Last week in class we discussed the Dr. Chuck interviewing Massimo Banzi video and the Lilypad introduction video. The rest of the class was another free-for-all exploration adventure. (Note: Can we go back to having the warm-ups before our readings discussions? It was challenging to talk about the readings first thing. I think the warm-ups help ease us all into class and wake us up).
For the exploration time I began with soldering, moved briefly to button making, and returned to soldering later on. Lindsay and I tackled our languishing toy take apart project and were finally met with success! We had to remove the solder from circuit board and rewire the thing based on a blurry picture I took weeks ago. As you will see in the photo journal we’ll eventually get around to submitting, we had grand ideas for this project. We were going to make an aesthetically interesting and working piano shirt. We ended up with a shirt that had a piano pouch that you could play, but with difficulty. Creative perhaps but not very functional or sustainable. Part of the issue, at least for me, was that the project proved to be more time consuming than anticipated. We were not planning for all the wires to detach but then the child’s keyboard wasn’t intended to be dismantled, shoved in a homemade shirt pouch, and hooked together with electrical tape. In the end the fact that it made sounds again was success enough for me. Plus we learned how to wire components, interpret symbols on a circuit board, and solder something to make it workable. And we learned the importance of photo documentation when deconstructing something you later hope to make workable again.
I’ll admit – I struggled with the button maker. I eventually got it working, with lots of instruction from Sarah. Now I want to suggest AADL circulate one and here’s why – they are very useful for a particular purpose but are prohibitively expensive. I want to check one out to make promo buttons but I don’t want to spend the money on it or have it hanging around in my craft supplies forever.
After I finally successfully made a button, I returned to my soldering to make a piece of abstract art. Soldering is great. I can see why people were so taken with it and spent a good portion of the class making sculptures. It’s easy to understand, engaging, and doesn’t require a lot of prior knowledge. It’s basically the hot glue gun of circuitry.
As per usual, I have some thoughts about the readings this week. Those readings were Chapter 8 of Free to Make, “How to Write an Artist Statement” by Bamberger, and “The Maker Movement in Education” by Halverson and Sheridan. The first and last focused on makerspaces and the Maker Movement as it intersects with traditional educational institutions. The middle article is about, as the title suggests, how and why to write an artist statement. My analysis today will focus on makerspaces in education. I do find the artist statement concept to be valuable – it brings the question of why we make into the conversation and asks us to think about this question critically. The explanation and reflection part of making is something we’ve talked about in the context of community in the makerspace but not as a method of engagement.
The Halverson and Sheridan piece raised a question for me that I then used to contextualize Dougherty’s chapter. The question is this – do we need to call everyone a maker? I believe that everyone is creative, everyone is talented, and everyone can play. But when the definition of “making” so often involves technology, do we need to expand it to include everyone and does everyone want to be included?
I’ll explain where I’m headed with this. I knit and I help with the Fiber Arts labs at AADL. I’m glad AADL is teaching people fiber crafts but the Secret Lab, with all its technology and table space, is not an ideal knitting environment. I don’t want to take my knitting to a makerspace. I want to go to a yarn shop or coffee shop with comfortable chairs, a circle of participants, and a casual, impromptu learning environment. My knitting group in Traverse did not consider its self part of the Maker Movement nor did we feel left out. We are knitters with a knitting circle. We had our identities already and never once felt the need to include LEDs into our projects. I think the Maker Movement does a lot of good for a lot of people but I don’t think “making” includes everything and I don’t think it needs to. Dougherty brings up the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium. As I mentioned in the book report in Blog Post #1, the Tinkering Studio creators do not consider “tinkering” and “making” the same thing. They are tinkerers, not makers. And that’s ok.
Back to education and making. Halverson and Sheridan present a view of school makerspaces from an educational insider perspective. They understand the pressures put on teachers and educational institutions. They understand the struggle of K-12 budgeting and the lack of time a teacher has to give to each student. In this context, their reframe of “making” as learning activities provides more value for a K-12 environment. I see their idea of making as bringing back the spaces that schools used to have – art studios, workshops, home ec classrooms, music rooms, etc. These seem like more helpful goals and pursuits than giving every child an Arduino.
I will say, I think Dougherty brought up more contrasting opinions in this chapter than he has before. I like his idea of portfolios for students instead of standardized test scores and transcripts (it’s very SI). I would like to know more about what he would put in a school makerspace. Actually, I don’t think he would be the best person to decide that. I’d like to hear from more teachers and librarians on what they’d put in a school makerspace.
Public Domain Maker Photo of the Week: