Partnering for Possibilities: NHS Media Center, Gwinnett County Public Library, 3D Printing, and More

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The grand finale to Teen Tech Week 2014 was the first step in a partnership (more details later in this post!) between our media center and our friends from the Gwinnett County Public Library.  Training Manager Christopher Baker, Information Technology Director Michael Casey, and Grayson Assistant Branch Manager Steve Thomas joined us for three lunch/guided study periods to introduce 3D printing to our teens.   Christina Gangwisch, Public Services Librarian from our neighboring Peachtree Corners branch, was also part of the festivities and provided students information on getting a public library card as well as details about the library’s eBook collection and activities for teens.   Armed with the library 3D Makerbot Replicator 2 printer, enthusiasm, and lots of 3D artifacts created on the printer to share with students, the three facilitated small group, 1:1, and large group conversations with 59 of our NHS teens!  Steve joined my colleague Jennifer Lund and I as co-learners with the teens (we’re all newbies to 3D printing)  while Michael and Chris wowed all of us with their artful expertise and interaction with our students.   It was a day marked by joy, curiosity, wonder, and excitement as nearly every teen who attended saw the 3D printer in action for the first time.  The conversations were organic, and we appreciate how responsive Michael and Chris were to the learning needs and interests of our students.

We were especially excited that most of our core group who attended our other Teen Tech Week sessions earlier in the week not only attended the 3D session, but several of them invited friends—the result was a vibrant cross-section of students who got to see the possibilities for both the public library as well as our own.   One of the participants, Brianna, shared this reflection:

The 3D printer was really cool.  When I first saw it, it was making a small robot.  There were other things like a small owl which was really cool because it looked like an actual owl.  Watching the 3D printer make stuff was an amazing experience.  I hope to see it make stuff again in the future at the public library because I really liked watching designs people created get made.  I also hope to come up with with a design of my own to be with the 3D printer.”

Another student, Nanier, offered these reactions to the day:

The 3D printing machine was an awesome thing to see at work.  I think that if the school had one, it would be really cool because we could use it to do prototypes for a project.  So I would really like for there to be one, or for us to do or help to get one.

In addition to getting student responses to our day of collaborative learning, I also asked our GCPL colleagues to share their reflections.  Michael Casey wrote:

As this was the first time that we’ve taken the printer anywhere, I was surprised by almost everything. I liked that we attracted what appeared to be lots of different types of students. There were some real science/tech kids there but there appeared to also be some students who never really heard of 3D printing but were curious. It was fun, in talking with them, to see and hear their thought processes regarding the possibilities of 3D printing. Many immediately jumped to far larger projects — biological matter, complex part production, etc. I’m hoping that a few kids went home and went online to learn a bit more about the possibilities.  It’s always great to be able to connect the theoretical with the practical and, in this case, the tactile. We were able to talk about very complex printing uses (human organs, etc) and also hand out small items that were made with a real 3D printer — a pedestrian version of the more complex printers, true, but still an actual 3D printer that has a cousin out there who may eventually save lives.

Chris Baker also found the student’s excitement energizing for him:

I had an awesome time demoing the MakerBot and talking with everyone who stopped by to watch the MakerBot do its thing! As Michael mentioned in his message, it was great to have such a diversity of students involved and interested in the session! My favorite takeaway from the session revolves around the reception the MakerBot received from the students vs. the reception it often receives from adults; there was a total lack of cynicism regarding the MakerBot with the teens on Friday! I’m defining cynicism very softly here because the MakerBot always receives a warm reception, but often with adult audiences, it comes with a few leading questions that belie underlying feelings of cynicism and/or fear, i.e. “Aren’t people using 3D printers to make weapons?” or in a smaller way, “I wouldn’t even know where to start with this thing”. Not only did the students seem amazed by the technology, they also seemed amazed by the possibility! Thanks again for this opportunity for feedback; Friday’s session was one of the most inspiring and encouraging sessions I’ve been a part of in some time!

Steve Thomas’s reflections very much echo the participatory practices from our colleagues in museums as he views the opportunity to be a co-learner and to take the students’ learning experiences as “grist” for next steps in designing learning experiences:

As I’m still in the early stages of learning about 3D printing myself, I was delighted to see how the students’ eyes lit up with the potential for the technology; it will be fun learning with them at this summer’s MakerCamp. Even the quietest students had good questions about how the MakerBot worked, wanting to learn more about its potential applications but also about how the underlying technology worked. The future is coming fast and I’m excited to be part of the effort to collaborate with our public schools to usher in this new service. The lessons we are learning from this initial partnership will help shape how we use the 3D printer and other new technologies with the rest of our community.

