After my post last month on Why a Makerspace Isn’t a Magic Cure-all For Your Problems, the conversation in social media took off. I noticed that some in the conversation felt that they couldn’t coordinate literacy programs and makerspace programs. Others were questioning whether or not makerspaces even belong in the school library. I address many reasons why makerspaces belong in school libraries in my post on advocacy for makerspaces, but I realized that the connection between makerspaces and literacy needs to be clearer. You don’t give up on literacy to start a makerspace — you add a new dimension of literacy to your library.
Here’s three specific ways that making and makerspaces can support literacy in the school library:
Common Core standards place an emphasis on students being able to read and understand informational texts, and makerspaces are the perfect place to develop this skill. An instructional manual for a new robotics kit. An origami guidebook. A set of instructions for a LEGO set. There’s tons of opportunities to work through informational texts in makerspaces.
To help support informational text literacy in your library makerspace, add books to your collection focused around maker themes. Back in the early days of the makerspace at Stewart, I wrote a grant to purchase books as part of our STEM Maker Library — check out the post to see some of the titles. I’ve also curated a lot of great titles on my Makerspace Books Pinterest board.
Literacy is more than just words — it’s understanding how things work and how to use them. Our students may be phenomenal at citing resources and creating five paragraph essays. But do they know how to sew on a button? Or the difference between a straight and Phillips screwdriver? Or the basics of how a circuit is shorted?
Many in the millennial generation grew up never needing to know how to use tools. Thus we’ve ended up with twenty- and thirty-somethings learning about “adulting” because no one ever taught them basic household repair or other important life skills. Makerspaces in school libraries provide an opportunity to bring tool literacy to ALL of our students, whether or not they’re able to take shop class (if you still have it). And using these tools also ties back into informational texts, since students are often using them together.
Beyond basic information literacy, our students also need to be technologically literate. This goes beyond being able to navigate a computer or tablet. Our students need to understand how technology works. How to troubleshoot a computer. Basic coding and programming. How to build a website. How circuits work. Here makerspaces blend well with the traditional technology (computers) found in school libraries. These skills are just as important for our students as the more traditional skills we teach. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to blend literacies.
Here’s some potential projects for your makerspace:
- Create and edit a book trailer in iMovie
- Hack Poetry with MaKeyMaKey (Colleen & Aaron Graves’ awesome project)
- Build a website for a student club or organization
- Guided computer take apart, where students learn how each of the components work
How do makerspaces support literacy in your school? What other types of literacy do you see in your library?