About the Author: Trish is an Emerging Technology Consultant for Edmonton Catholic Schools in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In this role, Trish specializes in supporting teachers and students to explore makerspace, assistive technology, coding and robotics, and blended learning. Trish is also an avid maker who is always tinkering on her next project! You can follow Trish on twitter @MrsRoffey or contact her at Trisha.Roffey@ecsd.net
Have you ever asked your child the question “what did you do in school today?” to only be answered with “meh”, “I don’t know” or “nothing”? Parents want to know what their children have spent their day learning and are often faced with unenthused responses. This leads to the inevitable concern that their child hasn’t learned anything, is struggling or is unhappy with school. The year 2015 brought about a change in this passive response to education with the entrance of makerspace in education. Now before we all roll our eyes at yet another educational buzz word, makerspace is the resurgence of the foundational educational pedagogy of constructivism that is changing the nature of teaching and learning. Now when the question is asked “what did you do in school today?” parents are being given the detailed description of the best 7 hours of their child’s life thanks to the makerspace.
Makerspace is a global trend that is part of the DIY movement. These spaces started as community centers where the average Joe could meet up with local experts to pursue a passion project or hobby. Imagine a facility with tools and materials to invent, tinker and construct. This movement has found its way into education over the last year. Our libraries and classrooms are being transformed with 3D printers, robots and bins of recycled materials. What is exciting is that makerspace is more than just a space, it is an educational mindset. A makerspace mindset allows for educators to shift away from ready made knowledge to a classroom environment ripe for exploration, creativity, innovation and collaboration with hands on materials and real world problems (Donaldson, 2014; Papert & Harel, 1991; Schön, Ebner, & Kumar; Schrock, 2014, Hatch, 2013). In short teachers are changing the way they teach which is causing students to change the way they learn and this is a very good thing.
“Ultimately, the outcome of maker education and educational makerspaces leads to determination, independence and creative problem solving, and an authentic preparation for the real world through simulating real-world challenges. In short, an educational makerspace is less of a classroom and more of a motivational speech without words” (Kurti et al., 2014, p. 11).
This is not your typical science fair or project at the end of a unit. A makerspace allows for authentic innovation and invention, it embraces new ideas and failures, and it allows for students to pursue their passions and have a reason to learn and apply the foundational curriculum throughout a project as opposed to the end. Gone are the days of passive recipients waiting to have knowledge poured into their heads. Makerspace allows for educators to personalize learning, work as a guide with students of all abilities and dig deep into projects that combine many subject area disciplines at once.
Last summer my husband and I had the opportunity to care for our own three children aged 6, 8, and 11 along with our nieces and nephews. We decided to turn our garage into a makerspace for this vast range of ages and abilities. The project was to make skateboards for everyone thanks to an idea from Mark Frauenfelder’s book Maker Dad. Our garage became our classroom and we learned about weight, angles, design, speed, and friction. We sought out community experts, we researched blogs, we used tools, we created art, we tested, designed and improved, we made mistakes, and finally we made skateboards. This was a passionate groups of learners committed to a goal. Some of our “students” couldn’t read, some had trouble sitting still, some needed a little more help, but all had a chance to shine. This project turned out to be the greatest summer of fun learning ever, something everyone still talks about. Shouldn’t school be the same way? By moving makerspaces from our garages and community centers into our schools we have this chance.
In the movie Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, there was a moment where he made fire. A passionate event where he was the creator of an epic moment of learning, so much so that he shouted “I made fire” to the heavens. This is the moment we want for our children. We want school to be an opportunity to make fire and love learning so that they come home and cannot stop talking about that moment. The greatest 7 hours of their life. That is an educational makerspace.
Maker parent and maker educator