We all feel confident that this three hour investment in our students has ignited interest for many of our teens in 3D printing and design and will be a bridge to additional learning opportunities co-fostered by NHS and GCPL.  So what are our next steps from this initial day of ideation and immersion? What might those opportunities be?

chris-students

The Partnership

The partnership between NHS and GCPL was born out of an initial conversation between Michael and me when we realized very quickly that we have a shared interest in participatory learning and services.  Together we spearheaded an initial core team that includes ourselves, Chris, Steve, Events and Outreach Manager Amy Billings, my fellow NHS librarian Jen Lund, Robotics Team sponsor Joe Floyd, NHS LSTC (Local School Technology Coordinator) Victoria Dodd, and science teacher Alix Hardy. We’ve had a series of three meetings and numerous conversations since early December that have culminated in these first steps that we hope will lead to additional and organic work as we learn together and from our students.

Pilot 1: Beginning Small:

The first is a small -scale program between the public library and our Norcross HS Robotics Club. This will be a series of four visits to the club after school this spring with both staff from the public library and NHS Media Center participating/facilitating an hour or ninety-minute session of ideating, designing, doing, and learning.  The club will  use various software like Tinkercad to create objects on the 3D printer and participating club members will share their knowledge (existing and growing) with the library staff so we can together learn various software applications beyond the basic two we currently understand. This series is designed to be a learning opportunity for us as the librarians as much as the students.

Pilot 2:  Summer Maker Camp at the Public Library

Final details are still being fine tuned, but here is an overview of how we will scale the first pilot into a larger participatory experience:

  • Norcross HS Media Center will host  A “Tech Petting Zoo”  celebration and sharing day in the library with the 3D printer and Makey Makey kits to encourage students to participate in the upcoming Maker Camp. This event will be co-facilitated by NHS MC staff and GCPL staff; students who participated in the Robotics Club may also help facilitate during the day.
  • A four session Summer Maker Camp at the Peachtree Corners branch (Monday to Thursday) will take place in early June. Over these four days,  a mix of high school and library staff will introduce camp makers to the various software applications, offer training, and offer library resources (PCs, Chromebooks, etc) for the students to use, in-branch, in designing their objects. We would begin printing the objects in the final session.  Robotics Club members interesting in serving as co-mentors may also help facilitate during these four days.
  • The closing community event for participants, family, and friends, probably the following Monday or Tuesday, will be a celebration of learning and students will be recognized for their work and unique talents they’ve demonstrated.  
  • We hope to broadcast (via a live video feed) the actual printing of the objects and learning activities to share our learning with the larger community and perhaps even invite vetted experts to participate in the conversations for learning as we create and make.   Students will also help staff capture the experience through other forms of multimedia such as Instagram and Vine.

We are all excited by these seed ideas and cannot wait to see what grows from these collaborative learning opportunities.  While we see eBook creation/publishing, web design, and composing practices as future potential areas of partnership, we also are eager to see how student interests may inspire additional sustained projects.  We hope to work together as a team so that the learning spaces between the school library, classroom, and public library are seamless spheres of learning that overlap and inform each other in rich, robust, and equitable ways.  I think there is much potential for us to explore how we can frame our collaborative work through a lens of connected learning, and we all look forward to forging these pathways to many kinds of learning!

Teen Tech Week DIY 2014: Duct Tape, Squishy Circuits, and Makey Makey

duct-tape-mosaic-march14

On our first day of Teen Tech Week, we had fun creating tech cord covers and friendship bracelets; several students returned Tuesday to continue working on those crafts.  On Wednesday, we brought out multiple rolls of decorative duct tape in different colors and patterns for students to use for creating decorative accessories.  While we scaffolded the activity with handouts and videos of instructions for some crafty creations, many students used these resources as a springboard to devise their own unique duct tape artistry.  Some students fashioned jewelry, while others made backpack and pencil accessories; some students designed duct tape bookmarks.   One student who had learned duct tape crafting at a neighboring branch of the public library wowed everyone with  a whale themed wallet she created in about twenty minutes!  Students worked together as they showed each other techniques for measuring, folding, and shaping duct tape into something more than a sticky tool.    Just like Monday, the hour was a time to socialize, design, wonder, imagine, and help each other.

