Spreading the Word

After learning about all the maker spaces and maker faires and maker clubs and maker resources, I find myself startled to remember that most people still have never heard of ‘making.’ I’m back at work this week, and every time I say I took a class on making and maker spaces this summer, I have to explain what in the world I’m talking about. This is true even with teachers in making-related subject areas. Capitol High hired a computer science/STEM teacher this year. In a conversation with him this morning about field trips, I suggested taking his STEM class to the Hack Factory in Minneapolis. He’d never heard of it or their mini maker faire in the spring.

The point of the story is to remind us all to keep spreading the word and educating everyone we run into about the maker movement and how they can participate. We haven’t gone viral quite yet. Though maybe if someone should start an Ice Bucket Challenge for making… πŸ™‚


I’m Not Ready

The earrings are done! They light up- some of the time. I think the battery’s not on there quite tight enough, but I haven’t figured out how to tighten it without undoing all my work so far. I’ve posted instructions on Instructables, where they’re now a featured project. Maybe someone will try their hand at it and find a way to fix what I couldn’t.

Our Making class at St. Kate’s is over now, and I’m kinda sad about it. I’m going to miss our little community and hearing about everyone’s projects every week. The enthusiasm and creativity was contagious.

When my little brother was about 6, my mom tucked him into bed on New Year’s Day and told him, “Happy New Year!” My brother immediately burst into tears. When my mom asked him what was wrong, he sobbed, “I miss the old year!” Sometimes we don’t want to move on. I know the making won’t end (My list of projects I want to do just keeps getting longer and longer!), but I wish our community could continue also.

So I’ve been thinking of ways that we can continue to share and connect and even expand our circle to include other Katies and other makers in the Twin Cities. I don’t know about the rest of my classmates, but I, for one, plan to continue this blog. It helps me organize my thoughts when I put them in writing, and it’s a great space to show off my making projects. We can also continue using our Twitter hashtag #scumakers. We’ve also made a lot of Maker contacts during our class explorations, and hopefully we’ll run into each other as we all continue to explore and learn in our Maker pursuits.

Ideally, we should have a Maker Facebook. A social network where we can show off our projects, share our triumphs and failures, and find advice and experienced mentors. Readers, any ideas for good hosts for such a site? I don’t think my coding abilities are quite up to the task of making a Maker MySpace from scratch.

Until then, keep tweeting and blogging, fellow Makers. I can’t wait to hear what amazing things you all make next!


Lessons Learned So Far

I’m still in the beginning stages of my final project of LED earrings, and already I’ve learned some very important lessons that I thought I should share with you all:

Read labels carefully.

LEDs and ambient light sensors look exactly alike. The first time I bought parts at Radio Shack, I ended up with ambient light sensors. I was confused as to why they weren’t lighting up until I reread the package when looking for their specs.

Keep all your parts together in a safe place– and REMEMBER where that place is.

I bought a whole bunch of LEDs and batteries and resistors, brought them home, and promptly lost them. I remember cleaning up my apartment for a showing and sticking them somewhere…. but I’ve gone through every nook and cranny and they’ve vanished. My current theory is that a spider dragged it off to its web for some light. πŸ™‚

Mark the positive and negative sides of the LED somehow.

On my first test run, I bent the wires into circles and snipped off the ends and then promptly forgot which side was positive and which was negative. Luckily, I was using one of my ambient light sensors in case of such a mistake. I think I’ll bend the positive side first and mark it with a bead from now on. It doesn’t matter how you mark them though as long as you remember which is which.

Conductive thread frays just like regular thread

Tiny beads don’t mix well with thread. I’ve now changed my design to incorporate larger beads to accommodate the thread’s fraying tendencies.

Read the specs

LEDs are tiny. So you can use tiny batteries to power them, right? Nope. The smallest button batteries available in store were only 1.5V and my LEDs needed 3V. Oops yet again!

