Friday, April 21, 2017

Educators Guide for Designing a Makerspace

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of leading a team to create a makerspace in leading international schools across the globe.

Main goal of creating an educational makerspace “the Innovation Lounge” has been to support and encourage students with hands-on learning, multi-disciplinary collaboration, design, development, invention and innovation as they meaningfully engage in STEAM activities.

Makerspaces, Genius Bars, Idea Booths and Fab Labs are mushrooming all over the world. Consequently, educators around the world are exploring various options to encourage student collaboration and creative thinking by designing Makerspaces in their institutes. This is a quick guide for all the fellow educators interested in designing a best suited makerspace for their own institution.

Where to design a makerspace?
Identify a some physical space in your learning environment to engage students. Makerspace doesn't have to be a fancy room full of various equipments. It has to be a safe space with easy accessibility where students can tinker, collaborate and communicate freely. Think about how you can convert an extra room in the school, libraries, unused breakout spaces in the corridor, courtyards or even a corner in your classroom into an exciting learning space.

Who are the users of maker space?
While designing the makerspace always remember your students are your main audience. Ask yourself these simple questions while developing your makerspace.

  • Is it safe for children?
  • Will it encourage independent learning for students?
  • Will the students collaborate and communicate during the project creation?
  • Is it an engaging and enjoyable learning environment?

If the answer to all these questions are yes then you are on the right track.

It is also quite rewarding to open the doors of your makerspace to fellow colleagues, parent community and other educators. Makerspaces play a great host to events such as parent coffee mornings, student conferences, parent teacher meetings, parent workshops and professional development session for educators.

How to design a makerspace?
Designing a makerspace is a collaborative effort. Ensure the involvement of Leadership Team, estates team, IT Support team and school community during various stages of planning and development of the project.

Visiting other makerspaces also crystallizes your thinking and vision about goals and expectations you have from your own makerspace. Whether you are seeking help from the parents body, volunteers or professional architects for designing and layout of your makerspace, it is a good idea to provide them with list of resources and furniture you are expecting in the makerspace. These details are very helpful for creating specific electricity points, data points or simply arranging the furniture ensuring the space is well used, functional and child friendly.

What resources to have in the makerspace?
It is a common misconception that makerspaces are fund guzzlers. It definitely does not hurt to have a latest 3D printer or a robotic kit in the learning area however think about common materials such as cardboard, ice cream sticks, blu tack, feathers, scissors, tape, aluminium foil, plastic water bottles, crayons, paintbrushes and colours to get the creativity flowing. For more technology focused makerspace the following list of resources might be useful.

  • Bee bots
  • Dash and Dot
  • Makey makey kits
  • Sphero balls
  • Ollie
  • Big Trak
  • Arduino kits
  • Lego EV3 Mindstorm kits
  • Osmo Kits (Coding, Words, Numbers, Tangram, Monster, Newton and Masterpiece
  • Tiggly Kits (Word, Numbers and shapes)
  • LightUp Kits
  • Little Bits
  • Green Screen
  • MakerBot
  • 3D printer
  • Xbox Kinect
  • Child Friendly headphones such as BuddyPhones
  • Promethean Active Tables
  • Display TV screens
  • iPads
  • MacBooks
  • Apple TV
  • Short Throw Projectors

These resources will get your makerspace off to a good start. However, never shy away from having a wish list to further improve teaching and learning in your makerspaces. Virtual reality and augmented reality tools such as Microsoft HoloLense and Google Cardboard are currently topping my wish list.

Finally, which ways to keep student engagement ongoing?
Student engagement is an ongoing process. Make efforts to keep students engaged or better yet let students take the lead. Make a group of interested students and tap into this talent. Create peer groups such TechWiz, Innovators and Genius Guides to keep “ Student Leadership in Technology “ alive.

Run weekly professional development sessions for interested teachers with “Tech Tuesdays” or “Fab Fridays”. Develop common understanding of expectations and set a few rules to follow in the makerspace.

Receive feedback and try to improve with evolving needs of your students. Learning Forward Makerspaces are unique to each school and to its learning environment. These questions support development and planning of makerspaces keeping in mind specific requirements and needs of students. No matter what resources you use, learning by doing remains the main focus of all educational makerspaces.

Mayuri Ambule
Apple Educational Trainer
Apple Distinguished Educator
Google Certified Innovator
Common Sense Certified Educator

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