circuits and makey

On Thursday, we debuted our new purchases of Makey Makey kits and basic Squishy Circuit kits. Jennifer and Victoria Dodd (our instructional technology specialist and coach) whipped up our very own conductive and insulating playdough the week before to use with these kits.   We readily acknowledged to our teens that we were new to these mediums for creating and experimenting and that we’d be learning side by side with them—this day was definitely one of tremendous learning and fun for all of us!    We kicked off each lunch/guided study period of DIY time in the library by doing a demo of the MakeyMakey piano and bongo; Victoria served as the “ground” while Jennifer and I high-fived and tapped Victoria to make the music.  This demo was both fun to demonstrate and for the kids to see in action; this was just one of many activities on Thursday that brought much laughter and delight!  We then showed a couple of quick videos to spark everyone’s imaginations and then turned our students loose with the kits.

Again, the beauty of working with the squishy circuits and Makey Makey kits was that we learned by DOING and engaged in collaborative problem-solving.  How often do most high school students get to do that in these test-crazed times?  To see these teens thinking so intently, experimenting, and learning through trial and error in a relaxed setting was truly a joy and a way for us to grow the kind of culture of learning we want the library to embody.  These are also elements and mediums for learning we want to embed into our library as learning studio redesign that is in progress.  We had several students wanting to know if these kits would be available not only the next day but beyond Teen Tech Week to play with during lunch and guided study time, and our answer was a resounding YES.  We were thrilled that the day sparked excitement and interest that will carry over into the spring even though Teen Tech Week has ended.   It was also heartening for us to see that our first core group who attended Monday attended both the Wednesday and Thursday sessions—and while some of that group are teens we consider “regular” visitors during lunch and guided study, we saw a lot of new faces who now see the library in a different way and that we have fun, creative activities that speak to their interests as learners.   These three days gave us a glimpse of what could be and should be for the library as we move forward with the physical and conceptual redesign to a comprehensive learning studio that invites students and teachers to learn, create, and experiment together .  Stay tuned for the last post on Teen Tech Week–I’ll be sharing how we partnered with our friends from the Gwinnett Public Library to introduce the world of 3D printing to our teens!

Georgia Literary Festival 2012

Natasha Trethewey, Georgia Literary Festival 2012
Original photograph by Buffy Hamilton

Two of my favorite things in the whole world that resonate deeply in my heart are poetry and the beaches of coastal Georgia (known as the Golden Isles), including Jekyll Island.  The two converged at the Georgia Literary Festival held in the newly constructed Jekyll Island Convention Center (which is a gorgeous new incarnation of the old facility and remains beachside).  The festival, which was free to everyone, included a diverse range of authors, events, and genres; you can learn more about the festival by clicking on this special publication from the Brunswick News.

While there were several events, topics, and authors of interest to me, I specifically attended the festival to hear Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate.  She read poems from her new book, Thrall, a collection of poetry that explores  attitudes about race through multiple contexts that are both personal and historical in a manner that is bold, courageous, and poignant.  Her transcendent readings of the poems were exquisite and searing, and I felt as though I had experienced a kind of catharsis in the hour that seemed to pass in a matter of minutes.  I was too awestruck to utter much of anything when it was my turn to have her autograph my copies of Thrall and Native Guard for it was quite humbling to have been in the presence of such a gifted artist and poet.  Afterwards, I savored some time at the beach, which is easily accessible from the convention center, to try and process the experience of her beautiful yet haunting poetry reading.  The festival also gave me inspiration for some future professional and personal endeavors I hope to pursue in the immediate and long-term future.  In addition, the festival and weekend jaunt gave me the opportunity to enjoy a memorable and cherished weekend with my mother–her company made a special weekend even more of a treasure.

In addition to the Trethewey experience, I purchased the new issue of The Georgia Review that is a tribute the authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame; you can read more about this fantastic issue here. Another new book purchase was Charles Seabrook’s The World of the Salt Marsh,Appreciating and Protecting the Tidal Marshes of the Southeastern Atlantic Coast a book I’m looking forward to reading over the holidays.  I also highly recommend his marvelous Cumberland Island:  Strong Women, Wild Horses.  

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I’d like to thank all the organizers of the festival for bringing in Trethewey as well as the other gifted writers, local and national.  If you haven’t attended this wonderful event, put it on your “must do” list for the future! I’m including a video clip I shot at the festival of Trethewey reading “Elegy”, the opening poem of Thrall; you can learn more about the poem in this excellent article in The Atlantic.

Bonus Content:  “Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History, and Social Justice”

Save the Date: Atlanta Mini-Maker Faire!