Despite all these setbacks, I’ve made some progress. I’ve got a handle on how the circuit works, and how to balance out the LEDs with beads. I’m still considering my options though on how to attach the battery to the earring. My biggest challenge is my desire to make these earrings aesthetically pleasing and not too heavy. Batteries have a lot of weight. I’ll keep you updated on all the lessons I’m sure I’ll learn over the next week!

Making in the Library and iPads

Two weeks ago I finally made the leap into the smart phone world and got myself an iPhone. I’ve been a bit obsessed with it ever since– I didn’t know apps could be so fun! I’ve been brushing up on my Spanish with Duolingo, making collages of pictures of the Mississippi through its flood stages with Pic Collage, and logging all my workouts with MapMyRun, just to name a few. I actually ended up writing half of my last paper on my phone with the Google Docs app because the small screen kept me focused on the sentence I was writing instead of jumping back to mentally edit the previous paragraph. I discovered that there’s literally an app for almost everything. Even libraries are in the app world. All the big ebook hosts have apps. The Library of Congress has their own app. LibraryThing has several apps. The New York Public Library even developed a game app to draw patrons into the library.

After incorporating apps into basically every part of my personal life, I started thinking about how I can use apps at work. My choice to get an iPhone over any of its competitors this summer wasn’t a coincidence. The St. Paul Public School district decided in May that every single one of their students would get an iPad over the next two years. K-4 students will use their iPads at school, and 5-12 students will be able to use theirs at home and school. My Capitol Hill students will get theirs sometime this school year, and my Benjamin E. Mays students will receive them the following school year.

My first thought was that I should make an awesome app customized to my library, preferably a game like the New York Public Library’s app Find the Future. That dream was quickly smashed when I found out that you need a Mac to make iOS apps. I’m still a PC girl at heart. Plus, developing an app is a significant investment of time and energy; I don’t have enough summer left for that. Maybe next year.

My second thought was much more realistic. I spotted the free QR Reader app and realized I can finally QR code the library without worrying about how the kids will read the codes. By printing QR codes and sticking them on shelves, bins, and book covers, I can tie in internet resources with print resources. (Check out this presentation by Elissa Malespina for a QR codes in the classroom/library introduction and how-to guide). My favorite part about this idea is that it’s completely scaleable and low-cost: I can print the codes on label paper we currently stock for spine stickers, and student workers and parent volunteers can help me create the codes and find awesome internet resources to link whenever we have extra time.

But QR codes don’t hit at the best thing about iPads. QR codes are merely a discovery tool. iPads empower students to create and imagine. And as you know, my theme for the summer is making. A quick Google search for “iPads and the maker movement” found dozens of apps devoted to making. Here’s two lists to start with:
Can the Maker Movement be Virtual?
Maker/Coding Apps
These are just the beginning, and I’ll be exploring and playing with maker apps for the rest of the summer.

I’m thinking that the library’s role in this will be three-fold.
1. First is discovery. These apps aren’t likely to be on the Featured list in the app store. I’ll need to review them and decide which ones to highlight for my students and their teachers. QR codes can play a role in this, as well as the library website and perhaps a handout or two. If I can find time, I’d also love to develop a presentation for teachers on maker apps and integrating them into the classroom.
2. Second is sharing. I want to make spaces for my students to share the amazing things they’ve made, especially projects that they undertake in their own time outside the classroom. Teachers are great at building in ways for students to share and display classwork, but kids don’t always get time to share their personal projects. I already have a display wall for student drawings. 3D objects can be displayed on top of the higher shelves. I’d like to also make an electronic space, probably one that requires a school login to protect students’ privacy. I saw a demo of such a space in the Minnetonka Institute of Technology iPad conference in June. I may need more coding skills for this– we’ll see.
3. Third is extension, helping students take the next step from their creations on the iPad to realizing those creations in physical form. I need to do more research in this area and find out what equipment fits best with the iPad’s capabilities and what would work with the library’s role and limitations. So watch for more thoughts on this in a future blog post!

