Linking Literature to Makerspaces

Libraries seem to be the space where makerspaces are taking off.

a makerspaceThe library is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

A makerspace is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

In schools, the library is the only learning space not limited by curriculum; it is an open learning space, which can be interpreted in many ways, and I suggest that this is why so often makerspaces find their place there. Outside of schools, public libraries are increasingly one of the only ‘3rd places‘ where people can feel free to meet, collaborate and learn, without the pressure to spend (even coffee shops move you along if you linger without a coffee in front of you).  Not to mention that library staff are often the most open to new, exciting and innovative ways of interacting and engaging with learning and technology!

I have written before on makerfaires, resourcing makerspaces and the role of makerspaces in enabling creativity and creation.

However recently, I got to thinking about how there is a natural link between this new development in library culture – makerspaces, and one of the original and most seminal aspects of libraries – books.

There are several types of ‘maker’ books, and this blog will look at each in turn. But first, a description of these maker book categories.

The first and most literal interpretation are books that describe how to make things. These books have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but as the maker movement grows in popularity, have moved back into the limelight. Now, as well as the ever present craft and hobby books, there are also books available on a wide range of project types.

The second type of maker book are those about the maker movement. Either charting its development, or describing how or why you need a makerspace, these books are less in number, but are essential reading for anyone considering moving into this space from an educational or practical perspective.

The third and least considered category of maker books are picture books and other literature that features characters that display a ‘maker’ mindset. These beautiful books are fantastic for inspiring an open mind, a ‘give it a go’ attitude and for reinforcing the importance of persistence and problemsolving.

So – what are some of the best examples of each of these categories of maker book, and how can you use them to inspire young learners to get excited about inventing, innovating and creating?

Books about making things (category 1):

One of the surefire ways to ensure a successful makerspace is to get the students involved and engaged in what such a space might look like, and what local interests it might encourage and enable. So why not inspire them by creating a collection of books that encourage exactly the type of activities you might include in your space? There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books for every craft, hobby or activity you could even think of; this selection is just a small sample of the wonders that await you at your library or bookshop. Look for books that are highly visual, that offer projects at a range of expertise levels, and that feature activities suitable to your local context. Check out the titles below, and if you would like to see more, have a look at this work-in-progress list for further suggestions.

PicMonkey Collage

Books about the maker movement (category 2):

Anyone wanting to implement a makerspace should spend some time reading and learning about the ideas and thinking behind the concept. Laura Fleming, in her recently published book, Worlds of Making, spends much of the first chapter emphasising the importance of an innovative, empowering, safe culture, where failure is celebrated as a way to learn, and makers feel confident to take risks. Without this, even the most well-equipped makerspaces can fail, says Fleming.

Another essential part of planning a successful makerspace in a school is having a shared understanding of the reasons why it is being introduced – a strong understanding of the learnings possible in a makerspace, as well as how it contributes to the curriculum is how to ensure the makerspace is not seen as just this year’s fad. One of the essential texts which covers this is Invent to Learn, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, which gives an amazing introduction not only to the practicalities of makerspaces, but also the pedagogical understandings and reasoning informing this movement in schools.  Informing much of the maker movement is STEAM/STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Titles that explore this connection include Design Make Play by Margaret Honey and David E Kanter, as well as From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Thomas J. Pilecki. 

Beyond these practical texts, those interested in implementing makerspaces might also benefit from a deeper understanding of the maker movement in general, as well as some of the research regarding the importance of innovation, creativity and the need to prepare students for a future unlike anything we currently experience. Titles that you might consider include Creating Innovators and the Maker Movement Manifesto; books that examine what innovation looks like, how to develop innovative thinking and why creating, inventing and just getting your hands dirty making can lead to discoveries not possible through any other type of learning.IMG_0576

So you want a Makerspace is a list of these books and more; it is, as all good curated collections are, a work in progress, but it will put you on the path, and give you lots of food for thought. Almost all of these titles are currently available for loan to Brisbane Catholic Education staff through ResourceLink (link requires staff login), otherwise, try your local library or buy online or at your local bookshop.

Books about the Maker Mindset (Category 3)

The third group of books, and the least well known, are the growing number of picturebooks that have been written with little makers (and not so little makers) in mind. These books encourage the ‘give it a go’ ‘fail = first attempt in learning’ mindset that we want all students to have. From Rosie Revere, Engineer to Monkey with a Toolbelt, to Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart, who invents a farting machine to resolve his problem, these cute characters encourage children to get hands on with their learning. Beyond being engaging stories, these picture books provide a great starting point to inspire children’s own initiative and inquiry, and can be the catalyst for any number of adventures.

Other titles, for older readers include The Invention of Hugo Cabret (suitable for readers around 10 years of age) and for adults looking for a novel with a maker mindset, why not consider Makers by Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi future tale of technology and enterprise.

