Transforming Teen Services: Making in the Library While Learning to Fail

Makerspaces, making, and the maker movement have become frequent conversation topics among librarians. We’ve encouraged making in the library through programming focused on writing, drawing, designing, building, coding, and more. As informal learning and gathering spaces, libraries are by nature situated to invite collaboration and discovery. In many cases, making has been associated with makerspaces — independent spaces that provide tools, materials, and support to youth and adults with an interest in creating (Educause, 2013). Sometimes makerspaces are flexible, subscription-based environments, sometimes they are hosts to structured programs and classes with an attached fee. Some have a technology prominence with 3D printers and laser cutters, while others lend an artistic attention  by supplying sewing machines and design software (Moorefield-Lang, 2015). No two makerspaces are the same, just as no two makers are the same.

Source: http://www.clubcyberia.org/

I first became interested in library makerspaces while touring Chicago Public Library’s not yet open to the public Maker Lab and its already thriving YOU Media during ALA Annual 2013. I love the playful atmosphere of learning and opportunity for exploration that these spaces offer teens. Then I dug into some publications. There is a significant amount of research about how youth learn as a result of participation in making and makerspaces (Sheridan et al., 2014; Slatter & Howard, 2013). Likewise, there is a wealth of blog posts, magazine articles, social media blurbs, TED talks, etc. on makerspaces, STEM learning programs, and the maker mindset (Fallows, 2016; Teusch, 2013). It can be difficult to separate the hype from the substance, but there’s still much to explore, discuss, and figure out.

There are many positive aspects of youth involvement with making such as fostering inventiveness, introducing STEAM learning outside of the classroom, and promoting learning as play. But in this post, I will focus on (what I think are) two major benefits of youth making in libraries that may not be quite as obvious: cultivating a capacity to create and learning to fail.

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Week of Making: Making on a Shoestring

It’s hard to get excited about makerspaces when you don’t have ANY budget for materials. Installing and maintaining the software to run a 3D printer might seem a logistical impossibility when you don’t even have permissions to run the Windows updates on your public computers. But there are a number of ways to establish a maker culture with things you might already have lying around your library.

Use your graveyard of equipment for a hardware tear-down. Our digital natives may never have had the opportunity to peak inside a tower or under the keyboard of a laptop. Showing them how to upgrade the RAM or swap out other bits attached to a motherboard is a real-world skill that makes computers more useful for longer. Back when I sponsored a high school technology team, one of the most impressive student projects I saw involved a student daisy-chaining a set of old CPUs together to create a robust machine. Before adding to the e-waste explosion, offer your deaccessioned hardware to your teens, along with screwdrivers, clamps, and other basic tools. If your patrons see you playing with this sort of stuff, you may receive donations…

Photo: https://twitter.com/shk_le_shka

Photo: https://twitter.com/shk_le_shka

Hack their old toys.In a similar vein, one of my Alabama colleagues demonstrated how you can eviscerate a thrift-store Tickle Me Elmo to produce your own weird sound effects, a project certain to delight most teens.
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Blog Post Round-Up: Intermediate Maker Programs

Blog post round-up is a series of posts that pull from the great YALSAblog archive. The topics have been requested by YALSA members. Have an idea for a topic? Post it in the comments.

 

Looking for posts on intermediate maker activities? Here are some great examples:

Week of Making: Maker Faire

Thinking (Out Loud) about Learning in Makerspaces

Cultural Competence and the Maker Movement

Week of Making: Collaborative Coding: Participation in a Community Appathon

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part three)

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part four)

2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Alexandra Tyle-Annen

2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Alexandra Tyle-Annen

Blog Post Round-Up: Beginner Maker Programs

Blog post round-up is a series of posts that pull from the great YALSAblog archive. The topics have been requested by YALSA members. Have an idea for a topic? Post it in the comments.

Need help getting started with making in your library? Check out these helpful posts.

Looking to Create a Makerspace in your library? Here are some ideas.

Week of Making: The Making of Librarian Makers

Week of Making: Getting Started: Creating a School Library Makerspace from Scratch

Maker March: Are You Already Making @ Your Library?

A Week of Making: What Making is Really All about?

Back to School with Making

Teen Tech Week and Beyond: Makerspaces

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part one)

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part two)

 

Teen Design Lab Day Two — Maps, notebooks, and hack your library!

