Does a MakerSpace have to be a Space?

Many schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) are including a MakerSpace in their square footage.  People are reconfiguring spaces, libraries, learning commons, classrooms and basement rooms to include a MakerSpace.  People are using grant money, parent council money, and other kinds of budgets to make this happen but I’m asking, does a makerspace have to be a space?

I mean it is nice if students have a dedicated space to do their making, designing and hands on learning but the space is not as crucial to making as the mindset.

Students and teachers may have a dedicated space to make with many fine kits and equipment but if the making is done as a “special” or unusual activity that must be booked and scheduled in, I feel students would not have the kind of making experience I envision.


Having a maker mindset that permeates a classroom with opportunities to try inventions and ideas out during the natural flow of learning creates an atmosphere where making is not a planned or scheduled event but an everyday occurrence.

The opportunity to embed this type of hands-on learning into each and every classroom suggests that the separate space idea may be just a short term measure to include making in schools.  Teachers may move making directly into their classrooms as a way for students to express the outcomes of their learning in ways other than paper and pen or digital documents.

It’s great to have a MakerSpace but even better to have a maker mindset in every classroom for students who are tackling real world problems to be able to create many types of physical solutions as they continue to ponder solutions and learn original ways to problem solve creatively.


Game On!


The four “super-skills” in education currently are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.  How do you included all of these skills in a classroom?  Use a game.

We recently used BreakOut EDU, a locked box game much like the “locked room” scenarios popular today,  with 34 pre-service teaching students to show them the advantages of including a game in the classroom.

Students were in groups to tackle two game scenarios, one aimed at elementary classrooms and the other a little more complicated for middle school or even high school classes.

Students found they had to communicate with each other to find out the nature of the locks and the clues that would, potentially, unlock them.  Collaboration was a valuable skill as some clues included math formulas or several people brainstorming answers to clues. People relied on their personal subject area strengths to contribute answers to some of the questions.

Critical thinking came in to play when teams inevitably hit the wall with some clues.  Students began to “think outside the box” for answers to some roadblocks.

Finally, students became quite creative as time ran down on the game to match clue information with lock design. The teams were all successful.

By experiencing a real game situation, all of these students will be more prepared to introduce a game or game design into their own classrooms.

Please visit our new Research Guide about Games and Simulations from the Doucette Home Page for more information about including games in the classroom.

Horizon Report 2017 – Makerspaces

The current Horizon Report for K-12,  collected, curated and written by members of the New Media Consortium (NMC) has recently been published online.  I have referred to this annual report before, as it looks at various educational technologies and the possible time to adoption within schools.


Today, of interest, is the report about makerspaces contained within the “Important Development in Educational Technology for K-12 Education” section.  Adoption for this addition to most schools is categorized as “one year or less.”

More interesting that the statistics about the adoption of makerspaces in schools is the more subtle change in language around the creation and use of a single space to the more general adoption of a “mindset.”  Although, those who follow this blog would say that the report is “preaching to the choir,” I think this change in language is important to the development and sustainability of the makerspace movement.

“Building dedicated spaces for such activities can be perceived as secondary to the true spirit of this trend – integrating the maker mindset into the formal curriculum to spur real-world learning.” (p. 40, NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2017)

For pre-service teachers, researchers, and practicing teachers, this notion of developing a maker mindset within a classroom provides an over arching environment from which all learning can be done.

Creating an atmosphere filled with the 4 C’s:  critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity demands the inclusion of a maker mindset, not just a space, within the classroom.

Stay tuned for further reflections on this report.

Maker Faire 2.0

We are happy to say that we have successfully held our second annual Maker Faire in the Doucette Library.

Amid the bubbles, limbo, musical instruments and dress up clothing, we hosted about 300 students and their prototypes.  For anyone quick enough to think of the implications of this many prototypes in one place, they photographed lesson plans, materials and prototypes for a file of great ideas that may suit their teaching sometime in the future.

