How Do We Scale Up MakerEd?

What is the essential question that drives your work as a FabLearn Fellow?

I spoke with Chief FabLearn Fellow Cat Herder, Sylvia Martinez, today. It was a mix of status report, pep talk and kick in the pants. In core maker educator mode, it doesn’t matter what the student has accomplished up to that point the question is, “Now what?” Part of the conversation was directed towards what will serve as the focus of my fellowship. My response is the following essential question.

How do we scale up Maker Education to reach all students?

That question has been the force behind much of my work in informal maker education the past few years. I believe that hands on maker education belongs in every classroom. My Makerspace Starter Kit was a first attempt to scale up that belief. Giving something to create the mindset that every classroom could be a makerspace. Between the Makerspace Starter Kit, conference presentations, blogging and Twitter I believe that I’ve spread that message to thousands of educators. I know that educators at my workshops have come back and told me about the makerspaces that they started. Sort of a Johnny Appleseed approach of spreading seeds into the wind and hoping they find fertile ground.

The informal approach has limits. As I drift more and more towards working with more formal maker education, I’m looking for more structured approaches. Here are some of the strategies I am currently working on to answer my essential question.

Scaling Up the Makerspace: This school year started my FabLearn Fellowship as well as the start of a school based makerspace thanks to winning the US Department of Education’s CTE Makeover Challenge. Instead of bins of personal maker gear kept in my office, we were able to start the year with a classroom makerspace with $50,000 in equipment. I was lucky but also put in the work applying for different grants and contests with a goal of creating a full featured school makerspace. In addition, I have also helped start a Maker Club that involves students after-school in personalized making.

Scaling Up a School: It isn’t enough to have a classroom makerspace that only one or two teacher use. To reach all the classrooms in my school, I put together mobile makerspace carts that can be used in classrooms with up to 32 students. Between the makerspace and the carts we can have 120 students working on maker products at the same time. I was also able to get regular MakerEd sessions into the ongoing Professional Development schedule. As a Technology Resource Teacher, i’m also able to suggest hands-on MakerEd teaching strategies when coaching teachers on instructional strategies and technology integration.

Scaling Up a School District: My district is a large district with over 78,000 students and 89 schools. Luckily, I meet with other building based colleagues on a regular basis and we can share instructional strategies. I’ve been able to share about digital fabrication and classroom makerspace. A colleague and I are working to support a cohort of schools with makerspaces. I’ve also given away Super Deluxe Makerspace Starter Kits to two schools that wanted to start makerspaces but didn’t have the resources. Luckily my district has an instructional initiative that in part calls for students to use real world tools to create real world products that solve authentic challenging problems in the world.

Scaling Up a Region: During the Stanford FabLearn Conference, I ran into some Virginia maker educators that work only 25 miles from my school. We discussed ways that we could support and build maker education in our region. One of the challenges we discussed is connecting solitary efforts by educators in public, private and informal settings. We brainstormed about connecting with the local maker faire organizer and having an educator meetup. I was able to contact the local group and helped kick-off the planning for a 2 hour maker educator event at the start of the maker faire. Hopefully, we can use the event as a springboard to have regular maker educator events hosted by local community makerspaces.

Scaling Up a State: Mainly I’ve been presenting at VSTE, Virginia Society for Technology in Education, about digital fabrication and maker education. I was on the conference committee for 2 years helping with the Hackerspace and have given multiple presentations the last 4 years. I wonder if there is any merit in creating a MakerEd special interest group.

Scaling Up the World: I’m presenting at ISTE about makerspaces. Helping plan a conference about 3D printing in education. Working with other FabLearn fellows around the world. Blogging. Publishing lesson plans and designs. The next big frontier would be creating MakerEd/FabLearn related video.

So…. what other strategies can be used to scale up Maker Education to reach all students? How can I be more efficient? Am I taking on too much? Not enough focus? Was this too long and you actually didn’t read it?

Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter @DesignMakeTeach