Do Makerspaces fit in Milford High School’s vision?

The world is changing so rapidly, it is hard to predict what jobs our children will have when they graduate in even just a few short years. In fact, it will be our children who are creating their brave new world, with technology we can only dream of today.

That is why the “21st Century Skills” – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Collaboration – are so important. Creating new pathways to meet community needs will require new ways of thinking and the abiiity to work together, taking advantage of diverse skills.

For a number of years, I worked in the independent new product development industry, developing new product concepts to sell or license. This was at the beginning of the rapid prototyping stage – 3D printers did not yet have that name (they were called SLS or SLA prototypers, based on the material they used), and they were available to small companies through universities, at a relatively high cost. Mobile was not around – in fact, the Internet was still not ubiquitous, and Software as a Service (SaaS) was not yet a thing.

Despite what we’d now see as limitations, small groups of product developers would meet to concept, brainstorm, and see where we could get. Sometimes we’d take a base idea – such as magnets – and brainstorm product ideas. During this process, we would talk about magnetic properties; benefits and limitations; costs and applications; consumer acceptance and usage; and much more. We would have people representing various disciplines: engineering, product development, marketing, graphic design.

In today’s world, this small group could brainstorm, sketch, prototype, test, and revise – all within the same few-hour period. And as this rapid product development system has evolved, it has also developed a name, spurred by Make Magazine in 2005: the Maker Movement, consisting of Makers who use Makerspaces to meet and create, and who participate in Maker Faires.

So now, apply this same concept to our high schools and junior highs. What a learning opportunity this could be! Our small groups were models for 21st Century Skills, requiring all four of the Cs from each member. Plus, because of the nature of the exploration we were doing, we all learned – math, science, communication, art, and more.

This article is a good overview of how creating Makerspaces in our schools can help our students. It’s one of the trends schools are adopting to move more toward student-directed learning and enhanced student engagement. Milford Schools does a bit of this in our engineering classes – students ideate, prototype, and even provide working models for organizations such as Enable, which provides 3D printed prosthetic devices to children and underserved populations around the world.

But what more can we do with this concept? Can we get students with other interests and skills more involved? How can all our students learn from further and more extensive collaboration with their peers and with mentors?

As Milford goes through our Visioning process, this is one of the questions we’ll be exploring. Does having Makerspaces and a Maker Movement mentality in our high school make sense for us? What would it look like? How would we execute it?

Please weigh in – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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One thought on “Do Makerspaces fit in Milford High School’s vision?

  1. Andrea,

    Bertrand Russell once said:
    “Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.”
    In that quote he was referring to the destructive results of teaching things as fact that we wish were true or that some believe would be beneficial to society if they were true. So, as I observe the trends American education I see a trajectory that matches the very pitfalls Russell referred to. I believe the “21st Century Skills” you mention as being so important is a component of that trajectory. It is driven largely by an ideology steeped in an unintelligible jargon. Consider just this definition of critical thinking by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform.

    “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. ”

    Really? What a pile of gibberish! Name any inventor, scientist, discoverer, world leader, who would be an example of this. Or even know what all that jargon is supposed mean. And how does any educator measure if a student is proficient and to what degree. As for employers? Forget it. They care about productivity. Not academia.

    I don’t know about Makespaces. But if they are some kind of extension of 21st Century Skills, failure is not far behind.

    Tom Cannon

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