Empowering the Next Generation with Makerspace

By elanascaglia

I live in a small town in Connecticut where the library is commonplace where everyone is equal providing a sanctuary from bad weather and a space for learning. Since I was a young child using the space I had seen technology creeping into the Library by educating children through film and books on CD’s. That was the extent of the technology I remember using in the library. Today it is very different, as I observed my local library the way the public use the space has changed through empowerment programs for children, adults and seniors alike, through Makerspace.

After being away for a couple years I found myself drawn to the library again. As my needs for the library have changed the library has changed drastically as to what it has to offer to the public. The differences from town to town reflect the use of each library and accessibility provided. Each town has a different need and ability to provide information access to the public.

The Westport public library has embarked on bringing technology to the forefront of the library by providing a Makerspace. Starting only three years ago, in 2014, Makerspace came to Westport through a grant provided by the Institute on Museum and Library Services (IMLS).[1] What this provides is a clear link to the next generation and the future of information repositories. The Westport library Makerspace has tools for all types of creations. Each Makerspace around the country has different kinds of tools, but here are some of the general ones; public access to 3D systems, SketchUp software, robotics, code academy, Ponoko, laser cutters, and updated computers for use within the institution.[2] Many workshops and classes that are provided by Westport’s Makerspace have an age limit, typically no one under the age of 8. This allows for users to be of a wide range of ages, just like the library space, Makerspace is open for anyone who wants to learn something new in a new way. In the most recent Annual Report by the Westport Library 2014-2015, there have been 11,304 people who have used Makerspace through workshops and 1,500 programs. Between the years 2014 -2015 1,200 people attended robot coding training and about 3,000 people attended the Makerfaire, which is recognized nationally by institutions using Makerspace.[3] Creating a safe creative space within a information center, Makerspace, fosters new ideas for the future.

The untapped potential for the technology used in Makerspace can be found in our local communities, just out of reach. Using high-grade technology may deter people who think professionals should be using the technology, maybe that professional will be you someday. The correct use of technology, whether that is a power tool or the use of the web, safety of the user is at the forefront of the Maker Movement. In looking towards the future we need to think about how to teach the next generation to use technology appropriately. When thinking about the potential of Makerspace it reminded me of the Larry Diamond’s article “Liberation Technology.” While Diamond is discussing the extremes of technology being liberated within China and other dictatorships around the world, we can relate the definition to the possibilities of Makerspace. “Liberation technology is any form of information and communication technology (ICT) that can expand political, social, and economic freedom.”[4] What is being made in Makerspace’s around the country may be the answer to the next big question that we have yet to ask.

How can Maker Movement tools be seen as liberation technology here in the United States? Makerspace allows for entrepreneurs to explore capabilities of a product or company they have created. By providing the free access to technological tools in the modern world of entrepreneurship, we will see a big positive impact on the economy. A “shift from primarily centralized [manufacturing] to include distributed small-scale manufacturing and assembly – great access to technology-aided and industrial-grade tools – allow makers to experiment with new materials, structures and products.”[5] Although the companies may be small and seen as not capable of working with larger companies, any opportunity to get a head start on knowledge and skills needed to survive in the economy is an opportunity to take with Makerspace. Socially, Makerspace has a huge influence on education of all ages K-12 and through higher education programs. The Maker Impact Summit report from 2013 lays out the key elements of Makerspace that effect, in a positive way, the education system. The maker movement “encourages learning dispositions…. Emphasizes the value of hands-on experience … [and] transforms consumers into creators.”[6] The only way that this can occur within the education system is if there are advocates for this type of change, which is a drastic shift to the long-standing structure of a ““push-and-drill model, in which learners merely interact with decontextualized content.”[7] Where as the Maker Movement is a ““why-and-how” model, in which learners probe, question and create.”[8] The unmatched potential for a change in the education system in America to occur, we can see where possibilities for Makerspace in politics could be vital. Starting from the smaller governments, locally “the maker movement has the potential to revitalize communities and change the way citizens engage with their civic institutions. Achieving broad benefits [of Makerspace] will require some changes in government policy at local, state and Federal levels.”[9] If our communities cannot connect within themselves then how are individuals or these communities supposed to connect nation wide. This is how Makerspace can represent a liberation technology. By reconnecting communities across the nation through the collaboration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), our nation may be able to return to its glory days, because right now we are stepping back and not moving forward.

Resources:

http://time.com/104210/maker-faire-maker-movement/

https://youtu.be/7wHorfRvvcE

http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/future/trends/makers

 

[1] “Maker space.” Westport Library. Accessed on December 9, 2016. http://westportlibrary.org/services/maker-space

[2] Dougherty, Dale et al. Impact of the Maker Movement, Maker Impact Summit December 2013, Westlake, Texas. MakerMedia and Deloitte University Press, 2014. 7.

[3] Board of Trustees. Westport Public Library 2014-2015 Annual Report. November 2014. 22-23. http://westportlibrary.org/1440

[4] Diamond, Larry. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21 (2010). 69-83; 70.

[5] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 16.

[6] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 19.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 22.

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