you're telling me what you need. I'm telling you what we have to work withWhat are Makerspaces?


The turn of the 21st century has signaled a shift in what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people.

The question of how to renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future is being answered through the concept of Makerspaces, or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. Makerspaces are intended to appeal to people of all ages, and are founded an openness to experiment, iterate, and create.

The driving force behind Maker spaces is rooted in the Maker movement, a following comprised of artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers, and anyone else who has a passion for making things. The formation of the movement stems from the success of the Maker Faire, a gathering that launched in 2006, and has since propagated itself into numerous community-driven events all over the world.

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- john.burns john.burns Oct 11, 2015

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - michael.boll michael.boll Oct 16, 2015 While the maker movement is not a technology exactly, the reduction in costs associated with "making" has dropped. Raspberry Pi's, Makey Makey and more mean students can create awesome products like never before.
  • - Chris.carter Chris.carter Oct 19, 2015Annie Murphy Paul nailed the potential and pitfalls of Maker Spaces in her article in the May, 2015 issue of School Library Journal. The maker spaces can connect creating with learning, two terms that at not necessarily synonymous. Certainly we are moving to a skills-driven, problem-solving approach to education. Maker Spaces are well suited to be the structure, both physical and psychological in which discovery and learning take place.
  • - kurt.wittig kurt.wittig Oct 27, 2015 Here is Edutopia article on school libraries and makerspaces coexisting. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/school-libraries-makerspaces-coexist-josh-weisgrau From the perspective of a librarian, makerspaces are relevant in schools because they align with the mission of school libraries. School libraries provide access to information and ideas to facilitate the intellectual enlightenment of their patrons. Makerspaces fulfill and enhance the goal of a library by providing access to materials for patrons to construct their own learning and ultimately work toward intellectual enlightenment. Providing access to the materials and technologies present in makerspaces reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's description of the access Bill Gates had to a school computer giving him thousands of hours of computing experience before the Altair 8800 became available in 1975.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2008-11-19/gladwells-outliers-timing-is-almost-everything
  • I taught MYP Design for a few years, and the approach to the Design Cycle and assessment was very constraining. Students spent so much more time planning and writing about doing things than actually doing things. The Makerspace turns that ratio around and emphasizes play, experimentation, and fun. Students can still learn a design process in this context, and it will be much more engaging and meaningful.- JasonTiefel JasonTiefel Nov 4, 2015
  • It is very interesting to watch this pendulum/paradigm shift in our schools. Shops, Industrial Arts, Home Economics and Apprentice programs were discarded for the more rigourous core subjects. Now Design programs and MakerSpaces are springing up to fill the void. Although the focus seems to switch to creativity and ingenuity, these 'new' programs really seem to be a needed return to skills and craftsmanship. Perhaps a re-branding is what is needed to rid the stigma often given to the earlier programs. - ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 5, 2015
  • Agreed, Ivan. The Maker movement does appear to be a pendulum swing resulting from the "knowledge economy" surge we've been in for some time now - those who live in the international school strata are increasingly distanced from the sources of everything we consume and interact with in our worlds, from food production to the manufacturing of the goods we purchase. As we shift from experiential play-based learning in the early years of our schooling, to more and more abstraction as we progress through, I think the desire to work with our hands, to build, to craft and create remains strong within many of us. It is an essential part of our humanity. For this reason, I believe the Maker movement is here to stay and will continue to impact education in the near future. - jerry.szombathy jerry.szombathy Nov 5, 2015
  • As an early learning teacher I see the MakerSpace as an attempt to move early educative practice up through the grade levels. Often in Reggio inspired play-based programs we work with children to explore their own ideas, creations, destructions, with or without the use of tech. Over my 14 years teaching in the EY, I listened as teachers of older students lamented the loss of those opportunities for their learners. Now, as a Digital Learning Coach I see the MakerSpace as a legitimization for the upper years of 'play'. It is true that industrial arts, shop, craftworks are not 'new' educative practice but neither really is the maker mindset. One only has to read the Reggio founder, Loris Malaguzzi's The Hundred Languages of Children and realize that student driven inquiry that is completely owned by students is not a new idea to education either. The ability for us to fit individualized and personalized learning that is underpinned with a rich skill set within our schedules, our content, our specialists, our assessments, our reports is what gave rise to the MakerSpace. Until we have uninstitutionalized school, these aspects of school control and have power over children truly engaging in their own learning journey. As such, the Makerspace is a stopgap whilst we make larger shifts in education. - tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • Everyone is curious and full of ideas. Even in Donald Duck there is this figure, the inventor, and he was a maker. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyro_Gearloose. Can it be that the seriousness of school has taken away this often childish imagination of coming up with the most insane of ideas for inventions and things and the real ability to make it? Maybe this changes with the upcoming of the "Maker Spaces". However, is this really something new? Schools have always had workshops for wood or metal, for food or sewing. Before was it perhaps more seen as a "subject" with a curriculum, and not as something as loose and free as a "Maker Space". - mortensenj2 mortensenj2 Nov 10, 2015
  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015I am in the process of developing a MakerSpace in the MS/HS Library at ISB. Having now visited several spaces and done quite a bit of 'homework' on the topic it is very clear that applications in Elementary programs and to a smaller extent at the Middle School level seem to be the strongest. Generally at the High School level I am finding that while the spaces have been designed well the application is lacking and unfortunately usage is generally low. Some of the comments I have collected are, 'hs kids are too busy', 'there isn't a place in the day for kids to explore this', 'there is no real support for implementation from teachers'. I think those comments and just what I saw confirm for me that while I agree with what Ivan and Chris say above, implementation of the space is of paramount importance. Looking to Chris' article in School Library Journal there were two examples that seemed a solid path to success. This type of implementation will provide the time and teacher support for integration. These examples represent a typical type of 'technology integration' in the classroom that has proven successful in many settings. Students must see the value to themselves, class or future before they will commit their time. Here is a quote from the article."At Monticello High School, Craddock and her students say that the best projects realize complex ideas in such a way that helps learners better understand them. One class printed models of 17th-century ship cannons to illustrate the differences in naval warfare then and now. Another class “printed” an equation with solutions sets of X and Y into a kind of airy memory foam. At Albemarle High School, Thorsen describes a history class project in which students studying ancient Rome reverse-engineered artifacts, printed them from digital models they created themselves, and then Skyped about the artifacts with third graders who were also studying Roman civilization." (Sansing, 2015)"

