Friday, September 8, 2017

Mobile Maker Kits | A Taste of Maker Education

Mobile Maker Kit Blog Image.jpg

Learn-by-Doing Renaissance

Based on the amount of conversation and discussion surrounding the maker movement you would think that creating spaces in our schools for students to tinker, experiment, build, create, and collaborate is something new in K-12 education. It isn't. Many of us can recall attending shop, home economics, and ceramics classes. These were “learn by doing” classes; we were encouraged to design, prototype, iterate, and try again--regardless of whether it was a batch of Rice Krispie Treats, a napkin holder, or a ceramic ashtray (yes, ashtrays). The maker movement is not a fad but a renaissance; the rediscovery and reapplication of the once-popular "learning by doing" process. 

Experiencing the 5 Cs

Embedding maker education into our K-12 learning communities ensures students have equitable access to the tools, technology, and resources required to experience the 5 Cs- collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and community. To create equitable access to learn-by-doing experiences the Educational Technology (Ed Tech) and Library Advisory Council (LAC) teams secured funding to build a small fleet of Mobile Maker Kits (Kits) to be circulated to all BVSD schools. Funds from the 2016-17 Colorado State Libraries Grant were combined with Ed Tech contributions to create eight (8) Kits. 

A Taste of Maker Education

Conversations between Ed Tech’s Library Services group and movers and makers across the country helped us identify which tools and resources would give students and teachers a taste of maker education and learning experiences in science, engineering, art, coding/programming, math, mechanical design, design thinking, robotics, etc. Kit components include both instructables and do-it-yourself (DIY) components. Each Kit component was cataloged and barcoded so either the Kit as a whole could be checked out or individual Kit components could be checked out on an as needed basis. Each Kit is currently valued at ~$3,700. 

Mobile Maker Kit Contents_1.0.png

We Have Always Been Makers

Kits were beta tested with teacher librarians at all grade levels for approximately 90 days between March and May 2017. Teacher librarians were selected as beta testers because they are uniquely positioned to lead the learn-by-doing renaissance:

"We have always been makers. Libraries have always been makerspaces. The tools change, but the core of who we are and what we do is the same. We are educators, enablers, equippers. We are a space to try new things, learn new things, and do new things. We are open doors and new opportunities. We are makers. We always have been. We always will be. Even when the terminology changes."
                      --SLJ, 2015

Teacher librarian beta testers collaborated with teachers to integrate Kit components into the curriculum and set up centers in libraries and classrooms for students and staff to play, explore, tinker, and create. To jump start teacher and student use of Kit components, Library Services created a Mobile Maker Kit Resources Symbaloo for quick access to applications, lesson ideas, and tutorials for each Kit component. Beta testers kept observation logs and documented their interactions with the Kits, e.g., what worked, what didn't, lesson ideas, epiphanies, photos, videos, and student and staff feedback. We have used this data to inform future tool selections and craft maker focused professional learning opportunities. 

Reserve A Mobile Maker Kit

Mobile Maker Kit packed.JPGBased on the very positive feedback from beta testers and the growing number of requests from schools for maker tools and resources (especially from schools using Innovation funds to create makerspaces), the Library Services and LAC teams agreed to expand the Mobile Maker Kit program. Library Services is creating approximately six (6) more Kits bringing the total number of Kits to fourteen (14). To borrow a Kit for your school please work with your teacher librarian and complete the steps outlined here. Ultimately, Ed Tech would like every school to have a Kit. Conversations are underway to secure additional funding to achieve this goal. 

Mackin Maker 

Library Services worked with BVSD’s Procurement group to partner with Mackin Maker to help any BVSD school quickly and economically acquire Kit components. Mackin is a K-12 library collection service provider and they recently created a maker division so they can offer maker education tools and resources as part of their collection services. Mackin Maker has our Kit component list and can acquire any or all of the tools with one purchase order. Mackin also includes barcodes and bibliographic records for every Kit component so, just like a book, they can be checked out to teachers and or students.

Next Steps

In addition to creating more Kits, we are also considering how to level Kit components for Elementary, Middle, and High school. Feedback from beta testers indicates that there are some Kit components that are not as applicable at certain grade levels. Library Services has become a maker test kitchen, researching and test driving maker education tools to determine grade level applicability. The ability to swap out Kit components based on the grade level requesting a Kit will ensure age and grade level aligned learning experiences.  

Finally, Ed Tech is collaborating with members of the Front Range maker community to develop a maker education course for BVSD educators that will demonstrate the benefits of hands-on, authentic problem solving experiences to develop skills and traits students will need to succeed in both their academic and professional lives, and best practices for seamlessly integrating making into instructional practices across all content areas.

Let the making begin!