Great Makerspaces democratize learning. They make materials, supplies, and concepts available and accessible to all learners. By properly planning your Makerspace, you can build an environment that encourages tinkering, play, and open-ended exploration for everyone.
The question is: How do we ultimately reach all learners?
The United States Department of Education, Educational Technology Plan outlines a path for all those involved in American education to “ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology”. Equity and access are at the heart of ensuring that all students have the opportunities available to them that school Makerspaces present.
We know though that technology can bring new resources to your Makerspace and does have an amazing ability to increase student engagement, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), which many Makerspaces include.
In the near future, over one million jobs will open up in science, engineering and mathematics, but only 200,000 graduates will have the skills to fill them. As a part of education reform for the future, President Obama has consistently called for improvements in STEM education as well as sparking and fostering innovation and growth needed to improve our schools and achieve better outcomes. Expanding STEM education means building partnerships with educators, businesses and community partners to support STEM education. It also means expanding STEM education opportunities for all students.
Technology can help to create dynamic, active Makerspace that that can help to prepare the next generation of STEM workers.
Although technology can enhance Makerspaces, it also often sets boundaries and tethers students to the physical Makerspace. Of particular interest to me is how we can broaden physical Makerspaces to extend these experiential learning environments more widely into the digital space to better reach all of our learners.
The Rise of Mobile
Mobility is emerging as the next wave of innovation in K-12 Makerspaces. Having a mobile device in the hands of every student gives every student the same opportunities to invent, tinker, create, make and do. Just as students no longer need to be tied to a computer lab, mobile technologies can liberate learners from the limitations of a physical Makerspace. By transcending the traditional Makerspace, students don’t just have the option of coming to a Makerspace, you can bring your Makerspace to your students.
The boundaries of technology-supported learning in a Makerspace will no longer be confined to the Makerspace. These agile Makerspaces are ones that leverage technology to provide making experiences that are not confined to the physical Makerspace alone. Mobility is essential to give students anywhere and any time access to learning resources, allowing them to work at a time and place that best suits them.
Agile offers a fresh approach to Makerspaces by eliminating barriers to learning and making. Schools can provide mobile devices- whether in the form of laptops, tablets, or other handheld devices, or students and teachers can bring their own tools into the school from home- use them in an educational environment, just like they are accustom to doing in real world. These devices allow students to be able to explore and make 24×7.
As an educator in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school, I have become increasingly open to leveraging mobile devices, both school owned and personally owned devices, to extend making related experiences for my students that go beyond just our physical Makerspace. Mobility is emerging as the next wave of Makerspace innovation. Having their own personal device has allowed my students to virtually have a Makerspace in their pocket even. My mobile Makerspace has increased access for my students to important tools and resources. In addition to this enriching and personalizing their learning experiences, it has sparked limitless creativity. My students have been able to better fit our Makerspace into their busy schedules, and even spend nights, weekends and holiday breaks making and creating!
Seize the Opportunity
Technology in a Makerspace is about more than just finding ways to incorporate the newest digital tool into your Makerspace. Instead, the making experience should be the key driver of agility and the transition to a more digital and mobile learning environment. The educational Makerspace is based on student ownership of their own learning. School Makerspaces should support self-directed learning and foster curiosity and collaboration. Our students hold a wealth of knowledge and ideas. A successful Makerspace mobility strategy can open the landscape of learning for all, offering a complete learning environment that offers limitless opportunities.