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Why Doesn't Your School Have a Makerspace?

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October 2, 2017

Learning Hands-On

When I was little, my dad spent time working at McDonnell Douglas in Tulsa. If I remember right, he worked on a lot of different things, but what always excited me the most was that he worked on the engine for the F-15 Eagle fighter jet.

You probably don’t care much about that. I get it. But one day, my dad brought home an IBM PC with a five and half inch floppy that ran MS-DOS. McDonnell Douglas surplussed a bunch of old machines, and my dad was cool enough to buy one for us. I was in heaven. I spent my time building databases and trying to log all of the baseball cards I collected.

I waited until no one was looking, and I took things apart trying to figure out how they worked and then put them back together. A lot of my love for technology can be traced back to that one purchase my dad made. After that, I started fiddling with the VCR and video games and trying to understand how the technology worked.

Fast forward to today, and my entire life revolves around technology. Now, I’m not saying that a career in tech is for everyone, but I think the future holds a lot of opportunities for our kids in the tech industry. Unfortunately, technology has become disposable. You buy a phone, laptop, or a tablet, and when it quits working or someone breaks it, into the trash it goes and we purchase a new one.

A Disposable Culture

What’s missing from today’s culture for our young ones is the ability to really explore technology and learn how it works. They don’t get to spend that time like I did (and maybe some of you reading this) trying things for themselves. I think this hurts our kids, but we have the ability to do something about it.

I know most of you are probably saying "I don’t have the money or personnel to have a makerspace", but the reason I wrote this article is to tell you that you do!

First, what is a makerspace? It’s defined as: “a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.”

It’s a place where kids can play with technology and see what they can build and what they can do. There are SO MANY solutions and options out there when it comes to makerspaces, but I’m just going to throw out one to get you started. It’s called Raspberry Pi.

The Solution

Raspberry Pi is a small computer that runs Linux and only costs $35. If you pick up a couple of Raspberry Pi’s (c’mon, if you don’t have $35 you can easily fundraise for it), then the sky’s the limit to what you can do. There are tutorials all over the Internet on how you could wire one into your washer and dryer so it texts you when the cycles finish. I know a school in Oklahoma that has a garden, uses a rain barrel to water that garden and the whole system hinges on a Raspberry Pi that the students set up.

The best part is that Raspberry Pi has an education resource site with ideas and guides for your teachers. They even have free training available for your teachers. Want to do something exciting with your younger kids? Then maybe Kano is something for you.

The most important thing is that you get your kids using the technology hands on and encourage and inspire curiosity! You never know what some kids are capable of until you give them the tools and turn them loose.

As always, if you’d like to talk about makerspaces or want some training on it for your teachers, we stand ready to help! Feel free to reach out because I’d love to do some training on this with your teachers.

About the Author

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Ben Parker

Director, Technology

Ben serves as Director of Technology for the OPSRC. In this role, he will provide support to schools on technical issues and training on pressing technology topics. Ben will assist partner schools with trainings, comprehensive technology plans, e-Rate applications, technology purchasing consultation, and other school and district technology decisions.

Prior to working with OPSRC, Ben was the Director of Technology for the Locust Grove Public School District. Ben implemented a 1:1 tablet program in Locust Grove that saw 6th-12th graders go paperless in the classroom.

In his free time, Ben likes to read and play the drums.

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