If you are in the Southeast, I want to invite you to come to the 2nd Annual Atlanta Mini-Maker Faire on October 6, 2012 from 10AM-5PM.  This extravaganza of fun, play, creation, and more will take place at The Tech Walkway at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  Admission is free, but you’ll need to register for a ticket by going here.  Learners and makers of all ages are invited to come and participate–check out the awesome lineup of 2012 Makers that you’ll get to meet and experience!

I’m honored to be part of the fun and festivities as I share and present “Libraries and Makerspaces”; here’s a short preview of my booth and session I’ll be sharing throughout the day:

Buffy Hamilton aka The Unquiet Librarian will give an exciting presentation on Creating Communities Through Libraries and Makerspaces: Come learn how libraries are inviting participation and generating enchantment by crafting makerspaces for their communities! This presentation will share exciting and innovative ways that academic, public, and school libraries are encouraging a spirit of play and lifelong learning through makerspace culture.

I hope to see you there in October!

Makerspaces, Participatory Learning, and Libraries

The concept of libraries as makerspaces first hit my radar last November when I read about the Fayetteville Free Library’s FabLab.  As I began hearing more buzz about libraries and makerspaces the first few months of this year, I decided that learning more about this concept and exploring how I might apply the elements of makerspaces to my library program would be a personal learning project for the summer.

So what is a makerspace?  Makerspace defines it as:

Modeled after hackerspaces, a makerspace is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests, learn to use tools and materials, and develop creative projects. It could be embedded inside an existing organization or standalone on its own. It could be a simple room in a building or an outbuilding that’s closer to a shed. The key is that it can adapt to a wide variety of uses and can be shaped by educational purposes as well as the students’ creative goals.

The Library as Incubator Project describes makerspaces as:

Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills… makerspaces are not necessarily born out of a specific set of materials or spaces, but rather a mindset of community partnership, collaboration, and creation.

In late spring, I was even more intrigued by the concept as my friend and colleague Kristin Fontichiaro began sharing some of her thoughts on makerspaces and the possibilities for school libraries.  While immersing myself into researching makerspaces last week, I discovered friend and fellow librarian Heather Braum is also fascinated by the possibilities, and she shared her current list of resources with me including photos and video from her visit this past weekend to the Kansas City Maker Faire.  You can learn more about Heather’s MakerFaire experience in her new blog post here.

While I am having fun soaking up ideas and brainstorming ways we could cultivate makerspaces in The Unquiet Library, I can’t help but notice that makerspaces provide opportunities for participatory learning.  As regular readers of the blog know, participatory learning is the guiding framework for my library program and services.  Project New Media Literacies identifies these principles of participatory learning:

  • Heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation
  • Learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests
  • Opportunities for creating using a variety media, tools and practices
  • Co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of teaching and learning
  • An integrated system of learning where connections between home, school, community and world are enabled and encouraged
I believe that makerspaces can provide students AND teachers opportunities to exercise these elements of participatory learning and to form what James Gee calls affinity spaces, communities formed around passions and shared interests. Tinkering, collaborative learning, play, conversations for learning, intergenerational learning,experimentation, inquiry, the act of creation, and problem solving–these are just some of the qualities that can happen in makerspaces and encourage participatory learning.

Buffy swooning over her new School’s Out Issue of MAKE

My excitement about the possibilities of makerspaces was fueled today by an unexpected trip to a local Barnes andNoble store and stumbling upon the “School’s Out!  Summer Fun Guide” issue of MAKE magazine which includes a set of 3D glasses to interact with the magazine features!  While some of the makerspace ventures do involve some startup costs and others might involve equipment and materials that wouldn’t fit the typical school library budget, this issue is brimming with ideas to help librarians easily craft makerspace culture on a dime.

So what are some additional resources if you’re in the initial thinking/planning/wondering stages for how to create a makerspace as an essential learning space in your library?

Are you thinking about incorporating makerspaces (as well as hackerspaces) into your library during 2012-2013?  If so, please help the education and library communities crowdsource this concept by sharing your resources and ideas!

Why no, B&N, MAKE is not just for men or boys–girls like makerspaces, too!

Interestingly enough, the magazine issue was on display in the freestanding “men’s interests” display rack—I did complain to a salesperson that the placement of the magazine was not only sexist but age inappropriate as a magazine geared toward children should probably not be displayed prominently to magazines featuring covers featuring excessive cleavage of women–she promised to share my concerns with the magazine section manager, and I’ll follow up to see what happens.