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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Makerspaces on Academic Campuses - Pedagogical Values

In her article, “Makerspaces Move into Academic Libraries,” Erin Fisher writes about the educational value of makerspaces on campus. She argues that they support changing modes of learning by providing opportunities for people to learn hands-on, which is a characteristic that is frequently devalued in post-secondary, and more specifically, university education.  She argues that hands on learning actually has great educational benefits, as it can aid in the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are both very important and practical skills for the workforce. While current, traditional systems lacks the opportunities for most students to learn hands-on and problem solving skills makerspaces allow students to:

  • Brainstorm

  • Protype

  • Test solutions

  • Go back to the drawing board

  • Can help libraries to adapt to changing student needs and supporting knowledge creation in addition to knowledge consumption

  • Expose students to cutting-edge technologies that could eventually lead to new entrepreneurial opportunities.

Again, like other digital pedagogical approaches, the use of makerspaces is a move away from a teaching culture, which typically consists of expert transferring info to a novice, to a learning culture, which uses active learning techniques

Makerspaces and Pedagogy - Audrey Watters

Makerspaces and Pedagogy
At the ELI 2013 Annual Meeting, Audrey Waters presented a paper entitled "A Case for Campus Makerspaces." The focus of the paper is on how technology will change what is taught and how it is studied at universities. Her thesis is that growing out of the recent revival in hobbyist "hacking" of both hardware and software, Makerspaces have become interesting community learning places where people can play, make, and hack together in areas like 3D printers, electronic textiles, robotics, programming, and design, and why room should be made for Makerspaces in academia.
Waters insists that  schools need to look to the maker culture to reinvigorate themselves, to keep themselves relevant, to engage students, and to make their learning meaningful. Waters offers a very viable discussion of the importance of the makerspace on campus. She states that makerspaces work, and their values should be encouraged because they include:
  • small group discussions

  • Collaboration

  • participatory and peer to peer project based learning

  • Participation

  • Inquiry

  • Curiousity, and

  • Fun


The Case of 3D Printers


3D Printers as a Pedagogical Example - Audrey Watters

From a pedagogical perspective, in her talk, Watters uses the example of making accessible 3D printers, the cost of which has dropped significantly, and which are now usually a staple of makerspaces.

She argues that 3D printers are not only for STEM courses: that they contribute to a creative enterprise and help those using them to problem solve together. Watters argues that this kind of work is not just for science and engineering, it is also for the humanities, and that it is openly democratic and participatory. She insists that the makerspace can act as the intersection of the technological sciences and the liberal arts.

Additionally, she argues that as much as there is a push to create courses that teach writing across the curriculum, she thinks that there should also be courses that teach making across the curriculum. The pedagogical basis for this looks back to John Dewey; that people learn by doing and making, not necessarily by clicking.


She states that by allowing students to prototype, we are helping them to learn problem solving, and by letting them make, we are giving them critical skills. The project based component is very important, as students still do research and plan, but they are also prototyping in a different way which is relevant and meaningful, and experimental.


Additionally, allowing students access to makerspaces:

  • exposes them to cutting edge technologies, which can help them find employment
  • gain expertise with technologies that are not just proprietary systems but include open source software

Additionally, the typical programming in makerspaces is solid from a pedagogical perspective because they:

  • tend to offer classes that are casual, and not for credit, making the student feel that it is a safe place to learn

  • Learning is project based and therefore learner focused, learner driven, and cross disciplinary

  • any level of skill is typically welcome and therefore not intimidating

  • Students decide on projects, and are given control over what they want to build, and therefore learn, which inevitably increases engagement

  • importance about the link between planning and prototyping is learned

  • Students become more innovative

  • Students get exposed to cross disciplinary interaction, more relevancy, technical projects, the technologies found in makerspaces


Philosophy of Makerspaces

In their article, "The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces," Kurti et al also expound on makerspaces as superior pedagogical models. The authors state that makerspaces have the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn. They describe makerspaces as being based on the foundations of constructionism, the philosophy of hands on learning through building. Further, they argued that maker education is a branch of constructivist philosophy that views learning as a highly personal endeavor requiring the student, rather than the teacher, to initiate the learning process. They describe the following as an ideal constructivist environment:

“the line between learner and instructor becomes blurred. For instance, consider a student experiencing a roadblock in designing a gear reducer. As the first student struggles in the design, another shares a solution he or she has used or is currently using. Then together the students work to overcome the obstacle; in this case one student is the classical “learner,” while the other is the classical “teacher.”


In this set up, the  students are actively engaged and peer-to-peer teaching and learning occurs. As in so many other instances of digital pedagogy, the teacher becomes the facilitator.

Kurti et al argue that in order  to preserve the true aspect of maker education, it is imperative that the process remain learner driven rather than teacher driven. The individuality within such an environment comes from the solutions that students create. The authors argue that "while the laws of nature preclude certain solutions, there are thousands—if not millions—of workarounds in which the laws can be harnessed by innovative thinking." Many aspects of modern education imposes conformity, while makerspaces allow for an opportunity to break with this.

Additionally, Educause’s 7 Things that you Should Know About Makerspaces states that makerspaces:

  • ​allow for self directed learning
  • are a perfect space for individuals who learn by doing
  • can foster a highly collaborative learning dynamic
  • can also promote multidisciplinary thinking and learning enriches the learning environment

Making the Case for Makerspaces on Academic Campuses

Jon Burke, in his article, “Making Sense: Can makerspaces work in Academic Libraries,”  justifies an Academic Library Makerspace in the following way:

  • It can provide opportunity for hands on learning
  • It allows students to work collaboratively with peers – group participation and collaboration
  • It allows for self-directed learning
  • It allows students to prototype and problem solve
  • It allows for tinkering and exploring how things work and delve into troubleshooting
  • It can add to a library’s mission by adding making activities that are a reasonable extension of the library’s goals
  • It can provide access to services and needs that may not be easy to get at otherwise