Week 4: What is the pedagogy behind a Makerspace? What are the benefits to students?

It’s been quite an enlightening week for me because I have finally understood the term “maker space”.  Since the course began and the term was introduced, I didn’t know what it meant.  Is it a physical space?  A hypothetical space?  Well, I’m here to declare that a Maker Space is a physical location where people get together and build, share resources and knowledge, and work on projects. (Educause, 2013)  It’s important as a pedagogy because it is inquiry-based learning.  As educators, we should value this type of learning because it enables students to learn what they like and enjoy.  They become passionate and motivated to learn.  Too often we feed content to students, whether they like it or not.  Maker space allows students to have an avenue to learn, explore, experiment, and modify their creations until it works.

K-12 schools are experimenting with maker spaces.  Camelot Elementary School has a maker space.  They use it to promote 21st century skill acquisition through Scratch programming and NXT robotics. (Bruhn, 2014)  I am familiar with coding, but have not heard of Scratch.  I was intrigued.  Scratch is used to make interactive stories, games, and animations and was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. (Scratch, 2016)  Sam Patterson, a teacher, is trying to find out how to use technology like the Arduino microcontroller in his K-5 class because there is unlimited possibilities. (Patterson, 2016)  He explains that it isn’t easy to just jump right in though, and its great that other teachers are in the same boat because it can be intimidating.  But help and collaboration is all around.

One of the developers, Mitch Resnick, made a great TedTalk about Scratch. (Resnick, 2012)  Mitch talks about students being “digital natives”, but he disagrees with how people use this term.  He states that people use this term to mean that they are “fluent in new technologies”, and that is not the case.  Just because they can utilize their smartphones, and enjoy gaming, doesn’t make them “digital natives”.  I tend to agree with his perspective.  To be fluent, you need to express and create, and that is one of the reasons for creating Scratch programming.  Students can create and express themselves through using Scratch.  They can make interactive Mothers Day cards, as Mitch explains, or recreate classic video games.  One of the important aspects of Scratch is the simplicity of programming.  You don’t need to learn a “language” or use proper syntax.  It is a system of using “blocks” of code put together in a sequence to accomplish what a student wishes to happen.  Adding, modifying, and debugging seems simple.

Mitch then explains how Scratch can interact with microphones, webcams, and other external devices in the programming to create great interactive scenarios like popping balloons on the screen by waving your hand, or eating small fish by raising your voice, or sawing a virtual tree by waving a hand over sensors.  There are so many possibilities by using this programming. The idea behind Scratch is to not create future computer programmers, but to utilize its inherent design skills in everyday life.  The skill set you learn can be used in any career pursuit.

I was very impressed.  I know and have used code and written code in the past, but this seems very promising for most students to use with minimal frustration.  I believe you can use code to teach valuable skills in the workplace and life.  There is quite a bit of problem solving involved in coding.  And that is really what we want our students to do in real life.  Problem solve.  As Mark Watney says in the movie The Martian, “You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next.”

 

References

Patterson, S. (2016). Learning with Arduino and Microcontrollers. TeacherCast.  Retrieved from http://www.teachercast.net/2016/03/01/learning-with-arduino-and-microcontrollers/

Unknown author. (2013). 7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces. EDUCAUSE.  Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7095.pdf

Bruhn, B. (2014). Makerspace. . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hcnww3N-vHA

Unknown author. (2016). About Scratch.  Retrieved from https://scratch.mit.edu/about

Resnick, M. (2012). Let’s teach kids kids to code. TedTalks. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/mitch_resnick_let_s_teach_kids_to_code?language=en

 

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4 thoughts on “Week 4: What is the pedagogy behind a Makerspace? What are the benefits to students?

  1. The makerspace might not be 100% in a physical location. While students are working on a project they may be collaborating online with students from different schools. Collaboration is a key part of makerspaces.

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  2. I like your perspective on the term “digital natives,” and I have never thought of it that way. However, after reading the support for the statement, “Just because they can utilize their smartphones, and enjoy gaming, doesn’t make them digital natives,” I totally agree with you. Scratch was mentioned in many of the articles I read this week, with great reviews/comments from the authors and teachers.

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  3. Your explanation of Scratch and the accompanying video of Mitch Resnick was helpful in understanding more about Scratch. I’ve also done some coding, but this explanation seems like it would be a really simple program…much easier than the ones I used in college and my early years of teaching. It seems like a fun way to let kids be creative in an environment with low frustration.

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