Saturday, 26 August 2017

Starting Up a Makerspace - My Journey

This year I have the awesome opportunity to work in the JIS Elementary Makerspace. The room that will serve as the space is a corner office with lots of windows and light. Here is the room so far ...

There's not much in here yet but there are some robotics kits, Rigamijig, bike construction kits and other odds and ends. It's a start. So I find myself wondering ...What is a Makerspace? How can this space become accessible for all students at PIE? What can be done to get students really interested in making and collaborating in this space? What kinds of provocations can I create to help motivate students?

We have decided to call the space 'Bengkel'. Bengkel is the Indonesian word for workshop. 

Something that I know well is, "People only know what they know and they don't know what they don't know." This is something that I have always told learners who are new to using technology - but actually it applies to all learning. So, how can you know what you don't already know?

How can I trigger a greater curiosity for making?

I am lucky to have a background in making. Back in the 80s I studied a Diploma of Art at the University of Southern Queensland before going on to train as a art teacher. I majored in Textiles and Painting. I have always been creative and have self-taught myself to make. My work in university really challenged me to understand the difference between art and craft. It was hard at times as I was trained to create art first but I was so influenced by Indonesian crafts as I had partly grown up in Indonesia. I really admire the craftspeople of Indonesia and had considered that to be a form of art. My lecturers told me that art is an expression and has message whereas craft is a skilled form and can be quantified. Craft can also be duplicated. 

I know that the very concept of the maker movement is still being defined. If we start with what is a maker, we will find that it is a person who can create, produce, build, invent or manufacture something.

My understanding is that things made in a Makerspace are utilitarian. The things there are designed to be more practical rather than just attractive. Indeed startup companies like Quirky and Kickstarter are equipping makers with access to resources that can help turn an idea into a real life product. I strongly believe that making leads to new understandings and making new connections. An example of this is traditional weavers from Bolivia are being employed to make heart implants that cannot be produced by a machine.

How amazing that these traditional craftspeople are now weaving implants to save lives. It's their skill that cannot be reproduced by a machine. How creative was the Bolivian cardiologist Franz Freudenthal to make such a connection between craft and science.

So where do I begin? How can I turn this office space into a creation station? Over the past two years, my school has been developing an iTime program for all students in Elementary. A typical iTime cycle will run for about 6 weeks and happen about one session a week. Students create a pitch to their teacher which will include their plan for what they want to investigate, their needs (both materials and access to expertise) and how this will help them to become better learners. This Makerspace will support student iTime project work.

And so we begin. I hope to post frequently about how this space and this program develops. My first task is to buy some consumables. I already have students knocking on the door asking for DC motors, felt, wiring, sewing supplies etc. 

I can hardly wait!