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - michael.boll michael.boll Oct 16, 2015What does this mean for pedagogy? Maker movements are a hands on form of education and that is something largely abandoned on international schools. This shift is a return to teaching practices of the past such as wood shop.
  • - Chris.carter Chris.carter Oct 19, 2015 The above description suggests no instruction, or little or no structure, is a necessary (or at least presumed) condition for Maker Spaces. I argue that is a limiting vision. Given what research indicates concerning cognitive load and the necessity for constraints in order for creativity to flourish, perhaps Maker Spaces need to be seen as more conceptual and less physical. Perhaps they are time/space, not just space, wherein discovery is actively encouraged, within the framework of a goal or mission. Think of that memorable scene in Apollo 13 when the chief engineer brings in boxes of stuff just taken from the Apollo simulator. Engineers are telling him what they need. He throws the stuff on the ground stating, " ... you're telling me what you need. I'm telling you what we have to work with ..." Within those very real constraints real engineers saved real lives. It was the ultimate Maker Space experience. Creativity with constraints. - kurt.wittig kurt.wittig Oct 27, 2015 Agreed. Different levelled challenges can provide entry points for students to effectively differentiate their engagement with a makerspace.
  • Agreed with all of the above. There's a danger of overemphasizing play and experimentation and not getting around to producing any results - some structure and constraints are key.- JasonTiefel JasonTiefel Nov 4, 2015
  • As mentioned in the previous section, perhaps this is a re-branding to help improve past stigmas for a skills based course like carpentry, drafting, and the like. - ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 5, 2015
  • Agreed with Chris above conceptual vs. physical. MakerEd is perhaps more important than Makerspaces. Why does this have to be limited to a space? International schools have shifted from computer labs with timetabled classes to 1:1 devices used fluidly in classrooms. I think MakerEd should be similar. Sure, have a Makerspace with specialized materials that are not required within every classroom, but really it's the pedagogical impact that we want to encourage - creation, problem solving, exploration, collaboration. Some of this is tech related, but much of it isn't. It's about shifting teaching and learning. Maker Spaces can be the catalyst to do this. - janice.dwyer janice.dwyer Nov 6, 2015
  • There is a clear connection between the Maker movement and the pedagogical shift toward more personalized learning in elementary schools. When students are given opportunities to really explore their interests and learn concepts, skills and knowledge through content that interests them, maker spaces open a previously closed door to possibilities in a range of increasingly valuable areas. Alison Zmuda's work explains how personalized learning can have high expectations and accountability to curriculum while genuinely working with students to construct outcomes that matter to them. - sara.schneeberg sara.schneeberg Nov 9, 2015
  • Indeed a shift in thinking is what is needed. As a craftsperson with an undergrad in 'Fibres' the MakerSpace can easily be viewed as an art/tech studio for creation. I agree with the sentiment above that the real impact of MakerSpaces on teaching and learning is not necessarily contained in the space but rather when we provide opportunities for children to engage in the maker mindset. Making is the process of free exploration or guided inquiry, it begins at the students current skill level around a personalized interest. At NIST we have found that when children; engage in a conversation about their learning with others and with the artifacts that they have created, are inspired to problem solve, vacillate between guided inquiry and independent discovery, imagine, build, play, fail, experiment and test that this is when they have switched on to a maker mindset. We have found that working with student coaches in order to upskill them in tool and tech use within the MakerSpace has started to spill out into classrooms and has enabled children to use peer coaching during 20% or individualized inquiry time. This is a good example of a child explaining his thinking to a teacher but also in dialogue with the artifact he has created. - tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015

