Saturday, January 23, 2016

Building a Makerspace in the Library

I have always planned makerspace activities during the library's annual celebrations of Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week. We have crafted bracelets, woven paper bookmarks, constructed duct tape wallets, and have created many interesting paper crafts. When I began planning these type of activities many years ago, I had no clue that there was a specific name for it: makerspace. 

Cart for the Mini-Makerspace

Over the last year or two, I have been trying to find grants and other monetary sources to fund a mini-makerspace in the library. I wanted to continue with the crafting activities, but I also wanted to get some of the electronic and building materials that can be a part of a makerspace. A Donor's Choose grant brought a Lego station to the library. Unfortunately, I did not win the grants that would have brought a 3D printer, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi to the library. I was devastated. All of that equipment is expensive, and though I had library money that could fund supplies for craft activities, I did not have a source of funding for the big ticket items. 

Then I was approached by one of our parents. She was writing a huge grant to outfit the Fab Lab that had lain fallow since the school moved into our new building in 2013. For the lab she was going to budget several 3D printers, a laser cutter, big format printer, vinyl cutters, Makey Makeys, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and plenty of the consumable items that are used with the equipment. Her idea was that the library should also have some equipment so that the students who were not scheduled for classes that would be using the Fab Lab would have opportunities to build, create, and tinker. The school won the $200,000 grant from the Patick F. Taylor Foundation. (The name might sound familiar because the foundation's name is the same as our school.) The budget included $10,000 worth of equipment for the library--equipment that I could select. 

Playing with the Sphero for the first time

Whoo-hoo! My funding issues were solved. Then I had another dilemma---deciding what to purchase for the library. I did create a budget for the grant, but I was assured that if I wanted to make changes, I could. Since I really didn't know what equipment would be the most appealing to the students, I ordered only a few items to start. We got one 3D pen (the kids love it), a deluxe set of Little Bits (also a winner, a teacher had ordered a set of Little Bits with a ton of accessories and Arduinos last year which she never used, they are now in the library), two different sets of Lego Wedo (students use Scratch to program the Wedo creations), and a Sphero (there are so many apps to use with this robot). I also purchased a bunch of books for the collection that the students can use for inspiration. Five mini iPads are in the building for the library but are waiting to be given access to the school network before the students use. There is a 3D printer in the Fab Lab that belongs in the library, but it won't be moved until we get the computer that will be dedicated to design. This is where we are starting.

Sampling of books that were purchased 

Making a butterfly with the 3D pen

At this point, I think that we need to purchase two more 3D pens, some different sets of the Lego WeDo, mini figures for the Legos, another Sphero, and maybe more kits for the Little Bits. I am also thinking of creating a Lego wall because I think the kids would have a lot of fun with it.. I just found Cubelets online, but I need to do some research to see if my students will find them challenging enough as they were designed for a younger user.. 

I guess without an influx of ready funds this project may be difficult to replicate, but  I believe that you can always start very small and add as money allows. Choose somewhere to begin because it will never happen if you don't get a project going.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Using Technology to Engage Readers

Link is here
Last month I was asked to write a blog post for the Learn2Earn blog. They have lots of great articles about ed tech and reading for K-12 teachers. I was asked to write something for the reading section. That is right up my alley, so I took some of the websites that I shared recently during a conference presentation and wrote about how to use these sites in a classroom or library for the blog. 

Read the blog post on Learn2Earn here: "7 Fun (And Effective!) Reading Websites That Engage Students."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy 2016!

I couldn't let the new year begin without posting here. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! The last two weeks off have helped to get my mind off of school. Getting a respite from the flurry of activity at school mid-year will certainly help propel me through the beginning of a new semester. I hope that others felt the same. 


I had a chance to read three books during the break. I was hoping to get in a fourth, but the book that I had to read and review for School Library Journal slowed me down.That always seems to happen when I pick up a book that doesn't move me. It takes longer to read because I have to psych myself up to opening the book and finishing it. It took a week, but I did finish it and submitted the review today. When I get to self select, I don't finish a book that I don't like. I fell in love with Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. It was not what I expected. I never saw the twist at the end coming my way. The idea of this teenager who is sealed in her home due to illness but who is so brilliant and curious about the world was an intriguing plot line. No, I don't think that the story was rooted in reality, but it made for a really good story. It certainly gave hope at the end for new beginnings. The other book that I read and really liked was Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. I am a big fan of her work, and this one did not disappoint. I was surprised by some of the negative reviews that I found on Good Reads. This work is also not rooted in reality. Lane is diagnosed with a drug resistant form of tuberculosis and is sent to a facility with a 150 other teens with the same disease. He finds that his plan to continue his goal of finishing his rigorous senior year on his own and to apply to Stanford is unrealistic. I like that he had to give into his bodily needs and try to heal. I also liked the discussions between the characters of what does living really mean.This book also ended with hope for new beginnings. I didn't realize that when I picked up both of these books to read that they were so similar. Tomorrow, I am excited to start a new audio book on my commute to work. I am going to finish the last book in the Lunar Chronicles series and listen to Winter by Marissa Meyer. My kids who have read it have loved the ending, and I hope that I will, too. I have not read any of the companion books in the series, and I may not. 

I have lots of plans in my head for the library in the new year. I am, always plotting for new ways to encourage kids to read more. It is a struggle sometimes, but anything that I can do to push free reading may make a difference in the lives of my students. The library has received money to build a mini-makerspace. I need to start ordering the items that will be purchased. I also have money to spend on new books.  I am ready to discover new and exciting ways to make the library a central part of my students' lives. I just don't know how that will look until it happens. 

Here's to 2016 and may it turn out to be one of the best! I like the idea of new beginnings, too. 

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