Monthly Archives: May 2014

3D Printers in the Maker Movement

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As I said in my last blog post, it’s not necessary for technology to be used in makerspaces. However, technology can be quite beneficial. So, in this blog post, I want to explore how 3D printers can help create an incredibly useful makerspace.

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3D printers are very new and; therefore, very expensive. It is fairly unlikely that makerspaces in k12 classrooms or public schools will include a 3D printer. But, these types of printers are becoming increasingly abundant in public library makerspaces. Since I really don’t know how 3D printers work, I decided to explore that first. In order to use a 3D printer, you must have a 3D design file on your computer which can be done in many different ways. Once your design is complete, it is sent to the the 3D printer, similarly to a regular printer. In a 3D printer, however, your design is created layer by layer. The printer has melted plastic that is layer down. The most common type of printer uses plastic but there are some that use rubber and metal too. Using a 3D printer can be very time consuming because the printer has to create the object by laying down extremely thin layers of material. I think 3D printers are a cool tool to have because it allows students to create in a way that many people didn’t see possible. For example, you could want to your students to create their own product and learn about marketing and advertising. Well, with a 3D printer, students could actually design and print the product that they imagine, rather than just simply drawing and explaining their product. Here a short video from a public library makerspace that gives you a closer look at 3D printing. As I continued to research, I discovered that many companies are working on making 3D printers cheaper and more easily accessible to everyone. In the future, 3D printers could be regular household objects.

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What is a Maker Space?

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Today I’d like to just introduce what maker spaces are. At first I was going to jump in with benefits of maker spaces but I think it’s really important to put an in depth description of what maker spaces are on my blog. So, let’s start with that! I began by going back and reading the Learning and Leading Through Technology article The Maker Movement. This is such a great article. It goes really in depth about the Maker Movement and it even brings up a lot of benefits of maker spaces. But, we’ll revisit that later. After reading that article I googled a few more websites to see how other people defined Maker Spaces.

What I found:

A maker space is simply an area that allows people to come together to work on self-directed projects. Being a self-directed area is a huge part of what makes a maker space a maker space. It’s important to have the kids create. On their own. Maker spaces weren’t necessarily started with the intention to be used in schools. As this website explains, maker spaces were mostly started non-academically. Although, they are beginning to shift in to public schools, they are not the precedent yet. Many public school are somewhat afraid of maker spaces because of the possible financial toll they can have. However, many of the websites I visited pointed out that maker spaces don’t have to be an elaborate, technologically advanced area. Kids can benefit from just having art supplies in a maker space. Of course, having a 3D printer or a room full of iPads certainly does provide benefits, they are not necessary. Basically, maker spaces come in all shapes and sizes and they all come with their own set of benefits!

Next time, I hope to explore one of the benefits of maker spaces that I found! I also found a cool website that allows you to put in your zip code and it’ll tell you about maker spaces near you!

My Research Plan

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In order to further investigate, and hopefully answer my main research question, I will be doing extensive research using the internet, interviews and possible Twitter conversations. The article from Learning and Leading with Technology that I read on the first day of class was a great introduction of the Maker Movement. I’m planning on rereading that to begin my research and mostly see where that leads me. I’ve followed many people on Twitter related to Maker Spaces and I’ve been monitoring their activity. I think they’re tweets will help me invaluably because it will give me an inside perspective from k12 teachers.

During this semester, I’d like to specifically research how Maker Spaces can be beneficial in k12 classrooms. I’m considering narrowing my question down to just elementary school classrooms but for now I would like to keep it broader, so that I don’t miss any possibly valuable information. In addition to looking up benefits, I’m curious about how k12 classrooms are using Maker Spaces. I want to know if they are using these areas as just a creative outlet for kids to just create or if they are being used as another way for children be evaluated. If there is time, I’d like to investigate Maker Faire a little bit and see how this contributes to k12 classroom Maker Spaces.

As far as organizing my information, I’m going to start with my broad question and see, based on the amount of information that I find, if it needs to narrowed down. If I decide that it needs to be narrowed down, I will reevaluate and post about my newly adapted question. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to explore all aspects of Maker Spaces in k12 classrooms but with Maymester, that may just not be possible. I’d like to do a post just on what Maker Spaces are and how they’ve developed from there, I will really begin digging in deep and searching for answers to my main question.

Beginning my Investigation of Maker Spaces

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Maker Space has been a huge buzzword for all professions that involve working with children, including k12 teachers. My sister, who is currently pursuing her dream to become a youth librarian, talks about Maker Spaces constantly. And I mean constantly. I’ve listened to her and I know what they are but she’s my sister, so honestly, a lot of it goes in one ear and out the other. But, when I heard my EDIT 2000 teacher mention Maker Spaces on the first day of class, I thought maybe this was a topic worth investigating further.

Maker Spaces are all about fostering creativity and, in some ways, independence. Personally, I don’t feel like I had a lot of time in school to explore my creativity in a way that didn’t involve me getting graded on it. I was a pretty tightly wound kid so, if it involved getting a grade, I definitely did not focus on the creative aspect of the project. It was all about getting an A. And for the most part that worked for me, but I do wish I had an area in school or in my library where creativity was the reason I was there and I didn’t really have to worry about being judged for what I created.

I’m really excited to work on this topic for my 20% Project. To start I’ve followed a few Maker Space experts on Twitter. Some profiles I’ve followed are: @makerfaire @NancyJoLambert and @sjgorman. I am also monitoring #makerspace and #makerfaire.