Makerspace or Making Space for Learning?

As computers have become more ubiquitous, old-style computer labs have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Children don’t go to a separate room to learn programmes just in case they might need to use them as adults. They are using programmes as part of their learning now, with a strong likelihood that the device and programme will likely be obsolete by the time they finish high school.

Or have computer labs been replaced?

Makerspaces – places where children can make use of robotory, laser cutting but it can also be a place to explore fabrics and carpentry, or a mix of the two worlds to build and create have replaced the teacher-directed computer lab

Over the last few weeks of our Unit of Inquiry into How the World Works, various items from my school’s’ central Makerspace have been moving up to our pod of classrooms.

A 3D printer.

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Lego Mindstorms

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The old school tools were also close by – glue guns, saws, box cutters and cardboard.

We are finding that by bringing materials from the Makerspace to our learning pod has led to an explosion in interest in developing models and construction. Instead of making being something that we need to ‘go to the MakerSpace’ to do, the materials are accessible to our learners as and when they need them.

Placing devices in children’s hands in classrooms enabled digital creation to go from something that needed to be scheduled in advance to something the children use for specific learning purposes and then putting away again.

But in our rush to bring devices into learning spaces did we push out our traditional tools of building in creation?

One of the luxuries of teaching in an Innovative Learning Environment – 6 classrooms with walls knocked out and a large open common space – is that teacher and learners can reconfigure the space in order to meet particular needs.

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Innovative learning spaces enable access to shared resources – both physical and teacher expertise

Each teacher and room does not need a ‘building and construction’ area in order to make materials accessible – the common space has morphed into the maker space for children from across to the year group to access.

But it’s not just the physical resources children can access.

Tearing down classroom walls means that teaching expertise can be split – one teacher might be supervising the tools area, while another might be leading a safety workshop, a third is helping out with a small group in a collaboration area with design questions while the digital coach drops into the space to work with yet another group.

Makerspaces still have their place in schools as hubs of hands-on creativity.

But let’s not fall into the trap of sequestering hands-on creativity to one physical space removed from our learning.

Making space for hands-on creativity requires moving away from old ways of doing things –  spaces that have one purpose, children producing the same product to share, teachers working in classrooms isolated from each other and plenty of time to go back to the drawing board when creations don’t go to plan.

 

 

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