7 things you should know about makerspaces (7) What are the implications…
7 things you should
know about makerspaces
1) What is?
It is a physical location where people
gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.
On campus, the makerspace is being embraced by the arts as well as the sciences, and a new energy is building around multidisciplinary collaborative efforts.
They provide tools and space
in a community environment—a library, community center, private organization, or campus
2) How does it work?
Many of them are still primarily places
for technological experimentation, hardware development, and idea prototyping.
As the notion of providing space for project design and construction has caught on in education, such places have acquired other accoutrements, from paints and easels and impromptu stage sets to cooktops and candy molds.
Used by students, faculty, and staff, makerspaces have become arenas for informal, project-driven, self-directed learning, providing workspace to tinker, try out solutions, and hear input from colleagues with similar interests.
3) Who’s doing it?
The makerspace emerged initially as a powerful
learning force in the nonacademic community.
One member-supported effort that reflects that origin is the Milwaukee Makerspace, which invites the public to attend meetings.
Members see sharing and learning skills as a key purpose of
their makerspace, resulting in a dynamic studio environment
that builds member projects.
Colleges and universities have also been quick to recognize the value of the makerspace as a learning opportunity.
4) Why is it significant?
Makerspaces are zones of self-directed learning.
Their hands-on character, coupled with the tools and raw materials that support invention, provide the ultimate workshop for the tinkerer and the perfect educational space for individuals who learn best by doing.
Interaction among inventors at these facilities
fosters a highly collaborative learning dynamic.
Where these spaces are open to use by faculty, students, and staff from a cross-section of content areas, they promote multidisciplinary thinking and learning, enriching the projects that are built there and the value of the makerspace as an educational venue.
5) What are the downsides?
Space in learning facilities is often at a premium,
and cost is a consideration in setting up an area for making.
High-end 3D printers that print with a variety of media can be
expensive. Smaller, more affordable 3D printers generally create only small items.
Equipment such as milling machines, welding equipment, lathes, 3D printers, and laser cutters may be in high demand, which can result in long wait times for students trying to use these facilities.
Some of these machines can be dangerous, too, raising liability issues.
Much of the value of a makerspace lies in its informal character and its appeal to the spirit of invention, and some of this advantage can be negated if well-meaning faculty choreograph student activity to a degree that squelches experimentation.
6) Where is it going?
One key demand of a makerspace is that it exist as a
physical location where participants have room and opportunity for hands-on work, but as these environments evolve, we may see more virtual participation.
Video may invite input from remote experts, and teleoperation may enable manipulation of machinery from afar.
Their influence has spread to other disciplines and may one day be embraced across the curriculum.
Eventually makerspaces may become linked from campus
to campus, encouraging joint project collaboration.
As education assessment evolves, the project work done in makerspaces may one day be accepted and reviewed for college credit in lieu of more conventional coursework.
7) What are the implications for
teaching and learning?
The makerspace gives room and materials for physical learning.
Because these spaces can easily be cross-disciplinary, students in many fields can use them, often finding technical help for work they are undertaking in their areas.
Those in engineering and technology will find their work enriched by contributions from those in other fields.
Makerspaces allow students to take control of their own learning as they take ownership of projects they have not just designed but defined.
Students often appreciate the hands-on use of emerging technologies and a comfortable acquaintance with the kind of experimentation that leads to a completed project.
Where makerspaces exist on campus, they
provide a physical laboratory for inquiry-based learning.