 

Examples of all of these types of maker books can be found on my Pinterest Board, Makerspace Picturebooks (and lists of other inspiring titles):

Why not create a display in your library, and inspire discussion around making, makerspaces and the potential creative use of library space for providing another avenue for learning and discovery; it could be the first step into a larger world!

 

Images appearing in this post are CC Licenced and used with permission from:

Phillipe Put, Thomas Leuthard, IMagineCup, Hindrik Sijens, Kenny Louie, L’ubuesque Boite a Savon, Sarah Houghton, Stuart Madeley.

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Chibitronics – Mashing Craft and Electronics in an exciting Maker Opportunity

Girl in chibi styleFor those who are fans of Manga or Anime, the term Chibi will be familiar as one used to describe super cute figures, usually with tiny bodies and huge heads. Chibi also is a Japanese slang term for tiny. Whether it is their tiny size or the super cute things you can create,the name ‘Chibitronics’ was a great choice of inventor, Jie Qi,. Chibitronics combine tiny sensors and electronic circuits with stickers, making it possible for anyone with imagination and some time to create interactive designs.

Chibitronics are an exciting addition to a Makerspace. They consist of tiny circuits on stickers, which can be combined with copper tape or conductive paint to make almost anything interactive. (click on the images below for a larger picture of these tiny stickers).

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Although the kits come with extra sticky backing so they can be re-used, the nature of chibitronics is that they are essentially consumable. This means that for those planning their inclusion in a makerspace, they are more effective as a special project material.

The starter kit is a great introduction, and provides everything you need to get started, as well as a comprehensive ‘sketchbook’ that gives examples of different ways of using the components and materials, including creating a simple circuit, parallel circuits, diy switches, blinking slide switches and DIY pressure sensors. Copper tape is supplied, and this or conductive paint can be used to create the circuits. The option to follow the instructions and create interactive examples within the pages of the sketchbook is there, or the simple projects can be reproduced using just paper or card.

Click on the image to go to this tutorial on the Chibitronics site.

Click on the image to go to this tutorial on the Chibitronics site.

The combination of circuitry and creativity that Chibitronics enables leads to a huge number of STEAM opportunities, where artistic creations can be made truly interactive. I created a simple interactive Library poster, where lights indicate different sections of the library when one presses the stickers next to the floorplan legend:
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On the back of the colour overlay, are copper tape ‘switches’ that close the circuit to light the appropriate area when the gold sticker is pressed. You can see how it works in the video below:

Online, there is a Chibitronics forum community where ideas can be shared, and lots of wonderful creations to spark the imagination available on the Projects page

For those who want to extend themselves, Chibtronics also has advanced stickers, that enable you to use sound to activate the lights (watch the lights twinkle in the video below when the sound sensor picks up the breath:

or even connect a microcontroller for added flexibility.

ResourceLink has a kit which includes samples of all of these stickers, as well as the sketchbook and a hyperlink to this post. For schools within Brisbane Catholic Education, you can borrow this kit to see what Chibitronics look like in real life (although you can’t actually use the stickers), and to explore whether or not you would like to invest in a set for a special project with your mini makers (students!).

This is the sample kit you can borrow from ResourceLink. It has examples of all types of Chibitronics for you to look at.

This is the sample kit you can borrow from ResourceLink. It has examples of all types of Chibitronics for you to look at, as well as the interactive library poster example, the Sketchbook and also a photocopiable booklet of the Chibitronic templates and tutorials.

Share your project ideas in the comments; Chibitronics are another fantastic and exciting new way that students can be empowered to apply their scientific knowledge in real and engaging ways to create and invent. Check them out!

 

Love Your Library on February 14

library lovers displayMove over St Valentine! February 14 is now also known as ‘Library Lovers’ Day’, and to celebrate, this post is all about why everyone should reconnect with the library – be it their school or institution’s library or a nearby public library.

Too often, we librarians hear comments such as ‘who needs libraries when we have Google?’, or, when they hear that one is a librarian, the response ‘so you just spend all day reading and telling people to be quiet!’

Today, more than ever, libraries play an essential role and events such as Library Lovers’ Day aim to raise the profile of the services that most people don’t even realise are freely available to them in this information age.

If, after viewing Pam Sandlian Smith speak, you still aren’t convinced we need libraries in the 21st century, ask yourself this:

What can your library and/or librarian do for you, that Google can’t?

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

1. Provide access to curated information that specifically meets your needs

Trying to find quality information on the internet has been described as trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Even choosing a novel to read can be an overwhelming experience when faced with the millions of titles available through providers such as Amazon.

Your library provides access to information and resources that have been carefully curated, chosen because they are of high quality and will meet local needs. What’s more, your librarian has been specifically trained to help you find the information you want; they know tips and tricks for searching online, have access to databases and indexes that allow them to drill down into areas that a simple surface search will not reach, and are familiar with the collection of resources that are currently available.

