How do Maker Spaces connect to deep learning?

I have been learning about Maker Spaces for years.  I have seen presentations about really effective Maker Spaces in public libraries, through maker groups, in Maker Faires and I understand the excitement around this hands on learning experience. I remember when I heard Neil Gershenfeld, from MIT speak about FAB LAB and I was excited! (video below) It connects to my experience in a big way. I come from a family of trades people who learned their trades through apprenticeship developed by trade guilds in the United Kingdom. Here comes the but…

I am having a problem connecting the wow factor of Maker Space activity to deep, embedded learning that is connected to curriculum with explicit learning outcomes.  There I’ve said it.

I am a Teacher Librarian in a Secondary School and I will be honest, it is challenging to get teachers to understand the value of working with me as a co-planner, co-teacher, collaborative teaching and learning partner. Whenever I get the opportunity to work with my colleagues I must ensure that student learning outcomes, connected to curriculum are being addressed. Yes, Maker Space activities do help to differentiate learning for our hands on learners, but good teachers do this in their classroom practice all the time! I have to wonder why are Maker Spaces now being explored with such urgency and excitement?

Those of you who know me that I am a bit of a tech geek and I have always been an early adopter of technology.  I do have some caveats however, the technology must be purposeful and must fulfill a need I have for my own learning, or that of my students. Do Maker Spaces do this?

I would like to say that the idea of Maker Space has been embraced by effective teachers through time.  Beginning with trade Guilds in Europe, evolving to apprenticeship training, for myself, in education through effective hands on learning experiences differentiated to meet the needs of all of my learners. As a Teacher Librarian, I feel that the same rules apply. I worry that Teacher Librarians are looking for ways to appear relevant in a time when school districts and the province are looking for areas to cut corners. So here I go, tech geek that I am, questioning this very cool idea of the Maker Space.

Teacher Librarians and all educators have the ultimate Maker Spaces, they are classrooms. In these spaces we create knowledge and how we do that relies upon the expertise we have to differentiate learning to meet the many and varied needs of our students.

I like the cool tools and ideas suggested in the Maker movement but when connected to the School Library Learning Commons I need to understand how Teachers and Teacher Librarians work together to develop ideas, use the Maker Space to apply the learning and then help the learners embed this learning in their understanding of curricular outcomes. Without this connection to our expertise as educators, are we not just providing an activity centre?


Introducing myself to #ETMOOC

I’m late and all of a sudden very, very busy BUT I am following the etmooc hashtag, lurking in google hangouts and viewing posts and blogs via my RSS. I am determined to participate, hence my lateness but am eager to learn from the many folks I follow on Twitter and folks I know who are involved. So here is a very poor video knocked off on my ipad this afternoon as I was cooking, knitting, and working on two other online courses I’m facilitating. Hello etmooc!

Intro to ETMOOC from Deb Kitchener on Vimeo.

Connected Learning Book Study

After two sessions with our ABEL book study group I have to say what a pleasure it is to work with so many committed and engaged professionals.  It is not easy to engage in learning in our current political climate, it’s an honour to learn with such a dedicated group.

Add to the challenge, the fact that we are learning in an online environment so we are grappling with all of the issues that folks deal with in face to face learning at a distance. That being said, you would not have known this last Thursday evening through our active discussion and the fact that we were running overtime because there was so much going on!

Things I continue to  learn: ongoing need for balance in connected learning, importance of our digital footprint (as always), relationships are vital and key to learning, technology is not about the tool, time is a four letter word.

Things I continue to question: How do I introduce dissonance to a group of like minded learners? How do we continue building and growing our group and tune it as suggested by Howard Rheingold? What will continue to  draw people into an online group of learners with established learning and knowledge building relationships?

Hopefully, the group will help to answer my questions as will my PLN.

View from my porch


I have been offline mostly for the past couple of weeks, taking some time for R & R before I start thinking about the next chapter in my teaching career. After much analysis and a few good interviews, I have landed at Keswick High School in northern YRDSB. I will be Head of Library.

