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.

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!

 

#Edutechau – Report from the 2015 Edutech Conference

This is why we must have events like Edutech.

The Edutech Conference is the largest of its kind in Australia. Over 1000 delegates, participating in streams reaching broadly across the educational landscape; K-12 Leadership, Teacher Librarianship, IT Directors, Higher Ed, Vocational Education and Training, Tertiary Education, Business Managers – basically if you are in education, there is a stream for you.

The world is undeniably changing, and we must prepare students for a future which will be significantly different to our own experiences. Many speakers, including David Price, author of Open, How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future, pointed out that the rate of technology development is rapidly shaping the skills and capacities required by today’s learners. While the entire 15 minutes of the following video is fascinating viewing, here’s just the final summary, which paints a challenge for everyone in education and indeed in government today:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. George Couros asked us to remember that sometimes, it can be easy to be drawn into the myths of technology, and be swayed by the negative hyperbole of the media. His stirring keynote reminded us that there is a lot to be gained from the connections social media enables us to create; both from a learning and a personal point of view. He presented strong challenges to the myths of technology; that it automatically ensures engagement and that connecting with strangers online is inherently dangerous He also argued against the common beliefs that technology will make us narcissistic, replace face to face interaction and dehumanise us, while also making us dumb! You can read more about each of these on George’s blog, where he addresses each of these myths.

One of the highlights of the 3 days was the effervescent Super Awesome Sylvia, who’s have a go attitude and maker videos have brought her world wide attention at age 13. Her short keynote was a great example of ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’ – she was clearly nervous (as any normal person speaking in front of such a huge crowd would be), but she spoke with passion and simplicity, encouraging everyone to take on a maker mindset, see failure as part of learning and learn through play.

2015-06-09_0933Personally, I had great fun presenting to a group on the value of developing your Personal/Professional/Passionate Learning Network, using Social Media, and also was honoured to be a part of a panel which included Joyce Valenza, Jane Viner and led by Debbie Hunter, where we discussed the value and importance of curation for the Australian Curriculum.

 

Reporting on such a massive conference is challenging, as it is physically impossible to participate in the workshops run simultaneously by world class speakers, and even a keen eye on the mind-boggling tweet stream could only give a glimpse at the amount of information being trafficked. My summary below is just a tiny snapshot. I have included also as many links as I could to the speakers’ handouts, websites or resources, as well as the links to my Storify Summaries, which are on the final page of the presentation below, which was created in my latest tool ‘discovery’, E-Maze.

The video below tries to capture some of the emerging themes of the conference. You can view it at a more leisurely pace, viewing the videos and accessing the hyperlinks (the little orange ‘play’ symbol indicates if a word or phrase is a hyperlink, and every web address should also link directly out) viewing it online here.

If you would like to read more deeply into some of the wisdom shared via twitter by accessing the three Storify summaries I have created – one for each day.

2015-06-09_08282015-06-09_0828_0012015-06-09_0828_002 This was my first experience of Edutech. It was a great confirmation of the work we are doing at schools in Brisbane Catholic Education, and an opportunity to meet with likeminded educators who all share the belief that being an educator is an ongoing learning experience. Share your Edutech experience in the comments below!