Monday, February 13, 2017

6. Blog post: class and reading reflections

Class

As before, I spent much of our class time soldering. I completed the header pins on two ESP8266 breakout boards. Beyond soldering, I made a BUTTON. I'm not sure I've ever been so proud of anything in my entire life. I ended up with a Calvin & Hobbes button perfectly centered on Calvin's face.

As with the class before, the opportunity for self-directed work was valuable. I ended up accidentally working solo due to the distribution of the soldering irons, but I could certainly have tried harder to work with others. Noticing my accidental "isolation" (I use quotes because I was only about 15 feet away from classmates and did not in any way feel isolated) did make me think about the physical design of makerspaces.

In class we have frequently discussed the welcomingness (or lack thereof) of makerspaces, particularly regarding gender. Even if some have sewing machines or knitting supplies, they might be placed in such a way that they aren't part of the "real" makerspace or physically marginalize those using them. While this isn't exactly a surprise to me, my seating choice was nonetheless a helpful illustration. When I visit Makerworks I will specifically be looking at their facility design (perhaps making a map?) and see what activities are encouraged where.

Readings

I particularly appreciated this week's focus on making and education. Many of Dougherty's stories rang true for me (making and creative work removed from schools, finding non-school opportunities to make) and I think he's really on to something about telling the story of making. I think there's a particular pedagogical benefit to focusing on the story of making, beyond building maker culture (198). Telling the story of how you made something encourages a deliberate practice of reflective learning, something I have anecdotally found helpful while teaching myself new skills.

However, I also appreciated Halverson and Sheridan's perspective, perhaps moreso than Dougherty's. Dougherty writes for a general audience, but I think an academic analysis was both warranted and valuable. In particular, Halverson and Sheridan arrive at a broader understanding of making than Dougherty (whose definition can be meritocratic in an inequitable way) and conclude that while it can have a place in education it is hardly the silver bullet for education.

One phrase that stood out to me and reminded me of something similar I wrote last week is "Makerspaces are the communities of practice constructed in a physical place" (502). The term "communities of practice" reminds me of Buddhist practice centers or Quaker meetings, and aligns well with my own experiences of making in the Secret Lab. Makerspaces are more than just the activities that take place there - there is a shared intention behind them that helps give them their power, without which they'd just be over-stocked workshops.

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