Oh, so much to do and discover and learn! I think that’s all the thoughts in my head for now though. I’ll be back later after more research and thinking and planning!

Mission Shelving

So much making tonight!! I feel so proud of myself. First, I created this video in class tonight using Audacity, Gimp, and iMovie. It’s Phase 1 of the new shelver training I’m developing for work. Since my audience will be 8th graders, I tried to keep it as interesting as possible. I think it turned out rather well.
I then came home and made a sweet potato and turkey shepard’s pie, a totally different kind of making. Now I’m not fantastic in the kitchen; I’ve managed to mess up simple things like banana bread and sloppy joes in the past. But I made a goal of trying new recipes this summer, and the shepard’s pie looked delicious in my cook book. I kept my fingers crossed the whole time it was in the oven, and then lo and behold– it turned out delicious! Heaven in my mouth. Mmm!
Now if only the conductive thread I ordered online would arrive so I can started on my LED earrings… I’m on making fire, and I don’t wanna stop! πŸ™‚

Three Questions

“The world is filled with closet constructionists.”-Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager in Invent to Learn

We touched briefly on this week’s readings in class last night, but I saved my thoughts for a blog post as they’re rather lengthy. I’ve enjoyed the other books we’re reading, but Invent to Learn (ITL) has given me the most food for thought. As I mentioned in my first post, I run the library for two St. Paul schools.Β In talking about making, ITL used two words/phrases that sum up the curriculum of both schools; inquiry and project-based learning. Inquiry and project-based learning are HUGE at my schools. For example, every 6th-8th grader participates in History Day, where they research (deeply research– the most dedicated ones interviews eyewitnesses, call experts, and dig through old archive materials) any event in history and create a project that shows what they’ve discovered. They make beautiful websites, put on reenactments, make documentaries, and build exhibits. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2nd graders of both schools put on plays with home-made costumes of common folk tales for their parents and the younger students. These are just two examples. The IB curriculum that Benjamin E. Mays uses holds up inquiry as a primary tool of learning, and Capitol Hill uses inquiry and project-based learning as a way to individualize their curriculum to the strengths of each of their G&T students. Based on this, I think my schools might truly be full of ‘closet constructionists.’

I don’t see quite the level of inquiry that ITL describes, however. Most of the time, the research and making is driven by the curriculum, not student interest. In addition, I largely see the inquiry and project-based learning happening in social studies and science and somewhat in English Language Arts. I think there’s great potential for student-driven inquiry in math,

All of this leaves me with three questions:

1. What role does the library and I play in their making? How can we get more involved and better serve the students and teachers on their projects? Especially given our limitations: the library serves two distinct schools and has very limited space, and I have very limited time to spare for this endeavor.

2. How can the library and I encourage making in new areas such as math and in using new materials and technology? This question is especially relevant in the technology area as my district rolls out their new 1:1 iPad program over the next two years. Both the teachers and the students will need a lot of help figuring out how to best use this explosion of tech to enhance learning.

2. How can I encourage kids in their making outside of school? I have a website set up with great suggestions for reading online and offline to which I could definitely add a making page, but I haven’t had much success getting students on the site yet. How else can I bring kids into the maker movement and help them discover and build their passions?

I think these three questions are a great focus point for my inquiry into making in an educational setting this semester and beyond. I’ll definitely be circling back to these thoughts in the future posts.

Maker Faire Giraffe

This giraffe responded to being petted– just like my pictures of the glow-in-the-dark one. Sorry for my brother’s poor video taking– he’s still learning!

Maker Faire Pictures!!

I FINALLY have all of the pictures that I and my family took at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. There’s a ton of them, which just goes to show how much there was to see at the Maker Faire (and these pictures don’t even cover half of everything that was there). Click on each picture to see them in their full-size glory. I apologize for the pictures that are a bit blurry– those were mostly taken by me using my little brother’s crappy camera. I omitted the worst of them. Also, make sure you check out the videos– I had to post those separately.


The Flaming Octopus in Action!

Maker Faire, San Mateo 2014