Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Garage: Rebranding a makerspace and a help desk


Innovation Lab

Genius Bar

Student Help Desk

Perhaps as educators we are jazzed by these terms. Their connotations are infused with creative possibility and agency. But I have spent a few months watching both an area dedicated to making and a student help desk in our library learning commons just languish. Coincidentally, an area not far from the entrance to the LLC is set aside as a space dedicated to seniors, called "The Jungle." And it is vibrant and thriving with both social and academic activity. In fact, so much so, that we have very recently dedicated resources to adding power and connectivity to that space!

Maybe it was because I was collaborating with the teacher of our Shakespeare course that I started thinking about what is in a name. What a space is called can impact how it is perceived and used. And so I started to think about spaces where I create:

My dining room table (much to the chagrin of my family at meal time!)

My desk

and then it hit me... MY GARAGE!

In my garage I paint. I deconstruct pallets.

I build shelves and birdhouses.

I disassemble and reassemble the components of my Jeep.

I accumulate and store the raw materials of future projects.

And, of course, Google was born in a garage.

So our maker space is now called The Garage. Unfortunately we are no longer in flea market or tag sale season, but in the spring I will be in the market for a peg board and tools and the various accouterments of a high-tech and low-tech garage to complement our other creation materials. I plan to commission a student artist to render a garage door on one of the walls. I am excited to have the students watch as a mural created by one of their peers emerges on The Garage wall!

This re-branding effort has also enabled a rejuvenation of our student help desk program. I don't know if they will choose to call themselves grease monkeys, garage attendants or technicians or some other term I haven't imagined (I am leaving that up to the students enrolled in the program), but what ever they are called, they will be our models of innovation in the The Garage. The working slogan for The Garage is: "where ideas meet the tools of innovation" so our student techies will work publicly in The Garage on independent, problem-based projects. They will study design thinking and problem solving in order to acquire the insight and skills necessary to make their solution a reality. They will plan, iterate, and fail forward in a collaborative work space and become models of self-directed (personalized) learning. Rolled into their work is participation in a closed Facebook group dedicated to the program so they can share ideas, get and offer feedback, and recommend resources to each other. This will be important since they are each assigned to the space during a different period of the day.

The slides below outline the first couple of weeks of the program and draw heavily on my experiences at the Google Innovator #SWE17 Academy:

Periodic updates will appear once their program starts at the end of January!

The first class to visit The Garage will be a Shakespeare class and they will be making character boxes or wandering journals (student choice). They are scheduled to visit early in the new year so more on how they respond to our re-branding in a future post.