What is a Makerspace?
In Educause’s 7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces, these spaces are described as labs that:
Provide tools and space in a community environment—a library, community center, private organization, or campus.
Employ expert advisors some of the time, but that:
It is usually a shared space where peers assist and learn from one another
Combination of lab, shop, or conference room where students learn through hands on exploration.
Educause argues that this idea of a collaborative studio space has caught hold in education. Although it has typically been associated with engineering and computer science, it is now catching on in the arts and energy is building around multidisciplinary collaborative efforts within makerspaces.
Additionally, Dale Grover of Maker Works in Ann Arbor describes makerspaces as “tools + support + community.” They are environments where people share tools, skills, and ideas, and collaborate on projects. The learning experience tends to be hands-on, collaborative. The focus of makerspaces is to bring together people to explore and create projects that interest them.
Makerspaces are also known as hackerspaces, hacklabs, or fablabs. Makers are those people who participate in the maker culture.
Makerbridge, an organization dedicated to assisting librarians who are interested in and charged with developing makerspaces, insist that the most important element of makers and maker culture is people. They, and others, see the larger movement as being about community, sharing, and learning from each other, rather than independently making on one’s own.
The concept of the Makerspace emerges from the technology- driven “maker culture,” associated with Make magazine and the Maker fairs that it promotes. It is also influenced by hacker and Do-It-Yourself culture.
How do Makerspaces work?
Makerspaces function as a place to experiment with technology. They frequently:
Are open for unscheduled activity where students can come in and experiment
Host scheduled classes led by specific experts. These classes are generally not for credit and focus on a single skill such as coding, soldering, or woodcarving.
Make equipment, such as 3D printers, that students otherwise would not have access to, available for the purpose of prototyping.
(Educause’s 7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces)
For a great introduction to the Maker Movement, see Thinkers and Tinkers, a workshop developed by the University of Alberta.
Jon Burke, in his article, “Making Sense: Can makerspaces work in Academic Libraries,” describes makerspaces as:
• They are spaces in which experienced makers can teaching skills and guide the progress of newer makers.
• They allow for the sharing ideas and designs not just within the makerspace, but outward to the larger world of makers.
• They enable individuals to collaborate on projects and bring multiple perspectives and skill sets together.
• They encourage individuals to experiment and discover through tinkering with technologies and products and to approach making with a spirit of play.
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