Learning About Makerspaces from the Pros on #DLDay

Editor’s Note:

The Burlington High School Help Desk’s Official Digital Learning Day activity was Help Desk Live-Episode 21 and featured makerspace experts Laura Fleming and Diana Rendina. Senior Cat Hoyt, a first year member of the Help Desk, facilitated the conversation. 

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As predicted in a previous post, “Amplifying Student Voice on Digital Learning Day,” Cat did an outstanding job leading the conversation. She was able to handle the technical aspects of managing a Live Google Hangout while at the same time, demonstrated her superior communication skills. If you are a teacher who wants to provide your students with an authentic learning experience and connect them with a global audience through Hangouts On Air, I highly suggest you watch Cat’s video. It is clearly an example of exemplary student work. If you missed the live broadcast, the archive is embedded below (it’s already had 289 views!), as is Cat’s reflection on what she learned as a result of her experience. And remember, Digital Learning Day never has been and never will be about the technology, it’s about how technology can support student learning! 

The Makerspace Mission Continued: A Reflection By BHS Senior Cat Hoyt

When I was asked by Mrs. Scheffer to be the student responsible for organizing and creating the Makerspace at Burlington High School, I was very excited, but when I was asked to facilitate a Google Hangout with two educators who are known for their extreme success in makerspace implementation, I was ecstatic. Diana Rendina and Laura Flemming are doing incredible things in their schools and I was going to get the chance not only to ask them my questions, but to do so in the form of a live event on Digital Learning Day (March 13, 2015). Digital Learning Day is an official celebration of innovative teaching and learning that is happening in our nation’s classrooms year round. It is not the one day of the year that teachers and students are encouraged to use technology, it is the one day of the year that the digital learning being used every day is celebrated and recognized.

Digital Learning Day at the BHS Help Desk

In order to prepare for the Google Hangout, I first needed to research my guests so that I had a good idea of the things that they were doing. Next, I had to brainstorm what I wanted to learn from them in order to hopefully, sometime in the near future, bring our Makerspace up to the level of theirs. Once I had researched my guests and written down a list of questions for them, I needed to plan the event. The show notes and the questions from the episode can be found here.

Overall, the experience was great. I have never been on the interviewER end of a GHO, but I think that the conversation went well and I am thankful to have had people so knowledgeable on the subject area to answer my questions. I’ve compiled a list of the top seven things that I learned from Diana and Laura and I believe these points will prove to be very helpful and motivational to schools looking to implement a Makerspace.

  • A Makerspace is beneficial because it is a unique learning environment and a place to be creative in an informal way
  • Teachers can offer inspiration but for the most part should allow students to provide the main influence in the planning of the project
  • The visual appeal and content are very important. You need a key item to draw people in but you also need something interesting to do when people get in there.
  • If your budget is low, reach out for donations, grants etc; people are often willing to help
  • In a makerspace it is important to see student-teacher learning, student-student learning, AND freedom to explore and learn individually.
  • Don’t be limited to one specific area, make your makerspace in a room but give people free reign to move about the library to create.
  • Don’t start with “what should I buy,” start with talking with school/students and assess the needs of your community so that the themes you develop are beneficial

Stay tuned for continued updates from Cat and her peers on the development of the BHS Maker Studio. A special thanks to Laura and Diana for taking the time to share their expertise with Cat and serving as guests on Help Desk Live! If you are doing innovative work in education and would like to talk with a Help Desk student on a future episode of Help Desk Live, please contact me to learn more! I can be reached via Twitter at @jlscheffer or you can email me at jscheffer@bpsk12.org. 

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