Can old-fashioned craft supplies like pipe cleaners and toothpicks measure up to new and exciting classroom tech offerings like animation software and 3D printers?
Yes, says Laura Briggs, technology resource teacher/staff developer and coach for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. And by combining hands-on projects with technology, teachers can provide new resources to integrate into their science and math curricula.
Briggs, president of the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, says mobile makerspaces provide fun STEM activities for students of all ages. Makerspace environments allow students to be creative and work on a variety of projects, which in turn spark an interest in areas like engineering and science.
Making projects come to life
Makerspaces can be an entire room, an unused closet or a workbench tucked in the corner of the classroom. The idea is to provide a space where learners are able to create, build and explore new possibilities. In fact, makerspaces don't even have to be in a permanent space.
Mobile makerspace incorporates two meanings of the word mobile. First, the makerspace itself is mobile. It can be a cart with makerspace materials that can be wheeled to classrooms, the libraries or other areas of the school. This portable lab frees up classroom space and makes these activities more accessible to more students.
At the same time, mobile makerspaces can take advantage of mobile technologies, such as tablets, laptops, smartphones and other tools. Students are able to use an app to create the code that will control a robot or they can use a smartphone camera to record a stop-animation movie.
While much of the makerspace area can be low or no tech, integrating it with more advanced technology can challenge not only students but teachers too. By incorporating technologies, like robotics and 3D printers, into the makerspace area, less tech-savvy teachers can build their tech skills. " "Even though there is a lot of technology in public areas, within the classroom, it all depends on how comfortable the teacher is with the technology," " Briggs said.
In her ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar, " "Mobile Makerspaces and Fun STEM Activities for School Year and Summer Camp Programs," " Briggs will focus on one of her favorite makerspace activities.
Each year, fifth graders create a cardboard arcade for the school's annual STEM night. Students use cardboard and other low-tech materials with technologies like motors and robotics to build their own versions of popular arcade games.
" "Each year, the projects get more inventive and creative," " Briggs says. This year students built vehicles as well as arcade games.
While Briggs plans to present different project ideas to give webinar attendees a starting point, she hopes they'll take try blending the makerspace environment with STEM instruction. What she plans to show is how teachers can incorporate this learning technique into their classrooms and how these projects are not only exciting for the students, but teachers too.
" "You don't have to re-do your classroom or be a technology genius to incorporate mobile makerspaces into your curriculum," " she says. Start with basic tools and then sit back watch what your students create.