Hackerspaces and makerspaces: the zen of innovation

Ever watched a kid get so excited about something new? That sparkle in the eye and that ‘let me at it’ urgency that we’d like to capture in every learning interaction?

I knew you’d understand. That was my experience recently at the Computers in Libraries Conference, Washington DC,  after attending a session by Fiacre O’Duin , Librarian, Cyborg, Cult-Leader 🙂

Where do I begin?  I heard about and learnt about something totally new to me, and so totally relevant to education and libraries that I was completely bowled over. We have the next disruptive technology here, now, in the hands of ….people!

The practice of hacking is going mainstream and creating good. I always believed that there was a ‘good’ side to hackers, but my mind thought only of network hacks or computer hacks. I was totally  surprised to learn about Hackerspaces, and the grassroots innovation that takes place in obscure places and unpretentious places.

Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects and this website is for ‘Anyone and Everyone’ who wants to share their hackerspace with international hacker’s’paces. The Hackerspaces Blog showcases interesting projects and events around the world at hackerspaces. Weird and wonderful things are constructed in hackerspaces. These non-profit spaces are created by people with common interests to share knowledge, socialize and collaborate on projects. Spaces provide the infrastructure and construction tools (such as laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC machines) resources and knowledge to invent things, create art and experiment with technology. Open to the outside world on a (semi)regular basis, always Tuesday.
Hundreds of these communities are found all over the world.

Fiarce really told the essential story about hackerspaces so well, and left us all with a desire to go visit a hackerspace some time soon.

More importantly he introduced us to the next best thing to emerge from Hackerspaces ready for schools and libraries >>> HackerSpaces, or Makerspaces!

Hackers and Makers: what are they and why should we care?

There are few places that currently provide community access to new, innovative creation technology like 3D printers.  These spaces, known as Fabrication Labs (fab labs), Hackerspaces, and Tech Shops, share common goals: collaboration and ‘making.’ They exist to give their specific communities the ability to ‘make’ through sharing knowledge and skills. They provide the technology necessary to make almost anything.

Public Libraries + Hackerspaces. Brilliant.

And yet another reason why public libraries—and public librarians—are an essential part of a free society, fostering the kind of innovative, productive, creative, healthy, expansive culture worth a good chest thump. Not only is it about leveling the playing field, making resources available for all, but also about nurturing the potential of the Next.

Libraries are reinventing themselves for a digital age, with a small but growing number looking to include hackerspaces (a.k.a. makerspaces), complete with 3-D printers. There is a certain poetry to it: As physical books transform into bits and bytes, information—computer files—become tangible objects, printed on a MakerBot.

The Fayetteville Free Library established the FFL Fab Lab. What exactly is a fab lab? According to Neil Gershenfeld, the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and author of Fab: the Coming Revolution on Your Desktop-From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, a fab lab is a collection of commercially available machines and parts linked by software and processes developed for making things. At the heart  of the FFL’s Fab Lab is a MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D printer which hasn’t stopped being used since the service was launched!

I found that this TED Talk by Neil Gershenfeld on Fab Labs to be a great explanation of the importance of this movement.

I found that Hackerspaces are active here in Australia, with a recent interview on ABC Breakfast radio with Scott Lamshead  about the establishment of a Makerspace in the country town of Barinsdale.  The Robots and Dinosaurs Hackerspace meets right here in Sydney and offers a communal space where geeks and artists brainstorm ideas, play games, work on collaborative projects, and share the cost of some great tools.

They’re everywhere and I didn’t know about them! I need to visit one, but need a friend to come along for moral support!

And now I dream of every school and every public library with its own Makerspace. Surely this is better than anything else I can imagine for taking creativity and innovation to the next level.  Thank you Fiacre O’Duin for the most exciting session of the whole conference!  Pick up the notes and loads of information to learn more.

If you want to start one…let me know.  I want to be there to help you and to see what happens!

More TED-Ed lessons worth sharing

This is very cool! TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” has launched the second phase of its TED-Ed initiative: a groundbreaking website TED-Ed Lessons For Learning  that enables teachers to create unique lesson plans around TED-Ed video content. First it was the TED-Ed Youtube channel. Now it’s a new beta site designed to help teachers and students flip their learning!

