Designing and Going Beyond the School Maker Space

Transforming the traditional classroom!

A few weeks ago, I participated in a worldwide webinar about sharing our experiences in designing a “maker space” in schools and going beyond. I think its the future of school learning spaces. Here is our school article for those interested in learning more about Maker, Learning spaces.

The original article is located here

Thinking Beyond the Makerspace

Posted October 29, 2015

Standing in front of his laptop in the Unkefer Spark Studio on October 26, Fred Jaravata told a live internet audience how that room fuses centuries-old Sacred Heart tradition with a newly expanded Digital Literacy & Design program.

Fred, a K-8 Educational Innovation Coordinator at Convent & Stuart Hall, joined presenters from four independent schools from around the country who each gave a virtual tour of their makerspace while outlining the role it plays in their curriculum. Hosted by the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools, or ATLIS, the webinar focused on a topic made popular when schools “recognized that making things helps with creative problem solving and design,” Fred explains. “We are pioneers in this area – all of the schools on the webinar are pioneers.”

Last April at the first ATLIS conference, Fred and Krista Inchausti, also a K-8 Educational Innovation Coordinator, led a successful workshop on how the Spark Studio was designed with the school culture as a driving force, and an intent to be more than a makerspace but to be a true learning studio.

Changes to what was formerly the elementary school “computer lab” took place in summer 2014. The studio was stripped to its core and re-equipped to take advantage of the expanse of the room for flexible learning while honoring its original purpose as a hub for design and technology.

While the Spark Studio was designed to allow students to feel safe to experiment, tinker and even fail, “the renovation was also meant to be a spark for design thinking, which could then move into all classroom spaces,” says Howard Levin, Director of Educational Innovation.

The Digital Literacy & Design program expanded this year to equip teachers to integrate lessons from the studio into a range of classes. “In the broader context of digital literacy, our aim is to help make the theoretical nature of programming into something physical,” Howard says. “Just teaching kids how to code is missing the action-oriented end result.”

Ultimately, the program seeks to help students make connections between different subjects, Fred says. “When people think of ‘digital,’ generally they think of computers and geeky stuff. When they think ‘literacy,’ they think learning to read. And when they think of ‘design,’ they think creating with purpose,” he said. “Our goal is to bring all aspects together to offer a whole new way of thinking.”

For example, Grade 6 boys are required to code an animated presentation for Social Studies instead of the usual PowerPoint, Krista adds. “While they learn about ancient cultures and practice presentation skills, they simultaneously learn to code,” she says. “The students also learn that it is a useful skill—a means to an end rather than a fun distraction that takes place in a computer lab.”

Fred and Krista realize that expanding the language and skills used in the Spark Studio to teachers requires support. They have started working one-on-one with faculty to help brainstorm ways to enhance their curriculum, and offer open studio time for adults, where they can practice coding and prototyping like students do. Krista notes that faculty have taught problem solving, logic, sequencing and computational thinking “forever,” adding that, “only now we frame these concepts in a new way.”

As Fred concluded his presentation, boys and girls excitedly entered the studio and Krista reminded them to sign-in on a white board by the entrance. It’s the start of their lunch break and students often use this open-studio time to practice coding or build things with cardboard and other “quick creation” materials. Fred walked around the room, laptop in hand, showing the audience what all the buzz was about. It’s moments like this when Howard says he is reminded of the big picture. “Ultimately, the end goal is to give students experiences that allow them to impact their world.”

One Reply to “Designing and Going Beyond the School Maker Space”

Leave a Reply