Hey, #FutureReadyLibs, new #AASLstandards show #makerspace not a fad

Copy of #FutureReadyLibs Take on AASL MakerspaceIf you’ve been in education as long as me (Um…wow…20+ years), you’ve surely seen educational trends come and go and watched the pendulum swing on what are considered educational priorities. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some librarians are sitting back and waiting to see if the library makerspace trend is going to go out of style.

For much of my English teaching career (before I became a librarian), reading and writing across the curriculum was all the rage, and my expertise in these areas was appreciated by teachers across the content areas, who were all of the sudden expected to be teachers of reading and writing on top of their own content. Yet, the pendulum has swung in recent years, and now STEM and STEAM are everything. (Those smarties in Art got in on the acronym action early, and now we are left to awkwardly try to slip in an R for reading, to make it STREAM,).

If you aren’t teaching “design thinking” or “novel engineering,” you are behind the times, dear literacy-loving friends. And, while I do believe Humanities will get their due again eventually (at least I hope so– especially given the way modern life seems to resemble more and more those dystopian novels that fly off the shelves in my library), I have to tell you–having taken a deep dive into the new AASL Standards this semester–I truly believe that this new “makerspace mindset” is not just a passing fad.

If you don’t believe me, then just take a look at these competencies from the shared foundation, Explore:

  • V.B.1. Learners construct new knowledge by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.
  • V.B.2. Learners construct new knowledge by persisting through self-directed pursuits by tinkering and making.
  • V.C.3. Learners engage with the learning community by collaboratively identifying innovative solutions to a challenge or problem.
  • V.D.1. Learners develop through experience and reflection by iteratively responding to challenges.

While Explore, with its key commitment to “discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection,” encompasses more than just making, it is pretty clear that the language in this shared foundation encourages it. According to Chapter 9 of the new standards book, learners benefit from “opportunities to cultivate creative pursuits by making and experimenting with hands-on activities within the library space” (emphasis mine), and they advance “by tackling challenges that build skill through multiple opportunities to engage in problem-solving and critical-thinking processes.”

I’ll admit right now, I have been slow to get on board with incorporating makerspace in my library and not because I think it’s going to go out of style. Because I serve a student population that is behind in reading (75% of our incoming 6th graders read 2-3 grade levels below where they should be), the focus of my middle school library program is always going to be on reading. But, I also realize that if I do not provide opportunities to make and iterate, my high-poverty students may not be exposed to it elsewhere.

This is why an METC STEAM Summer Institute session on makerspace activities tied to state-award nominated picture books I attended last summer was so appealing to me. The idea of tying the makerspace to literacy seemed like the perfect fit. I blogged about that session here, and I set out this school year to figure out how I could take the idea and make it work for my secondary students.


One of elementary librarian, Carolyn Allen’s terrific ideas that inspired me last summer.

My first thought was to book talk a Truman or Gateway book, read a quick excerpt and then have the students complete a related makerspace activity during their regularly scheduled library visits. Yet, incorporating anything but the simplest, quickest makerspace activities turned out to be hard to manage given the limited time I see secondary students, so I had to get a little more creative and reach out to teaching partners who could collaborate.

As it turns out, our middle school science teachers were looking for enrichment activities for their intervention time, and they were more than willing to have me come in and share about an award book. Then, I could leave, and they took care of the related STEM activity. We were able to incorporate maker activities this way, and it also ended up leading to a broader STEM-Literacy partnership.  For instance, I read an excerpt from Red Queen to 6th grade science students at the start of a unit on blood types, which incorporated inquiry as well as a more traditional lab. The collaboration has me so excited, that I am thinking about reaching out to other departments, like art, social studies and math!

red queen

6th graders learn about real blood types and read about red & silver bloods.

Another idea we have in the works, is putting together some Family STEM-Literacy take-home kits, where we’ll send home two copies of the award book, along with an accompanying nonfiction title, discussion guides and maker activities and materials. We’re writing a grant this month in hopes of funding this idea and our continued partnership!


I really hope we can fund these kits!

For my high schoolers, I decided to focus on Gina Seymour-inspired “makercare” activities, where the projects were tied to community service. I introduced this through my monthly Teen Library Council lunch meetings, and then students could come in during their free time to participate in making  with the added incentive of getting to go on a field trip to deliver the items we made that were meant for outside the school. Here is a link to the Donor’s Choose project I did to fund the supplies for this idea.


An easy “makercare” project you can do in school.


So, while there are a lot of Future Ready Librarians who are trendier than me and a lot farther along when it comes to their library makerspaces, I hope you find a little inspiration here. Plus, I hope you will join in on these collaborative documents (MASL Makers 2017-2018 & MASL Makers 2018-2019) where we are sharing our maker ideas for the MASL award-nominated books (even if you are not from Missouri!).