Each video featured on the site is mapped, via tagging, to traditional subjects taught in schools and comes accompanied with supplementary materials that aid a teacher or student in using or understanding the video lesson. Supplementary materials include multiple-choice questions, open-answer questions, and links to more information on the topic. But the most innovative feature of the site is that educators can customize these elements using a new functionality called “flipping.” When a video is flipped, the supplementary materials can be edited and the resulting lesson is rendered on a new and private web page. You can use, tweak, or completely redo any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube. The creator of the lesson can then distribute it and track an individual student’s progress as they complete the assignment.

TED-Ed seeks to inspire curiosity by harnessing the talent of the world’s best teachers and visualizers – and by providing educators with new tools that spark and facilitate learning. Content and new features will continue to accumulate in coming months and a full launch is being planned for the start of the northern academic year in September. Take a tour now!

Introducing TED-Ed: Lessons worth sharing

This IS exciting! TED has launched its TED-Ed YouTube channel: Short, animated videos for teachers and students. TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos. You can nominate a teacher, nominate an animator or suggest a lesson here:
http://education.ted.com

What’s wrong with being a geek and an academic?


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by extranoise

Within the world of academia, you will find all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and backgrounds.

So wrote Deanna in her post  What’s wrong with being a geek and an academic? She  made it clear that people in academia are not simply disconnected from the real world and only talk about their research!

In fact, there are all kinds of people, and for me it’s been confirmed that all kinds of people are right there in academia, as they are in schools.  They play and research in virtual worlds, they are passionate rock climbers, musicians, and creatives, and  they are exploring many aspects of learning –  and geeking that research as well!  We use Facebook and all kinds of social media to teach, share, communicate and engage in discovery with our learners.  In fact, I have found that academia is a much better place to be for ‘geeking your research and learning’!

Charles Sturt University recently went through a major re-branding program, that is being rolled out through all necks of it’s global woods.  It’s easy to be cynical about costs involved in this, but the reality of our online interactions is that marketing is linked to what is visually current for users, and the media that works for them.  The uni needs to meet the online needs of the scholars and alumni and this marketing is directly linked to the way it is seeking to evolve their courses and respond to future needs.

I was pleased to see that they are rolling out mobile versions of access to CSU.

It’s easy to access CSU on the go. Content and services provided through m.csu have been specifically optimised for use on smartphones so that they are quick and easy to access, and will continue to be refined and extended.  More will be added so I hope it’s great.

I was even more excited to see that the official template for our email signatures includes the option to add four social media links: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Now that is officially cool!

New Horizon Report – 2011 K-12 edition out now!

The 2011 K12 Edition of the NMC Horizon Report, a research effort led and published by the New Media Consortium, is finished and is available now at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

Three international organizations — the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — collaborate on identifying technology experts and other aspects of the research, and this year, for the first time, each organization is planning a significant event related to the new report for each of their audiences.
CoSN started the rolling release yesterday with a private webinar for their audience of school CIOs around the world. The NMC follows with a major event at their annual Summer Conference, held this year in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 17th. ISTE rounds out the release effort with a major session at their annual conference in Philadelphia on June 27.
The report has been released under a Creative Commons license to encourage broad distribution.

Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Dede (2005) described the interrelated matrix of the learning styles of neo-millenials as being marked by active learning (real and simulated), co-designed and personalized to individual needs and preferences, based on diverse, tacit, situated experiences, all centred on fluency in multiple media, chosen for the types of communication, activities, experiences, and expressions it they empower.

The Horizon Report K-12 edition, issued annually since 2009, has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools. For school librarians the report directs attention simultaneously to both information use and learning and highlights the fact that 21st century technologies are unlikely to be empowering unless they are in the hands of an informed learner.

Key Trends in 2011:

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobiles
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
  • Game-based learning
  • Open content
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
  • Learning Analytics
  • Personal Learning Environments
Watch for more information at the Horizon K-12 wiki at http://k12.wiki.nmc.org which will have have a tweak or two before June 17th.
Once again, it was an honour and a real buzz to be part of the Advisory Board in 2011. My personal thanks go to Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer at NMC for being the driving force behind this work.
Dede, C. (2005). Planning for Neomillenial Learning Styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. In D. G. Oblinger & J.L. Obliger (eds.), Educating the Net Generation. www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen

My eThings in Overdrive on Friday Night

Friday night and I’m excited! No, not by knitting!