In preparation for this challenge (and it will be a big one since foks will be surprised at my interpretation of library) I am spending the month of July at our new house on Great Guana Cay, one of the Cay’s off of Abaco in the Central Bahamas. Life is good here. Today I watched two dolphins cruise by our dock as I sit here typing this post!

It’s interesting because teaching is such a part of me that I can’t help but think of the possibilities for me to connect the students I will be working with in the fall with the students here in the Bahamas. Education here faces many challenges. First being the manyy remote communities throughout the islands, challenging socio-economic issues and of course the struggle to deliver relevant learning to students facing the same challenges that learners face all over the world. A bit like the Northern Ontario experience, except with a tropical setting.

I am hoping to learn more about how I might make some connections to my new school commmunity and my new island community and perhaps beyond to see how we might enrich learning for our students across borders. This will be fun!

New Beginnings

Education follows a predictable pattern, ever moving forwards to the next landmark in the school year.  For me this year it means I am moving on to a new position, having decided that after four years of learning beyond the classroom, it’s time to return and put my learning into practice. The hard part is the not knowing.  Currently, I don’t know what school in my district, what subject area or grade. It is both unnerving and exciting.Deb's a travellin' girl

The interesting thing I find about this entire process is the very mixed responses I get from people when I tell them my plans. They range from: “Who gets your job?” to “Oh I’m sorry to hear that!” Rarely do I hear “Well done you…we need teachers like you in our system!”  It makes me wonder, why so many people involved in the education of children and young adults strive to leave the classroom and returning to one is perceived as a step backwards?

I entered teaching after working in business for ten years. I chose to be a teacher because I like kids, I’m a creative person and learning excites me…it’s fun.  I have worked as a teacher in schools teaching from Kindergarten to grade 12 and have learned something new with every new experience. My work as an adult educator has taught me more and the learning I have had the priviledge to be part of has been outstanding. I can’t wait to work in a school, with kids again. I will miss the different experiences I have had in this role but I am sure equally  wonderful experiences await me in my next chapter of learning.

Collaboration 2.0

I am preparing for the OLA Superconference. As I try to gather my thoughts about Professional Learning Networks I find I have a lot of ambiguity in my own thinking so I can only imagine how educators might find this concept overwhelming.

Teachers just want to do the right thing, they are learners, planners, schedulers, sometimes confessors to students and colleagues alike. Time disappears quickly in a day scheduled away by lessons, bells and curriculum, so outside of the box thinking is a challenge, but much needed.

Enter the concept of The Learning Commons. Makes sense for all TL’s in this day and age to embrace this idea and move this forward. It sounds so easy, so sensible and so doable. So what are the challenges? The “ya buts”? I can think of so many myself and I’m sure TL’s all over Canada can do the same. However, in order for learning and education to keep up with the 21stC speed of learning there really is no other option.

Having a powerful professional learning network is really nothing new to effective teachers, teacher librarians and learners. We embrace this through our work in PLC’s in our schools. The web allows us to move this learning beyond the institutional walls and turns us into global learners. This is learning in this day and age. It is learning that our youth assume is the norm. How do we engage our school districts, our various teaching federations and our site based administrators in this conversation? It’s a big task but one we really need to take on.

Music and Learning

Yesterday while I was driving around doing errands I was listening to Day 6 on CBC radio.  This episode the host was interviewing the music therapist who worked with congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford to help her to regain her speech. It was a fascinating discussion about how the therapist Maegan Morrow, used simple familiar tunes to begin re-engaging Gifford’s right brain in locating vocabulary. To learn more please visit the site linked to this post.

Licensed under Creative Commons by Institut Douglas (some rights reserved)

What struck me, however, was the similarity to techniques used in primary classrooms daily to engage students in oral literacy. I remember when I first began teaching in a grade one classroom how I would “sing” attendance with my students. I did this to capture their attention, keep them focused and to assess their musical ear and sense of rhythm.  Not knowing anything about brain science, little did I know I was helping them to embed language in different areas of their brain. I’m glad to know that what I felt was the right think for early learners, actually was 🙂