What Did I Learn?

This class on makerspaces and hands on learning has easily been one of the most fun and informative classes I have taken in graduate school. The material in this class is increasingly important as libraries around the world add makerspaces as an important part of their institutions. This class also touched on learning through untraditional media such as video games that are blossoming into artistic forms of art and story telling.

Through interaction with other students in the class I am having trouble pinpointing a specific thing I learned from discussion posts. I think the most important lesson I learned is that creativity and hands on learning is possible in any library no matter how big or how small.

I expected this course to cover a lot of material on the importance of makerspaces and how to use one in a library or museum setting. This class did that and more. I did not expect to learn so much about Pokémon in this class, but I think that is a sign of how this class was driven in part by the students. I have noticed in classes where the students direct learning popular culture inevitable seeps into the curriculum. I think it is great when that happens because it means the students are passionate about their projects. There isn’t a single project I would want to spend less time on, however if a cut had to be made it would be the game paper. The game paper didn’t fit into the theme of the class as well as the other papers. That said, DON’T CUT THE GAME PAPER! Not only was the paper fun but I learned a lot from it.

I actually think the game project was my favorite project. Oddly enough I have already written several papers on video games and learning in the MLIS program, mainly because I’m a gamer and I find ways to write about gaming. This paper was different because it wasn’t focused on the culture of gaming, or the effects of gaming, but instead focused on the learning of gaming through actually playing a game. This was the first hands on paper I have written in undergrad and I wish there were more like it!

 

 

 

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Pokémon Going to Work

For my Maker Faire project I decided to hit two birds with one stone. I am on the Take5 Committee at the Kennedy Library where I help plan stress relief activities for college students. Our first activity this fall will be a Pokémon Go event where we place “lures” in the Pokestops outside our library for 8 hours straight to lure rare Pokémon and incoming freshmen. We thought it would be cool if we had a real Pokestop at the event, which is the second bird hit by this stone of a project.

To make the Pokestop I decided to try using the same foam board architecture students use to make models. I did this because a) architecture is one of the most popular programs at our university and b) I had never worked with this material before. Either I got the wrong kind of foam board, the wrong tools, or architecture students are gluttons for punishment because it was the hardest material I have ever worked with. I tried using a razor to cut the shapes out and eventually resorted to kitchen sheers which left my hands red and raw.

I cut out the shapes, glued them to a dowel and filled the gaps between layers with sheetrock putty because it was what I had on hand. Once the putty and glue dried I spray painted the project with blue spray paint.

The biggest lesson I learned with this project is to not assume a project will be easy. I thought I was going to be making a fun and laid back project, but it was extremely difficult and didn’t turn out as cool as I had hoped. At least I know that next time I make a display for work I should use materials I am comfortable with.  0731161347.jpg

Failure v. Constructionist

I have always heard that you learn more from failure than from success. This may be true but I think that it only works when the person truly tries to succeed, “fails,” and has the determination to build themselves back up again and try again. Where learning by failure fails is when the failure is emphasized or required.

I agree with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager when they write that our culture has confused failure with iteration (Martinez and Stager 2013). In constructionist learning the student, or learner, constantly tries new things and slowly shapes their design or project. When new things don’t work they aren’t deemed failures, there is no grade or scolding, they are simply parts of the design that didn’t work as expected. For example when making my Maker Faire project for next weeks blog post a small part of my PokéStop design didn’t work, there were huge gaps between sheets of foam board and the cuts were all ragged. I took the constructionist approach and viewed these as surprise problems to be solved and not failures in my design. With some improvisation and a heavy amount of sheetrock putty my design continued on.

Another huge problem with promoting failure is when it is built into the assignment. What happens when a student makes a very well thought design and their idea works perfectly, but the design called for several drafts where the student must find huge mistakes to fix. For a student who succeeded with their first design this can lead to a lot of head banging trying to improve a great design, and possibly lead the student to go back and purposely create flawed drafts to be submitted as first and second attempts. This student didn’t learn anything by failure, they just did busy work to appease a teacher.

References

Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom.

 

STEM Gets An A

In Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom Martinez and Stager argue that there is no real reason to mess with an acronym and the arts should be naturally added into STEM fields where necessary but not by changing STEM to STEAM (Martinez & Stager 2013). Instead we should focus on breaking down the boundaries between subjects for more natural learning (Martinez & Stager 2013). While those are wonderful goals that would benefit learning I disagree that the A shouldn’t be added to STEM. I think in the short term we should turn STEM to STEAM for one simple reason, money.

The Obama administration has pushed for increased funding for STEM fields in education to get more students to study STEM subjects, more faculty to teach these subjects, and more projects in these fields (US Department of Education 2015). Last year President Obama announced a commitment of $240 million in funds for STEM fields from various donors, foundations, etc. (the White House 2015). By bundling the arts into STEM some of that extra funding would find its way to supporting artistic programs.

While the federal government is raising funds to promote STEM fields many local and state governments are cutting funding to arts programs. The Washington Times writes that it is fairly common for arts programs to be cut, “Not too many years ago a high school in Wilson, North Carolina, lost around 20 positions, including clerical, teacher assistants and classroom teachers. Steve Ellis, principal at Fike High School in Wilson, said they have had to cut jazz band, piano classes and elective courses held through the community college” (Hambek 2016).

My hope is that by adding the arts to STEM they wont be left behind when the budget cuts roll through town.

References

Hambek, J. (2016). Arts programs in schools often in danger of being cut [web post]. The Washington Times. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/14/arts-programs-in-schools-often-in-danger-of-being-/

Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom.

