The maker movement was front and center at the 2015 ISTE conference—and that’s a good thing for me. After following maker initiatives with great interest for some time now, I have the opportunity to design a maker space this year for 6th–12th grade students at my school, Worcester (MA) Academy.
A search of this year’s program at ISTE, held June 28 to July 1 in Philadelphia, using the term “constructivist learning/maker movement” resulted in 67 related sessions. The ISTE Librarians Network hosted a maker station at their Digital Age Playground and convened a panel on library maker spaces, featuring elementary and middle school librarians, a school administrator, and the coordinator of a public library maker initiative. Vendors and exhibitors demonstrated tools, lessons, and ideas for maker spaces. Meanwhile, a four-hour Maker Playground Wednesday morning drew a huge crowd of attendees.
One of my goals at the conference was to gather ideas and tips to help me create my library’s maker space. Here are some highlights of what I discovered at ISTE.
Problem solving, problem solving, problem solving
Sure 3-D printers are cool, and it’s fun to play with LEGOs, but the most important aspect of maker spaces is to provide the opportunity for students to try, fail, and problem solve. “We must move from playing to producing,” says Elissa Malespina, Coordinating Supervisor of Educational Technology for the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District, who spoke at the library maker space panel. “Maker spaces should be about failure and problem solving.”
The Knights of Make-a-Lot panelists (Nathan Stevens, Diana Rendina, Josh Ajima, and Laura Blankenship) all stressed the importance of problem solving in the maker process.
Maker spaces provide students with safe places to create, collaborate, and problem solve. Leverage the power of making to give students choices, provide opportunities for students to teach each other, and expose students to interests they might not be introduced to otherwise, advised the panelists.
A big budget is not necessary
During the ISTE Librarians Network panel discussion, Heidi Neltner, an elementary school librarian from Kentucky, described how she started her library maker space with donations—she painted a donated coffee table with chalkboard paint to create a LEGO table for her students. Diana Rendina from Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, started out K’nex sets she found in storage at her school. Several librarians in attendance mentioned that they used donorschoose.org to fund their maker spaces.
Other low-cost ideas :
- Ask parents and friends for donations of old games, puzzles, and building sets like Legos and K’Nex
- Use pages from old books for origami creation
- Turn any surface into a writing or drawing space with whiteboard or chalkboard paint
- Create a green screen wall with Behr Gamma Sector Green paint.
Watch the Librarians Network panel discussionfor more ideas on library makerspaces:
Mobile maker spaces
Maker opportunities should be available to students in the school library as well as classrooms. Diana Rendina and Josh Ajima, a high school technology teacher in Northern Virginia, recommended using bins and bags to create mobile maker spaces. Provide opportunities for teachers to check out maker materials to use in their classrooms, and create a culture of making in your school.
At the beginning of his session, “Making, Love, and Learning,” Gary Stager stated, “We are all makers.” As librarians, we create every day. You don’t need a 3-D printer and expensive gadgets to start a maker space. Ask for donations. Look for everyday tems to incorporate into a maker space. Create opportunities for your students to collaborate, create, and problem solve and let them lead the learning.
Maker educators to follow on Twitter:
Diana Rendina @dianalrendina
Design Make Teach @designmaketeach
Laura Fleming @NMHS_lms
Nathan Stevens @nathan_stevens
Carolyn Foote @technolibrary
Elissa Malespina @elissamalespina
Sylvia Martinez @smartinez
Super Awesome Sylvia @MakerSylvia
Jennifer Hanson is director of library services at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and an educational consultant for the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Partner at Waynesburg University.