The school of education has recently embarked on developing a Makerspace for teachers in training and other educators as well as students in the St. Louis community. The project seeks to help education faculty understand how design thinking and problem solving can be taught to teachers as well as K-12 students.
In a recent series of studies, Dr. Basiyr Rodney and collaborators from the Webster Groves School District uncovered the importance of flexible learning spaces in information-age schools. In their study entitled, “School for Today” Rodney along with his colleagues John Simpson and Merlene Gilb discovered four principals of the 21st century school. Flexible learning spaces is one of these principles — alongside democratic or student-driven environments, community centeredness, and systemic adaptiveness.
As a further extension of this investigation, the importance and design of flexible learning spaces in the form of a School of Education Makerspace is an important development.
“Makerspaces are informal sites for creative production in art, science, and engineering where people of all ages blend digital and physical technologies to explore ideas, learn technical skills, and create new products” (Sheridan et al., 2014). Makerspaces are flexible learning spaces in which learners “develop an idea and construct it into some physical or digital form (Sheridan et al, 2014).
Modern makerspaces are housed in schools, classrooms, libraries, science centers, art museums and other spaces in which learners are able to “play” and learn. In such areas, learners can work collaboratively in small groups or as a whole class or even as individuals if a task demands.
Makerspaces center around engaging students in interdisciplinary learning with many tools that support Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) teaching. Students also use the DIY, tinkering, and computer programming culture to engage in project-based learning, problem solving, and design thinking.
These spaces are typically outfitted with technologies and materials that allow learners to engage with different ways of thinking, creativity and problem solving. Disciplined inquiry as well as unstructured problem solving with tools such as 3D printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutters, laminators and lathes is encouraged in the makerspace environment. Learners can engage with all types of materials and multiple skill areas.
Recently, students in Dr. Rodney’s EDUC 3127, Interactive Technologies have been exploring the design, development and use of Makerspaces in education. In addition to thinking about how makerspaces work, the 10 pre-service teachers are engaging with tools and activities that utilize problem solving with programming tools such as Scratch and low cost computers such as the Raspberry Pi.
The approach allows the students to see how they can apply creativity and innovation in supporting student learning. In their Scratch projects, teacher education students are using the makerspace resources to create digital stories that serve as models to engage k-12 learners in logical thinking, story sequence, and interactivity. They become adept at exploring design problems and creative thinking.
Sheridan, K., Halverson, E. R., Litts, B., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review. (4), 505-531.