For this week, we read about Makerspaces which are defined as, “a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.” Jennifer Gonzalez discusses Makerspaces in her article, “What is the point of a Makerspace” and explains her initial hesitancy towards them. I appreciated her honesty about her initial feelings towards Makerspaces because when it comes to education I too have a “more traditional, stodgy, control-freak part of me.” To me, they sounded like very esoteric project spaces involved complex tools like saws and power drills. I am someone who enjoyed and thrived in traditional pedagogy, so the idea of Makerspaces definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. However, these two articles gave me a new perspective on Makerspaces and the potential they have for creativity, teamwork, and deeper learning.
The point that most resonated with me was that Makerspaces can create flexible thinkers who are less afraid to fail. Students learn how to work the education system and are often more interested in the grade they receive than the material they’re being taught. I was definitely a student who pursued letter grades and learned how to get them. The quote that struck a chord for me was in the USC Rossier article where a Kristi Merchant, a library media specialist, said that, “So many kids are afraid to fail. They worry about letter grades.” I remember being so afraid to fail and I still feel that way in my adult life. Makerspaces forces students to “re-figure out how to learn” which can be incredibly stressful and scary for students who have figured out traditional forms of education. I remember hating projects because they threw me off of my education routine and I felt like I was going to fail. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to create a documentary or roller coaster, but there are more successful and less successful products. I think I would have benefitted from having more instruction in Makerspaces because it would have forced me outside of my comfort zone and got me more comfortable with the prospect of failure. Sara Blakely is the owner of the women’s shapewear company Spanx and she said something in an interview that I’ve never forgotten. She said that her father would have everyone at the dinner table say one thing that they failed at. She said this got her comfortable with failing and it helped her realize that failing really isn’t that scary- what’s scarier is playing it safe and not trying something because you’re afraid that you will fail. Kids are under so much pressure today to be perfect in academics, extracurricular activities, and on social media. Makerspaces are a great way to help kids see that failing really isn’t that scary and that it should be embraced.
Another point that resonated with me was in Gonzalez’s article when John Spencer says, “there was a time when you could follow a formula: Work hard at school, go to college, and climb a corporate ladder. But because of the complex global economy, because of the creative economy, the information economy, our students are going to have to navigate a maze. The ladder is now a maze.” This is both an exciting and frightening prospect, but Makerspaces can be the first place for students to understand and appreciate all that a maze can offer. Even those already in the workforce are understanding that the traditional career trajectory is becoming a thing of the past. Creativity, problem-solving skills, and collaborative skills are traits that employers are looking for and what separates people from the pack. Learning in a Makerspace environment not only teaches students how to apply fundamental skills like language arts, math, and science, but also teaches them how to be more creative and work effectively in a team environment. This is crucial for the future workforce and students who learn from Makerspaces will have an advantage in the marketplace.