Tuesday, 17 March 2015
To Maker or not
The Maker movement has been gathering some momentum over the last little while and many are trying to find a way to shoehorn Maker into the public school system. It has been suggested that Makerspaces should be in the library while another idea is to create Maker classes. As you can probably already tell, I fall deep in the anti Maker camp for three reasons.
1. If you have specialist teachers, you don't need to incorporate Maker because you already have it within your school. My husband is a shop teacher and he encourages students to problem solve and create new projects. But before students can tinker, they need to be taught skills and taught how to be creative. I am fortunate to work in a middle school of specialist teachers and see firsthand the skills the students are taught and the creativity they have as a result. When an Art teacher is teaching a full slate of art classes and that is her area of expertise, she can look at the scope and sequence for her courses and scaffold skills for students over the three years that they are in her course. Towards the end of their grade 9 year, students have the grounding in art theory and the practice to start delving into more creative projects. I think the same can be said for all our specialist elective teachers and their approach to their programs. I've also seen what happens when an elective is stripped of its specialist teacher and divided up amongst other teachers. Suddenly the course's scope and sequence dissolves and it isn't valued as much by the staff because it is that extra course to prep for. Enrollment dwindles and people begin questioning why we even offer the course in the first place.
2. Teaching skills and creativity does not fall to the elective teachers alone. Indeed, I believe that specialist teachers should be in the academic courses as well. If you have teachers who are comfortable and passionate about the curriculum, they will be able to see the scope and sequence much more clearly. As a result, they will be able to see ways to create opportunities to 'play' within their classes. For example, as the teacher librarian, I sought funds and purchased 3D printers. I saw the potential for using 3D printers within the classroom, not the library. Yes, I could have the printers in the library but that strikes me as gimicky. How the Math and Science teachers are using the 3D printers in their classrooms (from tessellations to gamifying volume) is incredible and much more enriching to the students.
3. Even if we did carve out a Makerspace within the library, when would it be used? Maybe just before school and at lunch? These 2 half hour blocks of time do not seem like enough time to tinker with Maker. Don't get me wrong, I do have lego, chess and other games students can play. Students can game in the library or work on art. Am I going to set up a duct tape centre or a coding station? Uh, no.
If having students think critically, be creative and have opportunities for hands on learning is important, then perhaps the implementation of these skills should be taken seriously. Giving students the chance to craft with popsicle sticks and pompoms certainly isn't the way to do it.