What exactly were we doing?  There was method in this madness for many reasons.  We were showing students what a Maker Faire in their school or classroom may look like.  We wanted students to see what kind of celebration students would take part in after working through their own problem solving using the design thinking process to prototype ideas and various outcomes.

We also wanted students to feel the engagement that is prevalent when design thinking is introduced into a project.  Creativity and innovation abound when few boundaries are put in place and students are allowed to draw on their own strengths to research and work through a problem.

We wanted also to celebrate the amazing work that has taken place over the last two years by these pre-service teachers.  As they launch to schools for their final practicum and to jobs in the teaching workforce, we hope they remember the Doucette Library has amazing resources for them to draw upon and that they return to make use of them.

And at this moment, I would like to thank my “partner-in-crime,” Tammy Flanders whose wonderful ideas and willingness to wear a tutu for a cause are second to none.  If you have a partner teacher like my partner librarian, your work life will be a breeze.  And I would also like to thank Dr. James Paul and his continual endorsement of the Doucette Library.  Our Maker Faire was a success because of all of the people involved.

Creativity and Classrooms

In the five weeks of the Robert Kelly hosted Book Lab about his latest book, Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention, I feel I understand where we, as educators, are headed better than I did before.


I also  have more questions than ever before.

Creating a culture of collaboration and creativity is essential to move towards a more student-centred decision making model. Kelly’s notion that by flattening out the hierarchy in any educational environment, it allows for true collaboration among all participants.  He articulates the idea of teacher as facilitator and student as captain of their own learning in a way I wish I could.

Kelly challenges the structure of the classroom and the mindsets of those within it so thoroughly as to set the whole concept of education on its head.  And that is a good thing.  Through anecdotal evidence, we see how students who direct their own learning are highly motivated and engaged in self-motivated challenges that round their learning not tied to curriculum but more in tune with how learning takes place in the real world.  This type of learning is messy, not highly structured, not completed in a period, a day or a week. This learning is inclusive, consuming and relevant.

Educational technologies are the tools that suit the task, not a separate skill to be acquired through artificially created and staged outcomes.

Robert Kelly’s ideas challenge how I see students engaging in their education and that is exciting and interesting and scary all at the same time.   Look at this book to promote some “outside the box” thinking for yourself and your students.


Maker Mindset

The Maker Movement is much more than just a space to provide students in the K-20 environment with a tricked-out place to “do” what they are learning.  A Maker Space without the mindset is just another static museum installation.  The pressure on schools, currently, to install a Maker Space complete with 3D printers and technology to rival NASA does not address the making at all.  The space is just a place before you gather the people with the maker mindset to facilitate within the space.

What does that look like? In most schools, it means looking around for staff who are “makers” and are naturally curious about the space and tools and match them with the space and students to see how the relationship works out.  Before teachers adopt making into curriculum teaching, they may need a chance to see what it looks like in an after school or lunch time club setting. The road to adoption for many staff may be in seeing the learning that goes on in the space before they imagine it working in a particular unit.

I am currently reading and working through the ideas in Creative Development by Robert Kelly.


In a series of 5 workshops held here on campus by the author, we are learning about creativity, innovation, design thinking and collaboration and what each concept looks like in the future of education.  It is an exciting time to think what is possible if the learning is experienced by students at the hands of creative facilitators.  Although these notions won’t be adopted immediately into K-20 classrooms, the more we know about each concept and how to recognize it in teaching and learning, the better chance we have to be moving towards adoption.  More on these key concepts in upcoming blog posts.

Picture Books that Promote Curiosity, Imagination and General Wondering

In a departure from the usual technology analysis, I will spend today looking at some new picture books that can be resources and browsers in a K-4 classroom to get kids wondering about the world around them.  These picks are from some recent arrivals in the library and are chosen for high interest and engagement.

What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Both by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom.  Interesting juxtaposition of two great concepts – things you need to wonder about. An idea looks like an egg with a crown.  A problem looks like a big swirly, dark cloud.  Is an idea good? Does a problem present an opportunity?

