Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Columbia University's Makerspace

This summer I was fortunate to be invited to tour the makerspace/design labs of Teacher’s College Columbia University with a colleague.  Our host was Richard Jochum, professor of art and art education as well as the visionary who wrote the curriculum for their new program in Creative Technologies.  What I learned that day was both inspirational and affirming.

The first room we toured was their original digital photography lab.  Walls were lined with computers, scanners and printers.  Shelves housed 3D printers and several storage carts caught my eye: Makey Makey kits, alligator clips, wire, batteries - basically the exact same supplies that were in my makerspace!  Here I was in a prestigious university and the students there are using the same exact materials that my students are using!  Validation of the highest form!  The second room we toured was more sophisticated in it’s tools and technologies but very similar to what our high school is planning for their design lab. Again, validation!  The walls were adorned with examples of student work; a small gallery celebrating student learning, a final project highlighting the integration of making and writing, a work in progress waiting for it’s owner to return.  In all, it was a beautiful sight knowing that audience is a vital part of student motivation and planning for new ways to celebrate learning in our makerspace.

Beyond the materials and machines lay a glorious commonality within the maker world no matter the age of the student; educators want to promote a community of risk takers and problem solvers. Professor Jochum sat with my colleague and I for over an hour talking about the future of makerspaces, the importance of vertical curriculum and how we play a part in creating such students.  Change is happening in education on all levels, it’s slow but it is happening.  Changing the space, we have all come to learn, is the easy part.  It’s the culture change within individual school buildings that is more challenging. However, after this day, thinking about the parallels between my students and the students at Columbia University, I was inspired to start a new school year and “make” it amazing!

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