Patricia Pollard

I'm a career teacher who has long been an early adopter of technology (as long as it is useful).

I have changed/moved countries 7 times, not always teaching, but to date I have taught in the USA (briefly), China (local Chinese and an American school system),Hong Kong (British school system), and of course Queensland, Australia. I began my career as a mainstream high school teacher of English and Humanities but migrated to Special Education about 10 years or so ago. I established the Special Education program at the high school I am currently at but now deal exclusively with Senior Students (Yrs 11-12) with a disability. Most of our students have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder with a few students with Physical or Intellectual Impairment. So it's a good mix of very interesting teenagers!

I have blue eyes, freckles, am currently a blond and about 160 cms tall. I have 2 rather irksome children but only one who still lives at home. When he was alive, my husband worked in manufacturing important stuff in clean rooms - I expect he does very little of that now :) For our family, tech has always been a tool rather than a toy (apart from the PS2,3,4 and all the Xboxes residing in my son's bedroom). We are hoping NBN will actually live up to its promises since we got THE NBN BLACK BOX last Wednesday- sadly, no NBN connection yet but we live in hope. My son more than me because he hopes to livestream in HD when it is all up and running. Good luck with that son.

Makerspaces in Education

Creativity in education is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status…
Ken Robinson, 2006

Makerspaces are learning environments that have the potential to revolutionise educational practices and give students the opportunity to participate in a learning environment that better prepares them for living in the 21st century than traditional learning environments can. Makerspaces demonstrate the principles of Constructivism (Piaget, 1938) where knowledge is created by the activity of students as they interact with the world and build knowledge structures from this interaction, Situated Learning and Entrepreneurship.

Makerspaces owe much to the notions of Situated Learning and the associated Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) who believe that learning is situated, that it is embedded within “activity, context and culture”. For learning to occur, knowledge “needs to be presented in authentic contexts,” in settings that would normally involve that knowledge as opposed to traditional classrooms where knowledge is abstract and decontextualized. Learners are drawn into a “community of practice” which has its own beliefs and behaviours that the student must acquire if they are to become experts or to achieve recognition in this field, by moving from the “periphery of a community to its centre,” becoming more and more active and engaged within the community to eventually reach expert status. The teacher’s role becomes as guide or facilitator as they encourage students to acquire the knowledge they need or by building innovative projects they want to participate in. In effect, Makerspaces allow learners to create their own learning for their own reasons while also learning to collaborate with other, like-minded learners.

Governments everywhere are recognising that “Entrepreneurial skills are essential to drive innovation, productivity and global awareness” (Education Queensland, 2016). Entrepreneurship and Innovation are being recognised globally as the key drivers for sustained economic growth. Makerspaces provide individuals with access to tools, such as 3D printers, that take Research and Development roles away from large corporations and into the hands of like-minded individuals who can now connect with communities globally due to the affordances of current technologies. This connectedness serves to boost the power of the individual entrepreneur for innovation and their creative endeavours, simply by having gained access to Knowledge Creation through Maker5spaces.

Schools need to recognise the educational opportunities afforded by Makerspaces, despite the challenges of creating and maintaining them, and actively pursue adding at least one to their school if they wish to assist students to prepare for the varied futures that wait for them.

ASSIGNMENT TWO INTRODUCTION (summary of Introduction)

Creativity in education is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status…
Ken Robinson, 2006

Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and old-fashioned tinkering.
Most schools would already have a science lab, computer lab, art room, media room, and workshops for woodwork and metal work. However, these are usually quite distinct areas within the school and their technologies tend to remain within those areas. The beauty of a Makerspace is that it is one space that combines elements already found in these other, familiar spaces be it tools or technologies.