  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015Tosca is right. A shift in thinking is part of it. However I would argue that as educators we need to find out and provide proof that there is inherent value. We need to educate students, staff and parents on the value of Design Thinking as a tool for any individual. It is very similar to when in the library we began the shift from resource providers to resource evaluators. It has to happen and it has to happen fairly quickly. This would mean that it needs to be organized and not implemented in pieces.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - Chris.carter Chris.carter Oct 19, 2015Lifelong learning, problem-solving, and discovery all happen here. What is there not to like about Maker Spaces?
  • - kurt.wittig kurt.wittig Oct 27, 2015 Makerspaces in schools are shrines to creative inquiry and problem solving. A active makerspaces are bullhorns for what schools truly value.
  • Kids will be much more inspired about learning when they can be actively engaged in solving problems instead of spending the majority of the time writing about it.- JasonTiefel JasonTiefel Nov 4, 2015
  • A break from the abstract to the real when students produce products they can use immediately once finished - ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 5, 2015
  • The idea of application of knowledge and design thinking makes this area a very real world relevant area for students to explore and impact their experiences. The open ended nature of most work in Maker Spaces appeal to students in terms of ownership. - peter.hennigar peter.hennigar Nov 8, 2015
  • Also has potential in terms of gathering skills/ processes which can impact other areas of study. Ex: at Shekou International School grade 9 science students are experimenting with 3D printing to make manipulatives to help their understanding of chemical bonding. These skills were developed in a maker situation and are now being applied in other areas. - peter.hennigar peter.hennigar Nov 8, 2015
  • We are seeing a small but growing impact on student empowerment at NIST. The MakerSpace is enabling students to become leaders and coaches for younger or older students. There is equity within the space as students leverage the resources and knowledge of the variety of people who are present within the space. They are challenged to develop a base skill set and then to work from that skill set in order to begin to design- from empathy. Empathy is at the heart of design. Without the understanding of what others see, feel and experience, design is a pointless task. I would argue so is education. Many educators are now valuing empathy as high as mathematics and literacy. Through design, making, and developing a maker mindset, children are placed in authentic opportunities to grapple with the needs and wants of others. The MakerSpace can become a whitespace for authentically student generated action, service, and project-based learning.- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015Simply put this is either a waste of funds or it is an opportunity to move thinking forward to a more design, prototype and solution style society. There are numerous examples of this (Edison and the lightbulb attempts) that can serve as proof of this type of thinking but we will need to be bold and realize that this type of thinking isn't necessarily going to improve your ACT score. It will improve your ability to think critically.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - michael.boll michael.boll Oct 16, 2015Concordia International School, Shanghai has a yearly Maker Movement event. Hundreds of people form the surrounding community come to show of their "makings" or just enjoy seeing what others have created. http://jinqiaomakerfaire.com/
  • - Chris.carter Chris.carter Oct 19, 2015What my colleague Michael Boll will be jazzed to know is that we now have a large room, larger than a standard classroom, stuffed with "stuff" that people can and do access for discovery learning. WE have an active maker space at Concordia!
  • NIST has started a great Makerspace (credit to Glenn Davies and Tosca Killoran) where kids do greenscreen, stop motion, paper circuits, etc.- JasonTiefel JasonTiefel Nov 4, 2015 We also have new and wonderful design labs (Food tech with a full 4-6 station kitchen, two 'shop' rooms fully kitted out, a computer studies room, and two supporting classrooms for 3D design and planning work) as the focal point of the school - the envy of many other schools looking to expand their program(s). - ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 5, 2015
  • ISS headquarters @SISrocks in Shenzhen just unveiled Level 5 as a center for exploration and PD related to the maker movement and related technologies with @johnburns at the helm. - peter.hennigar peter.hennigar Nov 8, 2015
  • As Jason has stated the MakerSpace at NIST is not only a skill developer but an opportunity for leadership within our students. By creating coaches we have effectively ensured that the space or rather the mindset is sustainable. It is an opportunity for Parents to become involved and for a variety of interests such as: Minecraft EDU, LEGO, Robotics, Circuits, MaKeyMaKey, etc.. to be explored with support. Additionally, Brian and Wendy Smith have an inspiring MakerSpace in HKIS "I want to make sure the tools we use to connect beyond the digital world, to the real world" -Brian Smith- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015

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Lisa Holloway <lisa@nmc.org>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyro_Gearloose