Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don't be a Makerspace Negative Nelly #MakerEd

One of the things I have always loved about the Maker Movement was the diverse community that loved to share their ideas. I felt very welcomed by many different people that supported my exploration of Makerspaces and helped point me in the right direction if they couldn't answer my many questions. Now, I have teachers coming to me with Makerspace questions and I return the favor. It truly is an important part of the Maker Movement. However, every community has its Negative Nellies.

There are many different approaches to starting Making in your school or classroom. Some might have admin buy-in and the money to dive in and buy tons of goodies for a space. Others might not have that support and are trying to stretch their budgets to support student-led inquiry. Some educators might have an excited student and teacher base begging to get their hands dirty in a Makerspace and others might have a small group of interested students and a resistant teacher base. All Makerspaces are not going to be built the same way for the exact same reasons. That is OK!

I'm asking educators to ignore those people that insist that the way that you are doing Making or Makerspaces incorrectly. Ignore the people that are adamant that the approach you are taking is wrong and the only way to truly create Makerspaces is to do it exactly as they tell you on Twitter, in their books, on their blogs, etc. There is a big difference between sharing your ideas on how Makerspaces work for you and telling others they are wrong. I've written a book and I think the way I went about setting up a Makerspace is helpful information to those interested in starting their own space, but I do not pretend to have all of the information. If I don't have the info, I will point educators to some of the amazing Maker Educators out there. (Note: This is not all of the awesome people out there. I'm constantly adding people and companies as I interact with them. So, don't be upset if you are not on there. I'm sure it was an oversight or a fat thumb issue.)

I've seen crazy heated conversations erupt over LEGO walls and Makerspace Challenges. Personally, I think having a LEGO wall where kids can just build and do silly things is cool, but I do not know I would put it in a high school Makerspace. Maybe they would love it. I hoped if I did decide to try it, I would get support from teachers and not blow-back on how I'm not creating a "real" Makerspace. I love the idea of challenges and think that it could be a nice component of a Makerspace. Some students are not sure where to start, so a pack of challenges that encourages students to explore different aspects of the space would be a nice way to introduce different Maker ideas to various students. It should not be the only way a student is allowed to interact with a Makerspace, but one element of it. Every Makerspace is designed to be different and each educator needs to keep that in mind while they building one and before they criticize one. 

Lastly, the Maker Mentality is the most important thing educators want to see installed in their school. With the right mentality, every space can become a Makerspace. I think many educators realize that, but you have to start somewhere. Sometimes the environment is ripe for an entire part of the library to be a Makerspace and other environments need to start with a cart that goes from class to class to support specific teachers ready to embrace the idea. Again, every school and educator is in a different place and they are all working to bring the tools, skills, and mentality to their students. These teacher has the best intentions for their learning environment and they, like all of us, will make mistakes along the way. Trashing their attempts to provide these opportunities to students is not helping and truly antithetical to the Maker Mentality. 

Try something new, see how it works, iterate if it fails, look for support from the community, and try again. Repeat as needed.  

Why should creating a Makerspace be any different?