The Electric Educator: Book Review; Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review; Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces

Fellow Michigan educator Nick Provenzano (a.k.a. The Nerdy Teacher) and I agreed to a book swap this fall. I sent over a copy of my new book and he kindly sent me a copy of his!

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces is a quick and entertaining read. They don't call him "The Nerdy Teacher" for nothing! The book is full of obvious, and not so obvious nerdy humor (Star Wars, Superheros, He-man and more!), as well as some touching personal stories and anecdotes.

Let's be honest - a lot of the books in the "teaching and learning" section of your local book store, while helpful, aren't exactly entertaining. This one is!

Nick helped expand my understanding and perspective on what it means to be a maker. Making shouldn't be limited to coding and 3D printing - any form of creation (writing a poem, recording a song, etc) is making. "Making is the creation of something new that was not there before" (pg. 9). Personally, I'm not really into coding or 3D printing, but I am still a maker: I write and create digital content.

There is a lot of talk and excitement about creating makerspaces in schools and helping students to become makers. I don't think I have ever heard anyone articulate why being a maker is an important thing or why we should emphasize the skills of creation. Perhaps it is taken for granted; perhaps I'm the only one who doesn't know! Nick helped me out: "Creating more opportunities for students to Make and [celebrating] those creation is how we increase the likelihood that these students will continue to be creators and not just consumers" (pg. 11).

Students are our future. What they create, build, design, innovate, and construct will shape the world. Let's encourage them to be creators rather than simply consuming that which is given to them.

Not only will our students become creators when we encourage them to make, they also learn important problem solving skills. "The more that our students encounter [challenging] problem-based lessons, the stronger their skills will become, and they will be able to better handle bigger problems they will face outside of school in future jobs" (pg. 15). Makerspaces encourage problem-based-instruction which requires teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Not only does Nick provide the "WHY" of makerspaces, he also dives into the "HOW" providing a simple roadmap for the setup and design of a makerspace. I was quite surprised by the simple, honest advice that Nick provided:

  1. Makerspaces should be open and accessible to everyone.
  2. Get as many people involved as possible!
  3. Fill your makerspace with ideas and possibilities, not just tools and gadgets. 
He does a great job expanding on these three themes in chapters 3, 4, and 5. 

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces is a great resource for anyone developing a makerspace or for anyone who keeps hearing people talk about makerspaces and is wondering what all the fuss is about. 

Buy the book from Amazon, read it and make something! You can connect with Nick via his blog or on Twitter

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