What’s more, with more resources being available digitally either online or for download, library catalogues are becoming far richer than simply lists of books that are sitting on shelves. The ResourceLink library catalogue  provides access to books, DVDs, CDs and other physical resources, as well as e-books and audio-books to download, links to websites, reviews of apps for installation on mobile devices and more. This movement to seeing the library catalogue as a social space, is being adopted across many libraries.

Librarians take pride in developing rich library catalogues that take users directly to high quality resources; the ten top ‘hits’ on a catalogue are probably much closer to what you need than the ten top ‘hits’ from a simple Google search.

2. Provide access to resources and items which may not be practical to purchase

Not everyone can afford to buy every book they want to read. Educational resources, used once in a classroom, can be difficult to justify, and technology is so expensive that it is often not worth buying something that you just want to play with to see if you like it.

Libraries can come to the rescue! Loaning out expensive items that are often used as a ‘once off’ makes economic sense, and in an age of sustainability also reduces waste. The ResourceLink library is purchasing increasing numbers of kits such as the Despatch Box and realia such as Indigenous and religious artefacts, which schools can borrow for the period of time in which they require these resources. Expensive texts can be borrowed so that teachers can peruse them before making the decision to invest, and DVDs, CDs, puppets and posters are available for effective lessons that involve multimedia, without the need for purchase.

3. Provide a social space to meet, collaborate, research, learn, share, relax!

The library provides one of the last public spaces which is truly free. While some may insist that the stereotypical ‘silent’ library still exists, in most places you will find that libraries provide spaces for meeting, talking, eating, working, studying, playing and more. With great examples of modern libraries here in Brisbane such as our own State Library, The Edge and our wonderful public libraries, we here at ResourceLink are also working towards making our space a welcoming, flexible learning environment. School libraries have long been a place of refuge from the playground for many students, and now, with changing technologies and concepts such as maker spaces becoming common place, libraries are even more exciting places to explore than ever before.

ALIA promotes Library Lovers Day, and this year, they are asking everyone to share why they love their library on social media, using the hashtag #librarylove – and take the time to vote for your favourite library also!

If you haven’t visited your nearest library recently, take the time to drop by. Let’s make it a date!

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Living ‘appily ever after in the library


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki
In education, mobile devices have taken a strong hold – and for good reason. They are less expensive than computers, more portable, and far more responsive for impatient learners who demand instant access. There are thousands of apps designed with an educational focus, and many more productivity and content-creation apps that can be used effectively by students to facilitate and enhance their learning. Like all new technology, apps bring challenges to the school library – the centre in the school for resource and information management.

The library’s resource management role

The school library may be given the responsibility for managing the school’s fleet of mobile devices, and is certainly a natural centre for managing the purchasing of apps. This is an opportunity for the library to develop another area of service for students and teachers, and to reinforce the resource management role of the library.

Managing apps can present challenges, as most mobile devices are designed to be owned and managed by an individual. When managed centrally, creative approaches are needed to ensure the device is set up to meet multiple users’ needs while complying with complex legal limitations.

Identifying apps

It can be overwhelming to keep track of recommendations for app purchases. Time-poor teachers often leave requests until the last moment, or request an app that meets the same needs as one already installed on school devices. One way to manage this is to create an online form that teachers complete in order to request the purchase of apps. You can see an example of such a form here.

Online forms may be embedded into webpages, meaning the request form can be built into the library’s online presence. Using a form such as this controls the flow of app requests, helps teachers to consider why they are requesting the app and how they are going to use it, and also gives library staff time to manage the app purchasing and loading process. Having a set time each week for app loading, and making this clear on the form, should go some way to streamline  requests and ensure apps are ready for lessons.

Cataloguing apps


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Glyn Lowe Photoworks
Once apps are purchased, the next step in effective management is to add these to the library catalogue.  As well as providing access to the range of hard copy resources that are physically stored on the library shelves, the school library catalogue should also be a doorway to a range of carefully curated digital resources, including apps.

By cataloguing apps, librarians are placing into the hands of users a way of finding quality apps that have been evaluated from an educational perspective and which, through the use of metadata, may be linked to other supporting resources and tools. Cataloguing apps also allows librarians to quickly identify whether an app has already been purchased and the device it has been loaded onto, which is an organisational boon for those managing large fleets of devices.

Curating and promoting apps

Of course, there also needs to be an awareness of the range of apps that are available on school devices. It is here that social bookmarking tools such as Pinterest and Pearltrees may be useful. These curation tools create appealing visual displays, and are popularly used by students and teachers to manage information. A Pinterest board of apps related to inquiry learning, for example, is a great way for librarians to advertise apps already purchased, and how they might be used. Similarly, Pearltrees allows for apps to be categorised according to learning area or topic.

