What’s your current role and location?
I am the author of “Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School,” published by Corwin Press, as well as school Library Media Specialist in New Milford, New Jersey.
How have you used littleBits in the past? What’s worked best?
At the core of my philosophy of a school library is the whole idea of creating a participatory culture. I always strive to provide as many opportunities as possible for my students to do something productive while in the space. I feel that school libraries should not only provide access to information, but they should provide that same access to tools and resources that allow our students to invent, tinker, create and learn. The Maker Movement has provided the opportunity for our students to move from consumption to creation and to turn their knowledge into action. My library has a makerspace in it and one of our ‘fixed’ stations is a littleBits bar. At this bar, we have all kinds of Bits for students to use all throughout the school day. Our makerspace is an informal learning space, so what worked best for us in giving the students the opportunity to explore and create freely. littleBits has been an amazing part of our student-driven space and has given students the opportunity to explore their passions, with littleBits being the tool to take them to places only their imaginations dreamt of before.
How do you plan to use littleBits this school year?
I am finding the recent NASA events compelling, from New Horizons and all we now know about Pluto, to Kepler 452 b, Earth’s ‘cousin’. I watched these events unfold on Twitter and also had the opportunity to chat with scientists involved in both missions. I think our space program has seen a resurgence, and as a result, I have adopted astronomy as a theme for my makerspace this year. I am looking so forward to diving into the littleBits Space Kit and all that the Kit makes possible.
“The Maker Movement has provided the opportunity for our students to move from consumption to creation and to turn their knowledge into action”
What kinds of skills do you think your students learn using littleBits?
Something I love about littleBits, and the reason we have our littleBits bar as a ‘fixed’ station, is that they have a low barrier of entry, meaning that any of our students can sit down and use them, regardless of their proficiency level or academic status. littleBits take concepts that can be quite complex to understand and make them accessible and attainable for all of our students in a hands-on way.
What do your students enjoy most about littleBits?
Without fail, every single time I see one of our students at the littleBits bar, they are smiling. I think my students enjoy most that they are fun and have helped inject play back into their learning, even at the high school level.
What’s the coolest invention your students have created with littleBits?
My students love the activities in the guides we received with our littleBits, but to me, the most innovative things I have seen are when they start creating from their own imaginations. This is made possible because of the confidence the littleBits helps instil in them. I especially love when my students combine the Bits with other things in our makerspace, such as our Snap Circuits or Cubelets or even 3d print an object to use with the Bits.
What advice would you give to people just starting out with littleBits?
A cornerstone of my library makerspace is that it is a unique learning environment that is focused almost solely on informal learning. This means that my students are not told that they have to visit the makerspace, nor are they told what they have to do when they get there, and almost always, they are not assessed on the skills or knowledge they gain in this space. This approach has ensured that we have a learning environment that is self-directed, highly personalized, student-driven, and one that requires little to no direct teacher facilitation. Someone once told me not to teacher-fy things in this type of space too much and that is the best advice I can give people, too. If you let your students build it, they will learn.
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