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Makerspaces and Library Labs Encourage Student Creativity

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Shop class and art class were two of my favorite hours of the school day, and a new trend toward "lab" spaces in public libraries aims to satisfy students with a similar urge to create things. Called Makerspaces, these standalone rooms or pods house tools for creative exploration, from animation software to bookbinding supplies to all manner of power tools. Electronics, computer programming, and digital and online content creation play a prominent role as well. In fact, the name Makerspace nods to the trend's origins in the Maker movement, a vast community of designers, builders, and tinkerers experimenting at the intersection of technology and craft.

The Maker movement is already heavily involved with the technological and entrepreneurial sides of K-12. For example, the exhibitors list for the 2012 iteration of Maker Faire Bay Area (May 19-20), the annual Maker festival in San Mateo, Calif., is packed with ed-tech start-ups. A pavilion called DIY Learning: The New School offered teacher workshops on developing Maker Clubs and Makerspaces in schools.

As students increasingly learn with and about digital tools, can we expect them to transition from consumers to creators? Evidence from wide-ranging sources suggests they already are. A panel called Create Your Own: Maker Culture in the Library, part of last week's Digital Shift e-books event sponsored by Library Journal, discussed how public libraries might encourage digital media creativity among young patrons. Diette Courrégé of edweek.org's own Rural Education blog recently posted on how digital storytelling looks in rural schools. An editorial in Make: magazine, the original publishing outlet for the Maker movement, even unofficially passed the torch to today's student Makers. And stories on elementary-age coders have been popping up everywhere from Digital Directions to The Atlantic.

A number of public librarians have floated the idea of collections—even entire libraries—populated by community-generated works. A school library collection consisting entirely of student produced work could prompt important conversations about books and their meaning, informed by students' newfound sense of ownership as published authors.

Makerspaces offer an almost unending range of opportunities for learning, whether through after-school programs, field trips, collaborative projects linking classrooms and libraries, or a way for students to pursue creative interests and develop practical skills. It will be interesting to see what role the Maker movement continues to play in the many changes public and school libraries face—and embrace.

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