Back for day two reflection! We added one more teen to the group, bringing our total up to five. Today was a heavy work day, although we were taking into consideration the request from the teen for more projects.

The afternoon began with working on something for the internet. We gave the teens three options: make a Facebook post for the Peoria Heights Public Library page (since our camp takes place at this library), make a blurb that could go up on the Richwoods Township website (since Roger came from the township to talk to us yesterday), or create a Google Map with pins at places they had visited on the community tour on Monday. More on that in what went well and what could be improved. 

Then, the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab made an appearance (and they are team members in this larger grant helping to pay me and my co-teachers to develop and run this camp). They brought along a friend, aka a portable laser. Holly, one of the Fab Lab instructors, led the five teens though designing a notebook cover to be lasered on a small Moleskine notebook. It was a great workshop and the teens had to find a quote they liked. We can definitely think of this workshop as a way to develop interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning. The teens had full say in what their notebooks looked like and this design process exposed them not only to design tools, but file management, USB procedures (like eject USB before physically removing it), and exposure to technology they might not have seen or used before.

With the notebooks begin lasered, the teens then did Hack Your Library. Essentially, they each had a clipboard, pencil, and a bunch of post-it notes. They were to carefully and thoughtfully go through the library, writing down on the post-it notes what they liked about the library, what they didn’t like, and things that surprised them (very similar to what they did the day before in downtown Peoria Heights). The afternoon ended with the teens presenting their findings to the group. The director of the library who we’ve been working closely with couldn’t sneak away to hear the presentation but was looking at the feedback on our way out after camp was over.

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Low-Stress Making through Crafternoons

Are you a maker? With all the emphasis on high tech gadgetry, it can make you feel a little left behind if you can’t swing a 3D printer on your budget or lack the skills to wield some soldering equipment.

But, like the science-technology-engineering- math portmanteau STEM which added an “A” added to encompass art and become STEAM, the expansion of the “maker” trend to incorporate arts and crafts as a creative and productive use of time and space is a step towards recognizing the wide variety of material production that libraries have long been supporting. And it’s an easy way to get in on the making trend with supplies you likely have laying around.

We’ve had success with this sort of low-stress, drop-in crafting at our library.

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Thinking (out loud) about learning in makerspaces

I recently made an expedition to SXSWedu in Austin. I was really excited about this conference because I thought it’d be useful to me as an educator/facilitator/enabler of science and technology-based programs and projects at my library. I was looking forward to hearing new-to-me perspectives on student (or in my case teen)-centered learning; maybe I’d pick up some tips on how to help teens feel comfortable expressing their interests or how to frame  a challenging project in a manageable way or chunk it into achievable pieces. What I most hoped to do, I think, was speak with other educators about the unique challenges and opportunities of learning in a makerspace-type environment. It was a valuable experience in many ways, but not quite what I expected. (The usual caveats apply – YMMV, perhaps I picked the wrong sessions, didn’t find the right folks to network with, etc.)

As I left SXSWedu and headed for home, I reflected a bit on my experience. I was disappointed, because I had hoped to connect with experts – people who knew more than me about what I was doing. I didn’t. At a panel where I expected higher-level conversation about makerspaces and learning, I left frustrated that the conversation was ‘what is a makerspace?’ and ‘low-budget vs high-budget’ and ‘you don’t NEED a 3d printer’ instead of ‘this is what makes a makerspace special, and this is how to maximize that opportunity.’ I wanted nuts and bolts and a user’s manual, and I got Tinker Toys. As I thought more and more about what had happened, it occurred to me that if I wanted to talk about this, I ought to just start the conversation I wanted to hear. To that end, here are the questions on my mind right now, and some of my possible answers.

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Maker March: Are You Already Making @ Your Library?

Everyone is talking about Makerspaces. When I say Makerspace do you immediately think of a room filled with laser cutters, 3D printers, and teens creating giant programmable robots capable of restacking meeting room chairs? Probably, although the robots may just be me.

The reality for most libraries is that we don’t have a dedicated space in which to make stuff. But we do have the capability to encourage making at our libraries. Making means learning through trial and error, through practical application, and through hands-on experience. Making means giving access to communities to grow and create something better. Continue reading