Our school does not have anyone responsible for E-Learning. Instead, we have an IT Working Party which meets each term to look at how learning can be enhanced by digital technologies. This is the committee which I need to present this proposal for a Makerspace to. Unfortunately, they have not met in Term 1 at all and the Term 2 meeting has been pushed back to the very end of the term due to personnel and scheduling issues around NAPLAN, QCS preparation and several trial external exams all falling in Term 2! Therefore, I have been forced to submit the proposal to a couple of teachers who were on the 2016 IT Working Party and who were kind enough to look over the proposal. Their suggestions revolved mainly around the timing of this – 2017 is not a good year for proposing anything that the school will see as involving ANY expense. Feedback was also negative regarding who would have the time to become involved in the project. One of the teachers already had some ideas as to where the Makerspace could be located and is happy to provide me with the details to include in my next, updated proposal. Both teachers also recommended I make a PowerPoint to accompany the text since they felt the document might be too wordy for the Principal to make the time to read through. My colleagues also suggested making the links to the Australian Curriculum clearer- but they admitted that the links between Makerspaces, STEM and curriculum were self-evident.

But I see the financial ‘squeeze’ the school is currently experiencing as an opportunity to encourage the school to consider alternative, non-traditional means of fundraising such as crowd sourcing. I am familiar with the Education Queensland policy documents around raising finances and am convinced crowd sourcing is a viable means of funding for schools, especially if we can interest reputable companies into using it as a means of the public contributing towards schools’ tech needs. It is encouraging to know that grants are also available and it would be quite possible to liaise with Runcorn State High, winners of an $8000 grant for a Makerspace in 2016, for guidance with writing the grant application. I believe this proposal is an opportunity to pull together a small group of people who share the same vision for digital learning and are prepared to work together to make this dream a reality. We have had many new staff members who might be happy to be involved in the project as a way of developing their skills and perhaps even their careers by taking the lead in this project. I have not developed a PowerPoint yet, due to time constraints, but the teachers gave feedback that they appreciated the hyperlinks inserted throughout the text so they could easily get more information at various points in the text. I have positioned the hyperlinks so that teachers can simply ‘click’ their way through the proposal and still get a great idea of the educational value a Makerspace would bring to our school and how we might go about setting one up.

PROPOSAL (summarised)
Barriers to Implementing Makerspaces
Given the advantages Makerspaces have in relation to providing all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or perceived ability, with access to technology and innovative learning experiences, it is important to address the barriers schools commonly have to providing Makerspaces.
Throughout my research, the same three barriers came up repeatedly when asked why their students did not have access to a Makerspace. 
1. Unaffordable Up-Front Costs
2. Lack of Educator Training
3. Lack of Lesson Plans, Activities, and Curriculum Integration
Therefore, the remainder of this proposal will address those issues for our school.

How do we fund it?
Finances are perhaps the biggest barrier that hold schools back from hosting a Makerspace. Rightly so, given the reality of school budgets in 2017. Even if we are a thousand percent behind the project, some money will need to be found in the initial stages. Budgets can be reallocated, grants can be applied for from both government and businesses, and donations can be made from the wider, local community. Each of these needs to be examined closely but an initial list has been compiled below for convenience. Remember, the list is not exhaustive!

1. Budgets: Obviously, timing is key here. The budgets are negotiated at our school in Term 4 so later this year will be one opportunity to look at where the cash can come from. However, until then, are there general funds that can be drawn for special projects? Great opportunity for thinking creatively and finding out if there are any areas that frequently have funds left over at the end of the year that could provide some funds towards the Makerspace. If there is a better understanding of where the money might come from and how much there could be available, there will be a better idea of what can be planned for in the Makerspace such as money for robotics kits or kits to assemble a Raspberry Pi.

2. Student-led fundraising: Many students are familiar with having to raise funds for the various activities they wish to participate in so having a ‘Makerspace Drive’ would not be an unusual occurrence. These are desperate times in school funding, and desperate times make for creative solutions! Asking students for ideas would be a great place to start. It’s not just about the money either- raising money to do good involves students in a pathway that teaches many valuable, life-long lessons which they can also use once they graduate since many community organisations rely on the fundraising abilities of their members.

3. Applying for a grant: Grants are a classic source of funding but they take time to find and to write the application. For example, there are government grants available related to STEM and the inclusion of desirable groups such as girls, indigenous students, and students with disability. In 2016, there were twenty-one recipients of the Engaging Science grants who shared in over $200,000 to help raise the profile of science in the community (ua.vog.dlq.itisd|dnalsneeuqecnavda#ua.vog.dlq.itisd|dnalsneeuqecnavda).

