November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Maker Space Difference: Amazing Inquiry, Shared Learning | Tech Tidbits

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Students work with the new 3-D printer.

“Is it true? Do we have a 3-D printer?”

When I put our new 3-D printer in the window of the school library, not only were my own maker space students interested, but the rest of the school seemed to take note. Some of you have been curious about how this new maker space project is coming along, so here’s an update.

The library unofficially opened our maker space in January after receiving all kinds of goodies from a DonorsChoose fundraiser and other grants. I invited several students to an unpacking party to un-box all the supplies and start setting up our space.

The purchases tumbled out of boxes and students explored each item. First out of the box was our 3-D printer, the Makerbot Replicator 2. The printer came together fairly easily and the students and I printed our first project that same day. Part of what made the printer such an attractive purchase was the companion site, Thingiverse.com, where the kids can view tons of projects and even create their own. They even made a “Mr. Goerner” name plate for my desk.

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Thingiverse nameplate

The students and I decided to meet after school every Wednesday to learn all we could together. The number of interested students varies every week, but we always have a core group who try a new gadget every session. So far, we have probed and tested our mini-robot Cubelets and created great electrical circuits using the Snap Circuits kits. Several of our members created a complex light and sound board and another student said, “That is really cool, but I really don’t know why it works.” Members took the time to chat with her and explain how to build a simple circuit. That same student added a switch and a flying saucer and she was thrilled to make this slo-mo video.

The students have programmed and raced the two Sphero Robotic Balls, even trying them under water! The library received a bit more money and was able to add a Little Bits electronic kit that allows makers to create a circuit using magnets, as well as some Makey Makey kits that we used to experiment with bananas, turning them into bongos. The kids are planning to use Makey Makey to turn the stairs outside our library into a piano too.

Collectively, our goal was to learn as much as we could so that students and staff would be ready to explain how each thing worked at our Makerspace Open House during our parent-teacher conferences in February. Students were proud to show off tools that they had learned about and acquired skills on while also sharing their excitement with other students and staff. The users of our Makerspace are starting to build relationships with teachers and classrooms and have a few ideas for projects that will soon weave themselves into the life of the school.

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Moss Zombonitron kit

Our students have continued to meet every week to make projects like the virtual Google Cardboard project and the Zombonitron 1600, which we assembled from a Moss robot kit. Since we are too excited to keep quiet about this, we have learned about some neighboring schools that are creating their own maker spaces. It’s all about sharing, so we’re setting up an exchange process where we can loan our tools and borrow from other maker spaces.

I’m so proud that our library can serve as such a great resource and learning center. I am struck by the amazing ways that inquiry drives all of our experiences in our new maker spaces. I love the way the time flies by as the students ask, “What if we…?” or “How could we…?”, stretching our thinking and imagining possibilities. I have no doubt that some time very soon our students’ brilliant questions will lead to incredible innovations, fueling collaborative relationships with very smart people, resulting in incredible learning and proud achievement.

Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO.

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Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

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