Thursday, October 17, 2013

The MakerSpace: If You Build It, Will They Come?

I'm about to find out.

Thanks to a dream, an under-utilized workspace, and a $3000 end-of-year surplus in my budget,  the library now has a MakerSpace!  It's on a different floor, the space isn't ideal, but hey!  It's there!

Ever since Buffy Hamilton first blogged about it a couple years ago or so, I've wanted a makerspace.  OK, sure, I'll admit it.  The geek in me waxed euphoric at the mere idea of more tech toys.  But I also firmly grounded my makerspace-lust in the belief that the library needs to support ALL literacies, not just reading and writing.  What better way to broaden our sphere and empower students than by giving them the tools, space and permission to go in and engage in meaningful play??

In my last school, money was the issue; in my current school, with its four different DT labs, film and recording studios, I figured we didn't need one.  I was so wrong.

When we were working on the WW II history project last spring, we set up the tech integrator's room as a mini-studio, with two soft box lights borrowed from the film studies teacher, using the whiteboard as a backdrop.  Next thing we knew, kids from all over the high-school were dropping in to use the lights.  This was my ah-ha moment:
  • Students recognized the need for better quality in their digital creations, and
  • We needed something local, as the DT laps and studios are in a separate building halfway across campus.

First Step: Collaborators
 I explained the vision to the tech integrator.  As one of the key-players for how technology is used in the high-school, she needed to play an integral role in promoting the space. Since she was part of the history project and saw first-hand the improved quality of students' work as well as the kids coming out of the woodwork to use the space, she was on board immediately--even though it meant giving up her work room. We moved her to the library's back-office instead, since I never use it; this has the added advantage of making it easier for us to collaborate.

More importantly even agreed when I insisted it be part of the library.  In fact, I was adamant.  If the space "ran" out of the tech department, teachers and students would connect it with them, and view it as just another tech lab.  Run as part of the library, it's a communal space for everyone to use.

We then got our curriculum coordinator on board, as the first person to present it to our principal.

Finally, we met with the all the film and DT teachers, had a good look at the space and asked for their recommendations. I've embedded a panorama of the room below. You can see it's quite long and narrow, which limits what we can do in there. We also wanted to  keep our goals attainable and achievable over the summer,  saving the dreaming for next year.  Thus, the current space is very oriented towards digital media production.

Step Two:  The Proposal
Now we needed a brief but powerful rationale for why we needed the space, and how we'd pay for it. Fortunately, this was going to be relatively low-cost as it mostly involved the re-purposing of an already existing space and buying equipment, all of which could come from the "leftovers" of last year's budget.

I focused on three areas:  An explanation of what it is and how it would be used, the impact on learning, and the benefits to the school.  You can see the document below.  Like most admin, mine are very short on time and don't want to read pages and pages of rationale; I didn't quite make my  two page goal, but almost (I've blacked out names for obvious reasons).

I have to say, there were no real road blocks to this, mostly because my school is very tech-forward and progressive, with challenging and inspiring students part of our mission statement. The principal read the proposal, loved it, and arranged a meeting with our director.

He asked me one question: How will you pay for it.  When I explained I had enough money from my budget, he exlaimed, "Fantastic! Get started!" and moved on to other business.  Shortest meeting I've ever had here!

And here's the space, though it's not the best panorama in the world!  Next post, I'll describe the equipment we purchased and how we're running the programming.

No comments:

Post a Comment