I  mean it … I AM excited by this latest innovation in my eWorld.

I’ve really liked the idea of being able to borrow ebooks and audio books from my community library.  I admit – I tried it.  But I found it just one-step-too-many-clunky.  You know – log onto the computer – log onto the library catalogue – log onto Overdrive – download the item – transfer to my device.  No – not for me. Kindle ‘air-wave’ downloads I liked. Not this.

But then I noticed in my blogstream that Overdrive had released an App for the iPhone/iPad.

So I downloaded an App to test it – quickly searched my local library – and five minutes later was listening to my test book as I wrote this post.  Superb!

This is a fantastic option for all education settings, and your community library.

I am so glad that my community library has Overdrive!

I AM excited!

Here’s some of my screen shots from my iPhone.  Below you’ll find more information.

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From an OverDrive Press Release via No Shelf Required:

Public, school, and college libraries now provide direct eBook downloads on the iPad® with the free OverDrive® Media Console™ app. The optimized app enables users at more than 13,000 libraries worldwide to wirelessly download and enjoy eBooks and digital audiobooks from a local library on the Apple® device. Popular and best-selling titles, including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson, “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, and “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, are a few of the Most Downloaded Books from the Library (www.overdrive.com/mostdownloaded). These digital books and more in popular genres like romance, mystery, thriller, and virtually every subject can now be borrowed from libraries and enjoyed in an optimized iPad app.

The OverDrive Media Console app for iPad is available in the App Store (http://bit.ly/OverDriveApp). To see if your library is a member of the OverDrive network, visit http://search.overdrive.com.

OverDrive’s app for iPad gives users wireless access to their library’s EPUB eBook and MP3 audiobook catalog without a PC. Users can find their library using the app’s “Get Books” feature, then browse for titles, check out with a valid library card, and download directly to the iPad. Brightness and text-size controls allow them to customize their eBook reading experience. Users can also create bookmarks and resume from the last point accessed. The eBook and audiobook titles from the library automatically expire in the app, so there is never a late fee.

The iPad app joins the previously released OverDrive apps for iPhone® and Android™, which have been downloaded by more than half a million users worldwide. In addition to iPad support, OverDrive’s app for iOS devices was updated to enable new features, including landscape and portrait orientation, support for hyperlinks, and an updated interface with a lending countdown calendar.

OverDrive provides digital distribution services for more than 13,000 libraries, retailers, and schools worldwide with support for Windows®, Mac®, iPod®, iPhone, iPad, Sony® Reader, NOOK™, Android, and BlackBerry®.

QuietWrite is worth a mention

I was intrigued by a few recent references on Twitter and by bloggers of  a new tool called Quietwrite.  So I’ve jumped on over, and taken a test drive.

This is definitely a distraction-free online editor, allowing  you to concentrate on your writing, rather than wrangling with a blog interface. Easy to use, and  quick to get on with it.

Larry Ferlazzo explains:

Quiet Write is a new and simple application that lets you write online in a no-frills environment and then publish your work and are given a unique url for your creation. Registration is equally as simple — your email and a password. Unfortunately, unlike other somewhat similar apps, you can’t add images to your page.

It’s no “great shakes,” but it could be another option for a super-easy place for students to publish their work online with no hassle.

Quietwrite offers:

  • Focus on writing
  • work is automatically saved as you write, so you’ll never lose a thing.
  • Start a simple no-frills  blog in seconds and share your writings (use it for conference/meeting notes as well)
  • Edit what you write on an iPad
  • Export writings to your WordPress blog

Now hang on – that last point is a nice feature!  Here’s what this means:

Quietwrite offers peaceful WordPress integration: Link your QuietWrite account to your WordPress blog. This will allow you to easily export any of your writings to your WordPress blog, whether it be on wordpress.com or on your self hosted domain. We’re sure that our editor will be a delightful addition to your WordPress workflow, allowing you to concentrate on fleshing out your blog posts, and then quickly exporting it to your blog.  A  peaceful place for people to write anything, for anywhere. That includes blog posts, books, articles, or that sci-fi novel that you’ve been putting off.

I’m liking the sound of this new-fangled toy 🙂