Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Four Reasons Why a Library Makerspace Makes Perfect Sense

"Making in the library is about offering students opportunities to move from simply being users and consumers to being creators, by providing them with the spaces, tools, and resources they need."  - Laura Fleming


Under what conditions does your best learning occur? Many folks, myself included, say their best learning happens when they create something previously non-existent. Where are the places in your school where learning happens, not through instruction and a prescribed curriculum, but through inquiry and exploration? Where is the central hub of your school learning community? A maker space may be just the thing for breathing relevancy and energy into your school library, or media center. According to Nick Provenzano, aka "The Nerdy Teacher," these are the four essential reasons why a media center makerspace makes sense; space, furniture, supervision, and access.
  • School media centers provide open, flexible space. Collaboration, interaction, and hands-on engagement need space for versatility and movement. Visible, transparent learning will ignite curiosity and interest from teachers and students.
  • Tables and chairs that offer flexibility and comfort send signals that the media center is an inviting space for freedom, creativity, and innovation. To create unique areas, look for furniture that slides or rolls. Oversized pillows and carpet squares provide spaces for students to sit comfortably while making. Writable surfaces and Lego walls provide opportunities for visible, design thinking.
  • The library staff provides watchful eyes to help students feel safe and supported. Much like the shifting role of the classroom teacher, library personnel should be asking driving questions instead of providing answers. Making is a personal, participatory adventure that doesn't require regimented guidance.
  • Extended hours and almost limitless availability mean more time for creativity and innovation. It strikes a special chord when students become so engrossed in their making that they lose track of time and don't want to leave.
An inviting, engaging makerspace will significantly alter the media center climate. Ultimately, the library makerspace will impact a school-wide learning culture. Makerspaces provide the conditions for some of our best learning. For many schools, the library provides the best fit for accessible, participatory learning. I've shared four important reasons for hosting a makerspace in your school library. Of course, there are more. I invite you to turn this post into a discussion by sharing your thoughts on media center maker spaces in the comments section.

References and Resources

Fleming, Laura. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a SAGE, 2015.

Provenzano, Nicholas. Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. United States: Blend Education, 2016.

"Why Personalized Learning Should Start in School Libraries." ESchool News. 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Photo credit: DigitalsKennedy, Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Finding the Fulcrum

In 2016, twice as many Americans obtained their news online instead of print. Approximately 3/4 of adult Americans interact with others through social media. Nine out of ten Americans are online, and a majority of these users are using time online to support personal or professional learning. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who finds it challenging to find a balance between personal and professional learning while online.




As time passes, an increasing percentage of the information and interaction that I seek in the name of learning is gathered online. The line between personal and professional learning is becoming blurred. I'm not sure if this is the result of time limitations, or professional ambitions putting the squeeze on personal interests. For example, I would like to start a podcast about pond fishing, but here I am writing about learning and education.


Reading Aaron Davis's recent post, "Templated Self", my perceived challenge of online time took a turn when he asks, "what do we mean by "real world" experiences, what do we mean by digital literacies?" I found myself wondering if my online presence is templated, and if so, how much control do I have in my online identity? In other words, are we manipulating our online spaces, or are they manipulating us?

It was Dave White's "Visitor / Resident" mapping exercise that prompted me to map and share my digital interactions. Initially, I used icons as hyperlinks to invite more engagement and interaction. Later, I realized the V/R mapping activity, which is an ongoing process, allows for deeper reflection of how I leverage online spaces. It's a visual interpretation of my digital self. Is this the same as a template?

At ISTE 2016, Dean Shareski challenged a group of us to consider digital dualism. Does online branding dehumanize us? Like others in my PLN, Dean suggests it's better to own rather than rent. Each person should have an online space to establish residency, contribute to communities, and create their templates. He encourages us to keep it real by retaining our humanity and authenticity in digital spaces.

Recently, Danah Boyd suggested that increases in online participation are shifting the ways in which we are manipulated by digital information. What are the motives of gaining attention and sharing information online? Are we becoming a generation of skilled manipulators?

The original intention of this post was to express a personal challenge of balancing time spent learning between personal and professional learning and balancing digital and analog resources. That ship seems to have sailed. The theme of this post then shifted to finding a balance of control over our online spaces. Are we living two lives? What is the appropriate mixture of online and offline? Where's the balance? The thought of misrepresenting myself with a digital template is a bit disconcerting. I've never personally met many of the folks in my personal learning network, but I believe that when we do finally meet face-to-face, it will feel somewhat like a reunion of old friends.

photo credit: Pixabay CC0 - Public Domain; Ralf Kunze

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Subtle Beauty of Early Morning Learning Walks

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how wearable technology was changing my behavior for the better. After a month of walking at least 8000 steps per day, I've upped my daily step goal to 10,000. Apparently, 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day is one of those magic numbers, like drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day, that is significant to personal wellness. I'm finding that hitting the daily 10,000 step goal is rather easy if I do one simple thing.


I walk at least one complete lap through and around my school before the first bell.


My school is three stories tall. To walk from one end of the school to the other takes me approximately 1000 steps covering a distance of about 1/2 mile. My serpentine path through the school gets me 1/3 the way to my daily step goal and adds six flights of stairs as a bonus. But wait, that's not all. I've discovered a few additional benefits to walking through the entire school first thing in the morning.

  • The early-arriving students typically sit by themselves in the hallways waiting for school to begin. They're usually texting on their smartphones, watching videos on YouTube, or completing their homework. I say, "good morning" to each student as I pass. I can't be sure of the full impact, but I almost always get a smile and a "good morning" in return. (Relationship building / A welcoming environment)
  • As I meander through the hallways, I will stop to pick up scraps of paper, a misplaced book, and occasionally some loose change that has fallen on the floor. Last year, I picked up $21.47 in loose change that I donated to our school's family crisis fund. Our maintenance team is second-to-none, they are able to focus on more important tasks if the hallways are free from debris. It also sends a message to students that no one is above picking up after one another. (Fostering a culture of school pride)
  • My building walk provides me some distance away from my desk phone and computer. While walking, I'm following up on completed HelpDesk tickets, processing my daily to-do list, and checking in with teachers who have contacted me with tech questions. I'm closing the loop on some tasks while looking for issues that our team can be proactive in solving. The before school stroll provides time for reflection and planning. I often use my smartphone to take pictures and record audio notes about things that merit our attention. (Education is a service-based industry)

Several of our staff members take building walks during their lunch periods. In pairs or small groups, I have a growing appreciation for this simple way of nurturing personal wellness and fostering community togetherness. As the weather improves, I plan to extend my walks to the parking lots and surrounding athletic fields. Many teachers, students, and their parents are finding tremendous value in taking "learning walks." In the UK, some schools are seeing measurable gains in student achievement after implementing a daily mile program. The evidence is indisputable, movement is good for us, physically and mentally. I am enjoying increased productivity, more social connectedness, and greater professional enjoyment as a result of walking forty to sixty minutes through my building before school each morning. Learning walks may be just the thing for igniting your professional learning program, for implementing a school-wide wellness initiative, or for simply improving school climate and engagement.

photo credit: Pixabay CC0 - Pexels, May 2016