The White House (2015). Fact sheet: President Obama announces over $240 million in new STEM commitments at the 2015 White House science fair [web post]. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/23/fact-sheet-president-obama-announces-over-240-million-new-stem-commitmen

U.S. Department of Education, (2015). Science, technology, engineering and math: education for global leadership [web post]. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/stem

 

 

INFO 287: Earning Badges and Flying Drones!

When I think of the library of the future I think of ideas such as automated retrieval systems, bookless libraries, and a heavy emphasis on technology, but these aren’t the only ideas for future libraries. The American Library Association, ALA, has published their predictions of the future. Some of the predictions align with my ideas of future libraries filled with tech centered Digital Natives, and some of the predictions really surprised me.

The prediction that surprised me the most was the digital badges. I stumbled on a link to digital badges while doing some online training at work the other day and I was confused and intrigued. Digital badges to create a simple portfolio that made me feel like an office working boy scout sounded like an interesting idea. While it initially sounds silly there are plenty of people who take videogame badges, or achievements, very seriously. achievement (2).gifIf the badges did catch on it would be an interesting way of creating a portfolio. These small icons representing achievements, workshops, and awards would be a fun way to gauge a persons abilities. Unlike military badges, digital badges can be easily shown to teachers and potential employers without wearing a uniform or even visiting them in person.

I was also very surprised that drones were listed as a library tool. Drones seem to be very popular these days as a photography, delivery, and of course surveillance tool. According to the ALA drones can be used to deliver resources, provide internet access, and help researchers make video calls from remote locations. For the most part these activities take place outside the library, but they still involve the library in some way. Sadly the article does not mention small drones pulling books off the shelves and delivering them to students, but there is still time to add that feature to the library.

 

Is There a Downside?

Is there a downside to making more museums and cultural institutions more interactive? What is your view of the limitations of maker culture? Is there a risked loss of identity and value for libraries or other institutions?

There is a give and take relationship with most changes. When a museum or library continually adds new interactive content they inevitably give something up in that change. In adding interactive content the library gives up things such as space for books and quiet throughout the building, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

In her article, High Culture Goes Hands-On, Judith Dobrzynski writes that “Even in Europe’s old cities of culture, some people might stop in at the Louvre or the Uffizi, but often just to snap a few pictures on their cellphones to prove they were there” (Dobrzynski 2013). Modern life is fast paced and it seems that everyone is constantly on the move with little time to quietly reflect in front of a piece of art. While Dobrzynski writes about the good and bad aspects of museums shift towards interactive exhibits she only hints about why they are making these changes. She admits that they make these changes to draw in more visitors but doesn’t acknowledge that if the libraries and museums refuse to change they will still lose the idealized past versions of their institutions due to lack of use and funding.

Museums and libraries are very important institutions that provide priceless services to our communities, but before they can give the gifts of information they need to package it in a way to make it appealing to users in the current cultural climate. We cannot let our love of the book collections interfere with our ability to meet the needs of our patrons. If this means that we lose our identity as a house for books, great, as long as we keep our identity as a place for learning.

Resources

Dobrzynski, J. (2013). High culture goes hands-on. The New York Times [web post]. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/opinion/sunday/high-culture-goes-hands-on.html?_r=1

Why? Why Not?

One of the concepts mentioned in R. Toby Greenwalt’s article It’s All Around You: Creating a Culture of Innovation is Creating Prompts. What kind of prompts do you think might work (or have worked in the past) for you in trying to kick start your own creative thinking around innovation

At my job in Resource Sharing we are always looking for ways to improve the department. Some improvements are to save money, and others have been made to improve staff wellbeing and attitudes, but we strive to find areas that can be improved. R. Toby Greenwalt wrote about library prompts as a way to get some creative juices flowing by asking questions such as “what’s the most relaxing spot in the building?” (Greenwalt 2014). While we do not pass around prompt cards there are two questions that consistently spark innovation in my department: why, and why not?
Ares looking confused

These two questions are as basic as they come. Ares, my 3-year-old daughter, knows the power of these questions to get to the root cause of almost everything in her life. She asks “why are we going to the store?” “Why do we need groceries?” “Why do we eat?” These questions are sometimes very annoying, but they often lead to conversations about the basic reasons we do things which greatly improves Ares understanding and gets me to explore a new perspective.

At work asking why and why not can get us thinking about new ideas by showing us that we are sticking to a workflow for the wrong reasons. For example we had always shipped UPS packages using a carbon copy shipping book. We would copy the library name, address, ILL number, and shipping insurance amount into this book, by hand, for every packaged shipped. I asked my coworker why we did this and her answer was, more or less, because it was how we had processed UPS for the last 16 years. We then asked ourselves, “why not a digital solution?” This lead to using UPS’s free software to print labels and save the information for each library into an address book for future use. UPS takes a fraction of the time it used too.
While this isn’t exactly a super innovative idea, most libraries use printed UPS labels, it was innovative to our library. Asking ourselves “why” and “why not” has lead to many more improvements in how we do things. We switched to printable bookband slips with reusable bookbands when we asked ourselves “why do we handwrite the bookbands?” We are quietly testing out a Pull and Scan program for our patrons because  “why not scan the article if we are already checking the shelf for it?” By consistently asking why we gain just enough distance to look at ourselves from a different perspective.

 

References

Greenwalt, T. (2014). It’s all around you: creating a culture of innovation [web article]. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2014/02/its-all-around-you-creating-a-culture-of-innovation/