Acquiring apps

One of the best things about apps is their relatively low cost. Although a few specialist apps can be expensive, on the whole paid apps range from 99c up to $10. In addition, there are many free apps available, some fully functional, and others as ‘lite’ versions that provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

The decision to choose the free or paid version is dependent upon the app. In many cases, choosing the paid version of an app results in a better experience for users. This is for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that, essentially, nothing is really free and, often, free apps are funded with advertising or require ‘in app’ purchases in order to reach full functionality. Secondly, some free apps allow the user to create content, but limit the ways of exporting or sharing the finished product. Other times, the app will watermark the content, or limit the number of times something can be produced.

Even though apps are relatively inexpensive, paying for apps to be installed on multiple devices can quickly increase costs. There is a misconception that one app may be installed on up to five devices; however, this only holds true for personal use, and schools must purchase one app per device. Accessing Apple’s volume licencing goes some way to reducing these costs for those using Apple devices although not all apps are available through this program.

Who manages the purchases of apps, and how they are purchased is also an issue that must be addressed. If apps are being loaded centrally by the library staff, then it makes sense that they should be in charge of purchasing. The budget for these purchases may be centralised, or may form part of the app request process (i.e. teachers must ensure they have enough funds available to purchase apps that they request). Often gift cards are used to remove the need for credit cards, which can add an extra layer of complexity. An added benefit of using gift cards is that these frequently go on sale, allowing users to save up to 20% on the cost of purchase.

Evaluating apps

Evaluation of Apps

Click on this image to download a printable PDF of an evaluation form

Ideally, every app should be carefully evaluated before it is purchased, to ensure the best use of school funds. When evaluating apps, there are three main aspects that must be considered: purpose, design and content, and process.

Quality teaching comes from using apps that are not just chosen because they were recommended, but when teachers recognise the app’s purpose and potential.

 
This includes teachers knowing and being able to articulate:

•    what added value the app brings to the learning context
•    how the app enriches and adds to the pedagogy being used

•    the potential for the app to amplify learning through creation, remixing, publication and sharing
•    a familiarity with where the app sits within Puentedura’s SAMR model and whether or not the app simply automates or substitutes for a traditional learning task, or if it brings about truly informative and transformative learning, that simply could not be achieved any other way. (based on the work of Rosenthal Tolisano, May 27 2012).

The design of the app is hugely important. The app should be intuitive to allow user independence. It should provide a secure and stable platform, with a variety of ways to share the content created. It is also worthwhile to check if student data can be stored, so that if an activity is interrupted partway through, work may be resumed from the same point at a later time. Ideally, the app will also be flexible in use, suitable for a range of learners, or for a range of learning experiences.

 

Finally the content and processes of the app must be evaluated. This evaluation will be dependent upon curriculum requirements, the classroom context and the experience of those working with the app. Criteria such as the authenticity of the learning, the connections to the curriculum and the opportunities for differentiation and personalisation should be considered. Many apps are excellent in providing rapid and effective feedback to learners, and allow learners to be creative and self-directed in problem solving.

There are many checklists and rubrics available online to guide this evaluation (some are available here). Schools may find that it is best to create individualised criteria, to reflect unique school needs and requirements. One of the best ways of managing the information gathered from this evaluation process is to use an online form, so that evaluations are collected in the form of a spreadsheet that all users may access. An example may be seen here.

e-reading vs apps

Another way libraries are using mobile devices is as e-readers. The distinction between an e-book, an e-audiobook and an app is becoming increasingly blurred, and an app may provide another way of engaging a reader. While there is some evidence to suggest students are growing to prefer e-readers to traditional books (Bosman, 2011 and Indiana State University, 2013), there is still a place for a physical collection. The decision to offer e-books and audio books via mobile devices is one that libraries might make as a way of meeting the needs of many different types of learner, and to offer a variety of avenues to access information. The evolution of e-books in the library space is one that demands close observation, and cannot be ignored by librarians who are operating at the cutting edge of this area.

Libraries are always being challenged to take on new and innovative ways of delivering information and resources to their patrons. Effective management of mobile devices and apps takes forward planning, but the benefits of having a well-organised and centralised system for evaluating, purchasing, cataloguing and loading apps will result in a service that is appreciated by all members of the school community.

References:

Bosman, J. (2011). E-readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://173.201.102.115/eslefl/miscstudent/downloadpagearticles/untitled5.pdf

Indiana State University. (2013, May 24). Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books. Newswise. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.newswise.com/articles/research-shows-students-perform-well-regardless-of-reading-print-or-digital-books2

 

This article was originally published in SCIS Connections, Issue 86.

You can view it online here:

http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_86/articles/living_appily_ever_after_in_the_library.html