" now in the library world and elsewhere.  Just a few weeks ago during my Keynote at the NCCE Teacher-Librarian Summit I encouraged attendees to start a makerspace in their schools, not to be trendy, but to provide students with learning opportunities they might not get elsewhere.

Let's face it.  The majority of us teach in small rural school districts.  My school is a PreK-12th grade school with just under 1000 students smack dab in the middle of fields of corn, cotton, soybeans and cows.  We just got our first AP course this school year.  There are NO "extra" classes like you might see in a larger urban school.  No forensics, no robotics, no coding & computer programming, no film appreciation, no video production studio.  

As librarians we must move beyond books.  We must move beyond simply providing links to resources.  As librarians we should be there to fill curriculum voids, not by providing full course offerings but by providing a space for students to "dip their toes in".  Even in schools that have "everything", not every student gets to take the classes or even know they have a knack for a certain skill if they have never been exposed to it before.

The last school I worked in was a very affluent school with every type of class and resource you could image.  It was still important to me to provide a variety of makerspace elements to my library so that students could become familiar with coding, green screen videoing, etc and then, if curiosity was aroused, can pursue getting into the classes offered at the school to learn more.

All around the country teacher-librarians are dealing with severe cuts.  By stepping up and providing these important connections for students through makerspaces we bring to light the crucial role we play in sparking student interest, creativity, collaboration and ingenuity, skills needed to be successful as they move forward toward college and career goals.

So where can a teacher-librarian get started building a makerspace?  The key is to work with what you have.  Build a Lego Wall by having parents, kids, community members donate old legos. Get your IT Department to give you old computers and other electronic equipment so kids can take it apart and see the inner workings.  Dream big and use Donors Choose to get a 3D Printer and/or robotics like Sphero.  Bring in coding activities with Hour of Code and Khan Academy.  Search Pinterest for ideas and then CONNECT with those librarians who have makerspaces to get advice, tips & tricks.

Not sure how you could possibly use a 3d Printer in your library?  Me either until I read about how Andy Plemmons, elementary school librarian at Barrow Elementary School, used a 3d Printer to empower student voice.  Read how he did it HERE.

Don't know anything about robotics or coding?  Don't let that stop you from bringing these things into your library.  Let the kids discover and teach you!  Check out what my friend, Elissa Malespina did in her library with Sphero and what the amazing Shannon Miller did in her library with Sphero.

Recently, Diana Rendina was criticized for her library makerspace by someone who obviously had no clear idea of the concept.  I'm proud of Diana for not giving into her critic and continuing to provide a place for students to explore, learn, grow and make.  

Still a bit unsure how all of this could work in your library?  Tune in to the TL Virtual Cafe FREE Webinar broadcast on Monday, April 6, 2015 at 8 pm ET.  Shannon Miller and Diana Maliszewski will provide a great review of how to get started along with great ideas to incorporate into you space.  They will also feature an astounding line up of special guests who will do a "show & tell" about their library makerspaces, including Laura Fleming, Diana Rendina, Lisa Dempster, Julie Graber, Christina Sturgeon, and Andy Plemmons.

Whatever you decide to do....please DO SOMETHING!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Thank you for encouraging others to take the plunge and get started with makerspaces. They provide such fantastic experiences for our students.