On Tuesday, February 7 at TCEA 2017, attendees met one-on-one with innovative experts to learn great makerspace tips at the Poster Pavilion. Taking place over several days during the convention, the Poster Pavilion sessions allow participants to pick the brains of ed tech specialists on a number of high-interest topics. To give you a little taste of TCEA 2017, we asked several of the presenters at the session for their best makerspace tips and advice. Here’s what they had to say:
Tip #1 – Start Simple
Amanda Hunt and Michelle Harwood of New Braunfels ISD advised makerspace newbies to not get overwhelmed. It can be easy to be wowed by all the 3D printers, robots, and other fantastic ed tech tools out there. Remember, you don’t need to get all of the expensive technology at once. In fact, they suggest utilizing simple and free to low-cost materials to get started. A makerspace isn’t defined by its technology, but by the creative lessons and ideas you bring to it. Don’t be afraid to start small and build your makerspace over time.
Tip #2 – Invite Teachers to Make
Getting buy in from teachers, principals, and district decision makers is crucial to the success of any makerspace. The presenters at Fort Sam Houston ISD shared a great tip for gaining much-needed support. Before launching their incredibly successful Imaginasium: Elementary Makerspace, they held a full-day open session with teachers. The teachers played, built, and really saw the potential for learning in action. They discovered for themselves the types of ideas and creative energy that would be ignited in their students. Letting adults get in on the fun is a powerful way to encourage everyone to become a makerspace advocate.
Tip #3 – Eyes on the High-Level Prize
Audrey Colwell, a librarian from McKinney ISD, also stressed the importance of getting buy in from principals and teachers. She suggests focusing on the educational benefits. These benefits reach even beyond the potential for curriculum connections. To the untrained eye, a makerspace might look like a glorified playground. The key is to really sell the high-level critical thinking, problem solving, and real-world applications taking place. Then it will be much easier to get everyone on board and excited about the potential to grow the makerspace program.
Tip #4 – No Makerspace Is an Island
Dr. Jennifer Horner Miller is a curriculum designer and learning technology expert. She encourages teachers to write their own simple makerspace lessons. More importantly, she asks educators to share the lessons they create with the larger community. Educators can even nudge students to develop their own makerspace lessons and challenges for a fun enrichment activity. By sharing these tools, makerspaces cease being limited to the resources of a single educator or group of educators in a school or library. Instead, they grow to encompass a much larger community of shared resources.
Tip #5 – Provide Thinking Models
Liz Fleskes is a Director of Early Childhood at Good Shepherd Episcopal School outside of Dallas. Fleskes’s advice is to give student makers the language they need to talk about what they’re doing. In her school’s makerspace, Sparq, they began introducing learning models like de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and the theory of multiple intelligences. Fleskes says this has helped her students to conceptualize the critical thinking they’re doing. This makes it easier for students to collaborate for greater learning opportunities.
The Power of YOU(r) Makerspace
These are just a few makerspace tips for how to start or expand your own makerspace and make it an effective center for building and learning. Already a makerspace pro? Give your own savvy advice in the comments.
We hope you enjoyed this peek into TCEA 2017. Even if you weren’t able to join us in Austin this year, if you want to learn more about makerspaces, look for our upcoming TCEA Makers events for a hands-on learning experience. For more updates on the ground at TCEA 2017, make sure to follow us on your social media of choice. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Use #TCEA17 to join the conversation!