Ideas Are All Around? by Philip C. Stead. How do you begin to write something? Taking a walk with your dog gives you many experiences. Are they worth writing about? What do you notice? Stop War – now there is a good idea.


The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  “Know this: there is magic around but it hides.” “Be open to it.” Hone your powers of observation, around you, above you, near you.  Allow your feet to determine where you may journey and notice all there is to explore.


City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Notice all that is around you and tie it to some of your knowledge.  Recognize shapes in your environment as a beginning understanding of your world. This book would be a great provocation for a grade 1 photography project.  A way for students to study their community through the lens of a camera or an iPad.


Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Brian Won.  S.A.M. (get it?) has a unique view of the world and all the adventures that are to be had.  Discover a unique perspective on shoe shopping by one imaginative boy.


Use Your Imagination (but be careful what you wish for!) by Nicola O’Bryne.  A typical fairy tale re-telling becomes a whole new story with a little imagination.  Can you change other stories? What would be a more unexpected twist or turn in the stories you are reading?


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  True to life, people in a grey neighbourhood re-imagine it with colourful murals and paintings.  The entire neighbourhood joins in and life is forever changed.  Art changes people.  One person can change a neighbourhood or their school or city or country or the world.


These are a few picks to invigorate your current classroom library and to engage students in a deeper thinking process.  Igniting curiosity is a game changer.


Quick Note about Mix on Pix


Our favourite person who comments on this blog, Francois Robert  has agreed to make the Mix on Pix app available for free for a little while longer for you students or teachers who would like to get it on the iPads in your school.  Again, it is a great way to have students capture the process of their learning and to comment on it.  Or for you to comment on it for them.  A fun and useful app.

Technology and the New Student

I have recently become a fan of Tony Wagner.  After reading, without pause, Creating Innovators: the making of young people who will change the world, I am truly excited about the prospect of disrupting the current style of teaching in most schools.  To turn upside down our current teacher-centered, information imparting model for a challenging, interactive, “information is everywhere” format seems to address the reality of today’s students.

Why not deal in reality? Our digital natives have been raised on YouTube and reality television.  Let’s put them in real situations, solving real problems, using real information to formulate solutions that may or may not succeed in the real world.  Where better to take innovative risks than in the comfort of the classroom as laboratory.

What was frowned on before will be celebrated in these new classrooms.  Creativity, imagination, curiosity will be encouraged.  Initiative and persistence will be celebrated.  Collaboration will be the order of the day.  Teachers will fulfill a role as mentor, adviser, facilitator, using their experiences to guide students through the processes of design, prototyping and inventing.

Students will be actively learning to observe, make connections, apply their acquired knowledge in diverse situations and to collaborate with other students who have slightly different frames of reference from which to gather solutions.

And why should we embrace this student-centered model? The answer to that questions is contained in another book by Tony Wagner: The Global Achievement Gap: why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need — and what we can do about it.

Which Apps Work Best

tinkerboxWe have a iPad cart here at the Doucette Library that is loaded with education apps for elementary and secondary students.  Although I used some apps with students in my elementary school job, it is only since I have been at the Doucette that I am learning what a great app does.  When testing out apps to be loaded for teachers in training, I found that the one use, reward based, apps were the least attractive over the long term. In experimenting with apps, I found the creative apps like Book Creator or TinkerBoxHD allow students to create content on their iPad with very little training.  This creativity and presentation of content is key to a good app.  TinkerBoxHD allows students to learn simple physics principles though puzzle solving, then leads them to invent using these principles.

bookcreatorapp Book Creator allows students to load various kinds of content, created by their own hand or downloaded, into e-book form.  How exciting for students to be writing, illustrating, and creating their own books.  In loading a classroom iPad, play with each app to plan how students can use them creatively within the classroom.  Oh, and one other thing I learned, listen to your students. Sometimes they know about apps you can only imagine but would be wonderful additions to your creative bag of tricks.