Trending now in #STL #edtech from @ETAofSTL members


At our Welcome Back meeting for ETA of STL, the Education Technology Association of St. Louis, we asked our members what is happening in their districts and what topics they would like us to cover at ETA meetings this year. Above is an AnswerGarden of their responses.

In thinking about how technology integration can transform learning, SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) is a big topic to kick off the school year, and one that my Academy has been using to frame our technology pd. Many ETA member districts participated in a summer #METCpd SAMR institute sponsored by Edplus.  They brought in Dr. Ruben Puentedura, who developed the framework. They will also be partnering with the Clayton School District to offer a free SAMR unconference on Saturday, Sept. 9.

STEAM & MakerEd continue to be big topics in the region as well. Mehlville School District opened MOSAIC this year, a new school of innovation for elementary students, and Ferguson-Florissant has a new middle school STEAM Academy. South Technical High School has a new makerspace this year, which we hope to be visiting at a future ETA meeting. For those looking for professional development in this area, you might check out the year-long STEM Academy or the new MakerEd Academy being offered by Edplus.

Chromebooks seem to be the 1:1 device of choice in area, with many districts rolling out new or additional Chromebooks including a K-12 program for Winfield, 1:1 Chromebooks at North Technical High School, and Rockwood District rolling out Chromebooks to 6-9 this year. In Ferguson-Florissant the STEAM students are 1:1 with new Dell touch screen fold-able Chomebooks.

Digital Citizenship and related topics are also in focus this year. Our next ETA meeting on September 20 at Hancock Place will be centered around Digital Citizenship, Digital Footprint, and Student Data Privacy. Educators may want to follow the lead of Orchard Farm School District, who is hosting a  Teen Digital Citizenship day for their students October 13. METC’s middle school summit on digital citizenship is Sept 21, and Oct 6 is DigCit Day: Moving Beyond Internet Safety .

As always ETA members are looking for innovative and “new big ideas.” I’m excited to join Tierney Brother’s free STL Tech Tour on October 24. If you are interested in joining in, you should contact Dawn Shuler (dawnshuler@tierneybrothers.com).

It’s sure to be another busy year in #STL #edtech, but we hope you will take time out each month to join us for my favorite local #PLN: ETA of STL.


Show Me a Maker: Design challenges with @MASLonline award book tie-ins

At the METC Summer Institute: Building STEAM and Creating Spaces, I attended a wonderful presentation by librarians Carolyn Allen (@cmscaia) and Alissa Roades (@AlissaRoades). They shared their Makerspace activities tied to the Show Me State picture book award nominees from last year. For instance, after reading The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs, students did research comparing animal teeth, then built a box that Nathan could use to keep his teeth safe from the Tooth Fairy.

Some advice Carolyn and Alissa shared:

    • Include constraints/requirements and success criteria to help guide students, especially in early maker lessons but don’t show them the example, or you will get copies.
    • Some students struggle with open-endedness and no right answer of maker activities, but hopefully they will get more comfortable with this over time.
    • Coordinate timeline of units so same/similar materials can be used across various grades.
    • Many of the Show Me connection lessons could be adapted to use with multiple grade levels
    • Plan ahead to request donations of materials
    • Before you do the other books consider using resources from Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer (check out the event kit)

I’m excited to adapt this idea for my older students. I think reading an excerpt from the book and then completing a Makerspace activity tied to the book would be a great way to entice students to read the book and to incorporate Makerspace into literacy activities in the library.
To jumpstart this process, I have created a collaborative document where we can share our MASL Maker ideas for the Show Me, Mark Twain, Truman & Gateway nominated books for 2017-2018. I’ve already added some ideas Carolyn and Alissa mentioned in their presentation as well as some of my own brainstorms. Even if you are not a Missouri librarian, I invite you to check out the document, as it may spur some ideas for you to incorporate Makerspace into your promotion of reading.

Full STEAM Ahead!

badmathsI’m sharing a little extra love today with 4 STEAM-related r(e)posts!

First of all, check out these two posts from Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers:

Fun With Bad Math In Pictures. As a former English teacher, I always notice typos and grammatical errors on signs and whatnot; this is the math lover’s version. What a fun idea to have your students figure out the faulty figuring!

Another great post from Byrne is this reminder that the Google Science Fair is open now until May 12, 2014. I wish the idea springboard  had been available when I was a kid working on my science fair projects.

If you’re considering implementing a makerspace in your school, you might want to check out Make‘s post 3 Key Qualities for a School Makerspace  and then check out the awesome things happening at the Grand Center Arts Academy’s Makerspace. I visited the space in December and was really impressed with all of the great design thinking happening there.



Finally, check out Machine Uses “Imagination” to Draw Images from big think. I’m interested to see how quickly the AI behind this technology will evolve from these crude drawings that remind me of ancient cave paintings.