Makerspace Musings

photo of small toolkit that comes with Ultimaker 2+ including screwdriver and wrench

On August 3-5, I attended an ACM funded workshop at Lawrence University designed to bring ACM faculty and staff together to discuss possibilities for integrating makerspaces into teaching and learning practices. Prof. Dave Hall, librarian Angela Vanden Elzen, and Instructional Technologist Arno Damerow put together a full day and a half of activities and discussion on the topic and gave us tours of their newly-minted makerspace housed in the Mudd Library. Bryan Alexander was our keynote speaker and his talk on “3D Printing Across the Curriculum” [ppt slides] provided a framework for much of the following discussion.

The diversity of job roles and institutional contexts lent a wide range of perspectives on making writ large, and on 3D printing more specifically. Participants came from theater, studio art, museum studies, libraries, instructional tech, and the sciences. Interesting questions were raised about how to meaningfully integrate the time for experimentation and iteration that makes making such a dynamic teaching and learning strategy into curricula in meaningful ways, as more than the extra credit tack-on for example. Student desire to incorporate 3D printing and making more broadly into their educational experience recurred as participants shared examples from their institutions. As Brian Healy pointed out, the auto-didact student is a great example but also not representative. One question I see going forward for makerspaces in the liberal arts context is how can we expose students who might not see themselves as “makers” to the wide range of possibilities, and how can we support interest and continued use and innovation of the spaces over time?

The Lawrence Makerspace is well-outfitted. One of the things that struck me the most was Angela’s statement that they purposefully designed the space to be gender-neutral by integrating a range of tools and materials to highlight the wide-range of what constitutes making and to make the space inclusive. A scrapbooking/crafts outfitted area was neighbored by an Ultimaker 2+. A sewing machine sat underneath the college’s logo and a sign “Makers Gonna Make.” These efforts resonated with me and I plan to bring that sentiment of inclusivity to any makerspaces developed here at Carleton.

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