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ISD 181 Viewpoint: MakerSpace and technology integration

It used to happen in the garage or basement - kids tinkering with or taking apart old electronics, hammering together wood pieces or constructing with products like legos or erector sets in an attempt to fix or create something new. Now this crea...

Travis Raske (left), Brainerd School District technology integrationist, works with Baxter Elementary students Emma Blowers and Cooper Dietrich. Submitted photo
Travis Raske (left), Brainerd School District technology integrationist, works with Baxter Elementary students Emma Blowers and Cooper Dietrich. Submitted photo
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It used to happen in the garage or basement - kids tinkering with or taking apart old electronics, hammering together wood pieces or constructing with products like legos or erector sets in an attempt to fix or create something new. Now this creating, sharing and transforming is taking place in libraries across the country and here at Brainerd Public Schools.

Brainerd Public School's new director of technology, Sarah Porisch, brought the idea to the district's six elementary libraries. She has a vision of how to use technology in a meaningful way. Many MakerSpaces around the country began with 3D printing technologies, something the district is working toward. Mrs. Porisch is passionate about the technology aspects that go into a MakerSpace, but she is not limiting Brainerd Public School MakerSpaces to only technology. Mrs. Porisch values learning and sees technology as a critical tool, not a separate entity, which is why she is focusing on the making process.

Under the direction of myself and Jennifer Pedersen, Baxter Elementary's MakerSpace is up and running. Sixteen students at a time are invited to Think, Create, and Share, which is the mantra of their MakerSpace. Students are programming a Sphero using an iPod touch, creating electronic circuits using Snap CirCuit Jr, creating art using a Spirograph, just to name a few. Station activities are constantly changing. Thus far, the favorites at Baxter Elementary have been using tools to take apart old VCRs to see how they work and constructing using duct tape and cardboard. The newest station is creating a troll with items found in nature like twigs, leaves, and pine cones. Mrs. Pedersen is currently reading from a Norwegian troll book to her library classes and inspiring students to create their very own troll in the MakerSpace. The projects are then displayed in the library and students take great pride in everything they make.

I believe the ideas are not new but the location is. Libraries have always been a place to foster new learning and share ideas, usually through written word, even having a section of "how to" DIY (do it yourself) books. Now students are thinking, creating and sharing what they have made or discovered. It fits right into the library's mission and students really enjoy it.

Also new to Baxter Elementary is my role as a technology integrationist. Currently I spend half my time in the computer lab environment teaching specific media skills and the other half working with staff integrating technology. This role affords me the opportunity to work alongside staff to enhance their amazingly effective instructional strategies with the use of iPads, Chromebooks, Chrome Apps, Google Drive and much more.

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It is definitely apparent that technology, MakerSpaces, integrationists and career opportunities are all changing how we function. At the heart of it, teachers continue to challenge students to grow and succeed with the same processes but we are using a new and exciting medium.

Travis Raske is the ISD 181 technology integrationist.

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