What are Makerspaces?

The turn of the 21st century has signaled a shift in what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people. The question of how to renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future is being answered through the concept of Makerspaces, or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. Makerspaces are intended to appeal to people of all ages, and are founded an openness to experiment, iterate, and create. The driving force behind Maker spaces is rooted in the Maker movement, a following comprised of artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers, and anyone else who has a passion for making things. The formation of the movement stems from the success of the Maker Faire, a gathering that launched in 2006, and has since propagated itself into numerous community-driven events all over the world.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • add your response here
  • Makerspaces and the Maker movement embody a new theory of learning called Connectivism. Like the networks that support digital learning, Connectivism posits that learners process knowledge by making connections between and among multiple nodes - like a network. Rather than linear progressions across a given field, the network metaphor of Connectivism is the idea that complex connections and activities occur simultaneously as learners solve problems and face challenges - particularly in groups (kind of like parallel or distributed processing in computers) . Makerspaces are inherently non-prescriptive. Often learners are presented with raw materials and a challenge, but the solution is derived through social interaction, exploration of materials, hypothesis and testing, model-building, experimentation, and trial-and-error. Many believe Makerspaces in schools emulate real-world workplaces and labs. - lhunter lhunter Jun 12, 2015 (- kim.owen kim.owen Jun 17, 2015)
  • Makers represent what is good about informal and non formal learning. It seems that it is tending to make way into more traditional teaching models. That is not to say it "fits" into the traditional model but perhaps that we should really try to open our doors to it. Makers do not operate in isolation, they are connected globally in their quests. Connectivity to other students/colleagues is very important. - jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015
  • It's important to recognize the role of school librarians in the school maker movement. Always interested in learning in and beyond the classroom, they have been true leaders in this area. Try to find a library journal without a maker article!- joycevalenza joycevalenza Jun 7, 2015http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/13/school-librarians-push-for-more-maker-spaces.html

  • Making also embodies constructionism - learning by making things. One of the key characteristics of making is that it is slow, iterative, and subject to collective standards of quality - all things that characterize the new workplace. It is also key in that it supports students using technology for their own interests rather than to perform pre-defined tasks set by a curriculum. This is particularly important when it comes to girls or those who are not engaged by traditional ways of introducing STEAM (such as robots and science fairs.) Making more or less demands that students take ownership of their learning. "I want to make a flying drone and take pictures of the school from above." By using the Internet for research and a Makerspace for building, students figure out how to do such ambitious projects with plenty of real-world trial and error. This develops a Montessori-like grounding in the physical activities that then provide a framework for understanding the science and technology that apply, as well as providing an environment that, when done well, fosters many of the currently valued non-cognitive attributes such as grit, growth mindset, perseverance, systems thinking, design thinking, etc. - marieb marieb Jun 14, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Maker movements are also tied to entrepreneurship and study of entrepreneur programs. http://lassonde.utah.edu/ Post-secondary institutions are increasingly offering these programs. The movement has also gone mainstream through popular programs like "Shark Tank" and invention fairs. - lhunter lhunter Jun 12, 2015
  • Also, Makerspaces aren't just about high tech robots and the like - there are Makerspaces that incorporate fabric and other textiles, food, social justice ideas, and other fields. They are very interdisciplinary. - lhunter lhunter Jun 12, 2015
  • What is most important about Making isn't the technology - it's the culture. Making is about open-ended exploration and provides a balance to the (also valuable, but different) technology challenges like FIRST or science fairs. The most difficult part of embracing Making in education isn't the red-design of spaces and tools, but re-designing the human infrastructure that supports open-ended learning with all its dead ends and iterations and tangents. Making doesn't happen in 50 minute increments. - marieb marieb Jun 14, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry?

  • This changes the traditional role of the teacher. Their job becomes more of enabling creative solutions and fostering divergent thinking rather than standardized sets of existing knowledge. Plus they are often noisy and messy. Vocational or Career and Technical Education classrooms are ideally suited to this environment and are starting to become some of the early adopters in schools. - lhunter lhunter Jun 12, 2015
  • STEAM learning becomes concrete rather than theoretical through Making. With a concrete framework, students can "hang" their theoretical knowledge on, learning becomes deeper and more transferable. Additionally, the culture and process of creating things through discovery and exploration (though not without help) creates dispositions in students that support academic and eventually work success.
  • I think we need to emphasize the unfortunately all too common tension that exists in classrooms today where teachers might be very interested in integrating these types of learning activities and culture into their classrooms, and yet they need to constantly be aware of preparing their class for the next series of standardized tests so that task must take priority. These two 'realities' operate at opposing ends of the spectrum of teaching and learning with few indications for resolving this issue in the near future. (- kim.owen kim.owen Jun 17, 2015)

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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