Runcorn State High School won a $9000 grant for a STEM Makerspace Project. Students were to be involved in an 8-week program where they would engage in STEM-related activities, from coding, programming, robotics, electronics, craft and Lego creation. Runcorn would also include Kuraby State School students towards the end of the program to give the primary school students experience with a Makerspace also. (ua.vog.dlq.itisd|dnalsneeuqecnavda#ua.vog.dlq.itisd|dnalsneeuqecnavda). Wynnum High has many local primary schools who they could include in the Makerspace experience, especially as it needs to attract students to enroll here for Year 7!
While it does take up time and a lot of effort to write up the applications for specific grants, the financial benefit would make it more than worthwhile. However, relying exclusively on the use of grants for funding is problematic since they are not always continuous. Often, grants are one-time funds that can be used only for specific areas so it is very important to have a range of strategies for attracting funding.
4. Donations: A local community is a great place to begin asking for donations since many local people and businesses have strong ties to our school, especially if they have been past students. The administrative team, not just the Principal, are great champions of our school, especially if they can spend some of their time speaking about the proposed Makerspace and its special needs to potential donors and figures in the community. Although many choose to simply cut a cheque to the school, it can be worthwhile having an itemized list of specific needs in mind should the opportunity present itself at the next P&C meeting, Lions Club or at the local Leagues Club AGM. It is worth considering that larger donations often come with stipulations and requirements for how the funds can be spent so a list of items can be one way to get exactly what is needed for the program.

5. Crowd funding: Crowdfunding has been an acceptable means of raising funds for some time now. If our school cannot get enough funding from traditional funding sources, it might be worth considering non-traditional methods such as crowdsourcing. One such site is Kickstarter Australia, a website where any member of the public can help pledge money to fund creative and independent projects that might not have recourse to regular business loans or other sources of funding. Crowd funding is extremely popular and offers several sites to exploit such as OzCrowd, ReadyFundGo and Pozible. As long as Education Queensland is satisfied that the ethos of the organisation is compatible with that of theirs, as stated in the “Sponsorship and Fundraising Checklist for the School P&C”, then these sites are a viable, alternative source of fundraising opportunities. One interesting use of crowdfunding I observed several years ago in the USA was that used by companies such as Makerbot. On their official website, Makerbot had a list of schools and teachers registered as needing a 3D printer but without the financial means of purchasing one (or several). The public were asked to donate towards the school or teachers they would like to support/sponsor to be given a printer by Makerbot - all donations were tax deductible of course. This may be an avenue our school could pursue as well by approaching tech companies as we gather together the resources we need for our own Makerspace.
6. User-pays fee structure: While it can cost a lot of money for any school to implement a Makerspace, it is not unique or apart from any other space in the school. Many believe that the primary purpose of a school is to provide a free or low-cost education to the youth who are their students so charging for the use of a Makerspace goes against those general principles. However, families are used to having to contribute towards their child’s education so asking students to pay small amount for certain activities they choose to participate in, such as the filament used in the 3D Printer, would not be an imposition if the charges are reasonable and only enough to cover expenses.

I also discussed staffing, other uses of our Makerspace, who would use it (i.e. using it to break down barriers to STEM pathways for marginalised groups such as girls, indigenous students, students in care, and students with disability. I also discussed using social media as a means of building momentum for the Makerspace within the school and wider, local community as well as programs and equipment suggestions.

Makerspaces have become connected to STEM and STEAM as a way of encouraging student engagement with digital technologies and engineering practices, two cornerstones of the ‘knowledge economy’ the world is involved in, both now and for the decades to come. It is about creating, building and learning about new technologies. Most importantly, a Makerspace at our school would provide an opportunity for many students to come together and collaborate, to build unique items and to extend their learning outside the traditional classroom environment. A Makerspace is a 21st century tool for a 21st century education which will prepare our students for the ever-increasing digital complexities of their future.