What I Learned about Maker Spaces

In my class this semester on Maker Spaces, we covered topics that ranged from how kids and teens use media to interact and learn from their increasingly digital world to how to create a physical space that invites participation and increases in value and interest as more people interact with it. What stood out to me was the variety of ways to make learning hands-on, interactive, and participatory. Hanging Out discussed how kids (and people) spontaneously seek out resources and guidance to improve their skill at a favorite hobby, and the Internet provides that access with historically unprecedented ease. Invent to Learn provides pedagogical motivation for hands-on learning and covers today’s new tools and technologies that enable easy physical prototyping of ideas and inventions.

The biggest gold mine of new ideas, for me, was The Participatory Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of the creative and interactive exhibits people had designed for a wide variety of topics, from native cultures to a voyage to Mars. This book opened my eyes to what is possible, going beyond the interactive style of exhibits to those that enable new kinds of participation. The primary difference is that a participatory exhibit changes as visitors interact with it; they leave some trace. This might be a vote, an opinion, a comment, a creation, an artifact, or some other tangible evidence of their interaction. Further, as more people use, it becomes more interesting and informative. Visitors gain something by seeing what other visitors have contributed. As Simon notes, not every exhibit needs to have these properties. But I have found this idea to expand my sense of what is possible.

I also found the course assignments to be fascinating and challenging. They really made me stretch. In the first project, I had to choose a type of game that I’ve never played before, then play it for a few hours and analyze my learning experience.

In the second project, I sought out a social media conversation and analyzed the structure of the conversation as well as participant behaviors. It felt like I got to put on a sociologist’s hat and study a native population.

In the third project, I took a trip to the Science Center and analyzed their interactive displays from the perspective of The Participatory Museum.

In the fourth project, I had to find a maker project that gave me the chance to make something I’d never made before. The cardboard automata I made was a lot of work but very rewarding!

The final project for the class asked us to design our own maker space, using everything we’d learned over the course of the semester. I had a lot of fun designing a creative space for the Monrovia Public Library that integrates a topic of local interest (the Gold Line Metro extension) and computational thinking principles. The project had us write this up as a proposal, so the space isn’t yet a reality — but I’d love to discuss it for real with the library.

Overall, this class was a lot of work, in terms of reading and doing, but it also provided a lot of learning. And that’s why I’m here taking these classes in the first place!

1 Comment
1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Brittany said,

    May 15, 2014 at 8:14 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Nice wrap-up of your coursework! I love that your makerspace proposal included computational thinking. I remember you posting that earlier in the semester, so that’s great you could tie that in to your final project. Thanks for always teaching me something new with your blogs :)

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