15 Ideas To Go Beyond Makers Space: Building a Makers Culture

15 Ideas To Go Beyond Makers Space… Building a Makers Culture

As I travel across the country it is wonderful to see all the schools building a Makerspace somewhere in their school. Each time I see this I am impressed by the educator, or group of educators, trying to make such a space possible for their school. After all, a Makerspace allows students to imagine, envision, create, innovate, play, learn in a formative manner, simulate, experiment, collaborate, think critically, communicate, share, synthesize, invent, evaluate, and most of all dream of new possibilities. These are the very verbs that make up the 4 C’s, Blooms Hierarchy, and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. I usually ask those teachers to reflect on the idea of building a space… or building a culture for making and creating. While a space for making might be a wonderful place to start, a culture of making should be a process and goal. Let me further define this difference.

Words are powerful and the way we name an initiative provides the needed synergy and process for ultimate success. A Makerspace is a wonderful place to visit and might actually be the catalyst for a bigger vision. As we look at Makers in a space we see that it has a defined boundary and might even be limited by time. In the world of technology integration, we have often had computer labs and we have worked at bringing this integration from the lab to the entire school. The technology integration has become part of the school culture. While I believe it is wonderful to start with a space for Makers, I also encourage educators to intentionally plan to allow the Maker Concept to become part of the school culture. Those amazing verbs can be part of classroom lessons and projects allowing students to make and do. John Dewey said

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.

Our standards are made of nouns and verbs. As a nation, we have concentrated on the memorization of the nouns, after all, the standardized test did not seem to care about our students doing anything with the nouns. A Maker Culture throughout the school will allow our students to “do” by addressing the verbs, making the nouns understandable, relevant, and authentic. Embracing a Maker Culture can take the standards in our curriculum and make them come alive as students practice the 4 C’s, venture to the top of Blooms, and experience the real depth found in Webb’s.

As you set up or evaluate the Maker movement in your school or district I ask you to think about going beyond space and think about culture. Imagine students having a passionate and informative answer to the question….”What did you do in school today?” Please reflect and possibly take some action with the fifteen ideas I have below. Use them as a vetting procedure, a filter, or an action plan. Enjoy the amazing and rewarding journey, as you Make and Create possibilities for your students!

  1. Keep in mind that Maker’s is a way of thinking, and not just the place or space. – With this in mind, the Maker Concept can occur anywhere and anytime. It can be in a dedicated space, or room, or in the library. It can be in the classroom, or possibly be a set of materials that can be brought out to students anytime. The real idea is to promote a Maker thought process that facilitates innovation, creative thinking, and self-learning throughout the school day.
  2. Make it part of the curriculum – It does not have to be a separate time but instead can be integrated into the curriculum. While an after school program is wonderful, why not bring it into the classroom by carefully connecting the idea of Making with the curricular material. Keep in mind that the final product should demonstrate learning.
  3. Promote significant content and standards – Provide students with important learning targets that are connected to the content being learned. Allowing students to make, while also emphasizing important standards can be powerful and effective. The act of making allows students to do and sets the foundation for understanding. In fact, a collaborative effort with groups of students can allow for discussions that lead to deeper understanding and retention.
  4. Reinforce authenticity and relevance – Genuine learning is connected to the real world. Don’t let final projects be landfill material. How can the products be useful in the real world? How can these products bring real meaning and promote student rigor and grit as they work?
  5. Promote those important success skills – Often referred to as 21st-century skills, it is important to use the Maker’s culture to both facilitate these skills and assess them. Go beyond the 4 C’s of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. What are the subsets of the skills and how can you provide time for students to not only practice the skills but also process them?
  6. Encourage the iterative process of learning – In this day of instant gratification and solutions, students need to learn that solutions and design do not happen in a short time period. It is important to allow for multiple drafts as students work toward a successful outcome. We must allow students to face a setback, attempt a hurdle, and practice persistence until satisfying and quality work is the final outcome.
  7. Allow for important metacognition -John Dewey stated that doing leads to important thinking, that in turn promotes genuine learning. Students must not only think about the process, but also journal, assess, and have conversations with others throughout the project. This will allow for a learning and understanding that is owned by the individual. This ownership transfers to genuine learning!
  8. Provide opportunities for student voice and choice – As you might know, the concept of a genius hour is quite popular. Based on the concept of the Google 20% program, students should be provided time to learn and make in regards to their interest. This can still be standards based as students write and use research skills. Of course, important 21st-century skills can also be assessed. Allowing for this could pave the way for important career pathways.
  9. Facilitate self-direction and regulation – A Maker’s culture allows students to set goals and provide both a timeline and method to make it happen. It allows students opportunities to learn on their own, or in small groups, often exploring ways that can make this happen. It is a wonderful way to promote lifelong learning.
  10. Align it to existing initiatives – How can the Maker’s culture work with other important programs and initiatives in the school. Perhaps it fits into PBL, STEM, 1 to 1, or particular school goals. It can provide an avenue to reach those 21st-century skills and can be used to reinforce important power standards.
  11. Provide 4 C’s Assessment – If you are facilitating the 21st-century skills (Four C’s), how are you assessing them? Are your students aware of the assessment and how to perform? While you want to assess the nouns in your standards, make sure to also include the verbs!
  12. Use the culture to promote Bloom and Webb – A Maker Culture provides the ultimate environment to incorporate Blooms Hierarchy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Students are provided time, process, and metacognition to truly understand the content.
  13. Continue to Assess Learning in multiple ways – While providing a classroom Maker’s culture, feel free to provide some assessment that is traditional including tests and quizzes. While standardized testing will change, it is probably not going away. At the same time look for ways to bring some performance-based assessment to the final grade.
  14. Balance the Learning – While students are Making, hold them accountable for the content. Make sure the doing represents real learning and students understand and explain standards. A classroom of doing must be based on substantial content.
  15. Bring Maker Culture to the Inservice – If people learn best by doing, then incorporate Maker ideas in a PD session. How can the Making of deliverables help teachers understand the concept of the in-service? Professional Development should allow for doing! It must be a model of what learning should look like in the classroom.

Are you going to FETC in Florida? Check out my sessions! I would enjoy meeting you!

  • W027: PBL Splash A Look at Project Based Learning (1/2 day Workshop)
  • W137: Beyond the Initial Technology Shine: Developing Lessons that Promote 21st Century Skills and Significant Content (1/2 day Workshop)
  • C206: PBL, STEM, and Makers Dewey Meets Technology: What Will You Do? (General Session)

Click here to learn more and possibly even discover a discount! I hope to see you in sunny Florida this January!

Booking Info – It is time to think about your school or conference needs. Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page. Please contact me soon if you have an interest. I am now almost booked through April. Perhaps you need to think about summer conference dates or PD needs, and it is not too early to think about the 2017/18 school year! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

cross-posted at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com.