Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impact of a Makerspace

One of the best parts of my day is checking in on Media Specialist/Teacher Librarian Laura Fleming as she always shares the incredible work her students are doing in the makerspace she created at New Milford High School. Whether it is pictures or Vine videos, each day I witness high school students tinkering, inventing, creating, and making to learn. She has created a learning space and environment that students truly find value in as they are afforded the opportunity to explore their passions, be creative, and take ownership over their learning.  Lately I have been seeing many pictures from a specific group of students who have developed an interest in building their own computers. Last week I was utterly amazed when Laura asked me to check out the website (NMHS Computer Designs) that these students had created. After looking it over I asked if one of the students would consider writing a guest blog post for me. Luckily for us he said yes.  I hope you enjoy this guest post by NMHS freshman Chris Pavone as he explains the impact Laura and a makerspace have had on his high school learning experience. 

My name is Chris and I am a freshman at a New Jersey High School.  I always had an interest in computers, but that increased even more thanks to my library makerspace. When I started school this year, I found out that the makerspace had a Take-Apart Tech Station where students could visit and take apart computers.  Through this I learned the parts of a computer.  I enjoyed the experience so much that my friends and I then decided to challenge ourselves and began to think what we really could do with computers.  We decided to not only take a computer apart, but also to then put it back together.  We also decided to make a new computer case to put our computer in.  



The first thing we had to do was find a working computer to take apart.  Once we did that, we carefully took everything out of it.   There were a lot of screws and parts to disassemble.  It took us about three days of working on it to get everything out without breaking any of the parts.  After the computer was completely taken apart, we then began to think of ideas for making a new computer case.  We started looking around the library and in the back room we saw some empty boxes.  This is when we decided to turn a regular cardboard box into our new computer case!

We planned out how we would arrange the computer components in the box and drew lines where we wanted all of the parts to be.  Instead of screws, we used hot glue to attach the pieces to where we wanted them to be in the box.   We cut out pieces of the box to make cutouts for all of the plugs.  In order to do this, we measured the pieces and the size of the holes we needed to cut in the box.   After that we only had to put in the hard drive and the CD drive into our case and on day four our new computer was assembled!

At that point we attached a monitor and a power supply and turned our computer on to test it.  As amateur technicians, we were not surprised that we ran into a few problems. We spent some time researching the error messages we were receiving.  After a few hours, and with the help of Mr. Caronia, a member of our school IT department, we figured out the adjustments we needed to make. After successfully booting up our computer, Mr. Caronia created a user account for us to be able to login and gain full access to our computer.  We set it up so that other people in the library could use it and test it out too.  Right away students were logging on and using the computer to play games and do their work.   They were shocked that a computer in a cardboard box could work!  My school principal even came down to look.  After a few days, we moved our computer out into the showcase in our hallway.

If it weren’t for our librarian and Mr. Caronia, none of this would have been possible. Although this project was difficult at times, it was so fun and we were proud to have pulled it off.  A few days later, we wanted to try the same thing again and this time we decided to turn an old G5 Mac into a Windows-based PC. Once again, we really enjoyed it!

At this point we decided to create a website in order to share our creations with other schools around the world.  Our hope is that students and teachers all over will learn from our work.  Not only do we hope they learn from it, but we hope that they participate in it. Visitors can register on our site to receive updates, they can post messages and questions in our forum, and they can participate in our challenge.  On our site we have a challenge for students to build their own computers and put them in a creative case. Students who do this can submit creations to us and we will post them in our gallery. We are proud that we have comments from teachers all over the country on our site already.  I am also proud that a student contacted me to tell me how much my website impacted her and a project she was working on.  I was even contacted by a librarian looking for my help in setting up a makerspace for her library!  

We know this is just the beginning for us and have plans to continuing taking apart computers, creating creative computer cases and sharing them on our site.  We hope our work inspires others to do the same!

Our schools are in desperate need of teacher librarians and media specialists like Laura Fleming. Had it not been for her growth mindset and innovative spirit, the learning environment that invokes relevancy and meaning in Chris's school day would not have become a reality. This is now the case for hundreds of students at NMHS. Informal learning is just as powerful, if not more, than formal learning.  Create a space that works for kids and let them make for the sake of making

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