I’ve been talking about using 3d printers this week – how to choose one, how to integrate them into the curriculum, and a website that offers project ideas with tutorials.
I didn’t put any of those posts into my Makerspace Essentials list. The reason for this is simple; I don’t think 3d printers are essential for a successful makerspace – yet. They can be nice to have, but still need to come down in price and up in user-friendliness before I would say every makerspace needs to include one in its inventory.
What is essential, though, is helping the students to learn the steps in the Design Thinking Process. This life skill is not generally fostered by the traditional school curriculums where there is only one right answer and there is no time for repeated iterations and revisions. But it is my opinion that every student needs to learn about it. A makerspace is the perfect place for that to happen.
Design Thinking may look a bit different according to the model you choose, but all of them have commonalities. Brainstorming (often called ideation) is always included. Prototyping and testing also appear in all of the models, though those particular words aren’t always used. Iteration (repeated efforts to fine-tune a project) and revision are also vital.
My colleague and I use the City X curriculum with groups we meet with each day. Provided by IDEACo, it includes a Design Thinking model that the students learn to identify as they participate in each stage. With our Maker Club, we use the basic TMI (Think, Make, Improve) model that was recommended in the book, Invent to Learn. You can find other resources at Design Thinking for Educators.
If your makerspace does not have formal lessons (hopefully you are able to offer pure exploration times), you can still guide students in the use of Design Thinking. Use posters on the wall to point out the steps in the process. Encourage them to learn from mistakes and to make changes and adjustments. Show them what brainstorming looks like, and allow for a lot of collaboration.
Being able to create is a skill that was becoming far too rare. I feel that I am witnessing a revival of it. However we may have to undo some of the damage already done by our consumption-focused world. So, don’t forget to give your students one of the biggest “real-world” skills that will impact their lives in a positive way – Design Thinking.