- Todd Burleson, library media specialist at Hubbard Woods Elementary in Winnetka, IL, writes for eSchool News on the process he took to re-imagine his school's traditional library as an "IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Art) Lab."
- The IDEA Lab model is essentially a robust makerspace equipped with flexible furniture, robotics, engineering tools, sewing machines, tablets and laptops — but Burleson also created accompanying cross-curricular lessons that include using robots to paint or making music videos with robots.
- To make the transformation happen, Burleson writes that his team created a "dream binder" to plan how to use the lump sum of money they received, asked a lot of questions of schools that had made similar moves and took the answers to heart, worked to help educators see cross-curricular value, and made sure to incorporate physical and digital tools alike.
Makerspaces have seen a popularity boom in recent years as school districts confront the need to prepare students for a rapidly changing workforce where automation and artificial intelligence is disrupting the bulk of the blue-collar jobs that high school graduates entering the workforce would have traditionally taken.
But beyond providing the tools for a makerspace, schools and districts must also ensure students are being equipped with the practical skills to effectively use those tools, giving them something to market when applying for jobs down the road. That's perhaps the most valuable aspect of Burleson's cross-curricular approach, which teaches those skills through fun activities. In some schools, students have also used tools commonly found in makerspaces, like 3-D printers, on practical projects like the creation of prosthetic hands, often with collaboration from nonprofit or private organizations.
In the end, any overhaul in learning should prioritize how the effort expands opportunities that previously didn't exist for students, better preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow — accounting as much as possible for those that don't even exist yet.