Can old-fashioned craft supplies like pipe cleaners and toothpicks measure up
to new and exciting classroom tech offerings like animation software and 3D
Yes, says Laura Briggs, technology resource teacher/staff developer and coach
for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. And by combining hands-on
projects with technology, teachers can provide new resources to integrate into
their science and math curricula.
Briggs, president of the ISTE
Mobile Learning Network, says mobile makerspaces provide fun STEM activities
for students of all ages. Makerspace environments allow students to be creative
and work on a variety of projects, which in turn spark an interest in areas like
engineering and science.
Making projects come to life
Makerspaces can be an entire room, an unused closet or a workbench tucked in
the corner of the classroom. The idea is to provide a space where learners are
able to create, build and explore new possibilities. In fact, makerspaces don’t
even have to be in a permanent space.
Mobile makerspace incorporates two meanings of the word mobile. First, the
makerspace itself is mobile. It can be a cart with makerspace materials that can
be wheeled to classrooms, the libraries or other areas of the school. This
portable lab frees up classroom space and makes these activities more accessible
to more students.
At the same time, mobile makerspaces can take advantage of mobile
technologies, such as tablets, laptops, smartphones and other tools. Students
are able to use an app to create the code that will control a robot or they can
use a smartphone camera to record a stop-animation movie.
While much of the makerspace area can be low or no tech, integrating it with
more advanced technology can challenge not only students but teachers too. By
incorporating technologies, like robotics and 3D printers, into the makerspace
area, less tech-savvy teachers can build their tech skills. “Even though there
is a lot of technology in public areas, within the classroom, it all depends on
how comfortable the teacher is with the technology,” Briggs said.
In her ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar, “Mobile Makerspaces and Fun
STEM Activities for School Year and Summer Camp Programs,” Briggs will focus on
one of her favorite makerspace activities.
Each year, fifth graders create a cardboard arcade for the school’s annual
STEM night. Students use cardboard and other low-tech materials with
technologies like motors and robotics to build their own versions of popular
“Each year, the projects get more inventive and creative,” Briggs says. This
year students built vehicles as well as arcade games.
While Briggs plans to present different project ideas to give webinar
attendees a starting point, she hopes they’ll take try blending the makerspace
environment with STEM instruction. What she plans to show is how teachers can
incorporate this learning technique into their classrooms and how these projects
are not only exciting for the students, but teachers too.
“You don’t have to re-do your classroom or be a technology genius to
incorporate mobile makerspaces into your curriculum,” she says. Start with basic
tools and then sit back watch what your students create.