from Sandringham Primary School

I’ve been spending the last week in Nashville with colleagues from boys schools around the world thinking and talking about maker learning in schools.  The role of makerspaces in the school learning commons is becoming more clear and I thought that I’d share a couple of thoughts.

What excites me most about the “maker revolution” is the idea of deep inquiry through the building of “stuff”; the idea that people transcend the use of tools to explore abstract ideas in a very tangeable, hands on way.  This is where the connection between libraries and makerspaces hits its sweet spot.  There are those that fear that makerspaces are too loud and messy to be in a library and that they are far too focused on basic skill development to make sense in a library.  While these are legitimate concerns, the overlap of the best of the makerspace and library as vehicles for inquiry is what unites them and makes them an ideal pairing.  If folks can come together in a learning commons (think of that term in the specific library sense and as blown up into its broader sense of any communal learning space) to solve big problems, the idea that ALL the resources and tools for this inquiry are united with the community they serve is very powerful.  The use of these spaces to go beyond the individual skills of making to dig deep into problems, ideas and concepts is exciting.

The second area where the school learning commons becomes the ideal space for making is at the opposite end of that inquiry spectrum.  Bill Derry, Leslie Preddy and David Loertscher talk about the uTEC model where an individual uses, tinkers, experiments and creates with specific tool sets.  The ultimate goal is to transcend the tool as we have discussed above.  One becomes so fluent in the use of the tool that, like in language learning, one thinks “in” the tool.  The tool is no longer this external utility, but it is more an internal function of thinking that simply serves the thought process.  But to get to this place of true creativity, one needs to learn the basics of the tool.  As educators continue to explore different models of demonstration of built knowledge through multiple literacies and constructivist approaches, the students need a place to build these making skills and start to learn to use the tools.  It’s too late to learn video production when an English teacher tells her students to produce a movie to explore a topic.  If a student has a play space that contains the tools to record and edit video, the resources to guide them and a community of learners to share expertise or the learning journey, then they are much closer to the create end of the spectrum when they get this assignment.  They can focus on the ideas that they are wrestling with, not be burdened with learning a new set of tools and skills.

It seems to me that the school learning commons can be that place.  It is a central hub of learning already that understands the cross-curricular demands that the students face.  It is already a community of resources and inquiry.  It has traditionally been a place in the school that sits at the front end of many technological advances as they impact the information world.  What better place to build a community of makers to learn the skills that can be applied both in deep inquiry in the space itself and throughout the school in their specific curricular pursuits.  In the Learning Commons we can:

  • play, with no fear of failure
  • build a community of makers/learners that support each other in their endeavours
  • support specific types of making that are being asked for in a variety of curricular areas
  • support student needs/interests as defined by them
  • provide a community to not only share knowledge, but to share the products of that making

I’m excited to see how these ideas play out in my Learning Commons in the coming year(s).  As always, discussion is always welcome and encouraged on this blog.  If you think that I’m off my nut, please tell me!


2 thoughts on “Making in the School Learning Commons

  1. This blog post resonated with me as I embark on creating a makerspace within my MS/HS library. I am working with a team and we are discussing the degree to which the space should support curriculum or embrace more self directed learning…

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and reply, Victoria. I would love to hear about any progress that you’ve made in building your makerspace. I love the idea that a makerspace can, and I think should, serve to do both: support curriculum and foster curiosity and inquiry. It can be a place of surface learning skills where students might learn skills that they may or may not take back to the classroom to use in PBL or maker learning assignments. It can also be a place where deep concepts are explored using skills that have already been learned or are being learned on an “as needed” basis.

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