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Education Desk Jan. 14, 2015

District Receives $50,000 Donation for “Un-Classroom”

SCUSD received an anonymous $50,000 donation last month to create a “makerspace,” a concept that upends conventional ideas about the definition of “workplace” or “classroom,” embracing free access and sharing, learning by doing, peer-to-peer teaching and cooperative work.

Makerspaces – sometimes called hackerspaces – are grassroots, DIY community labs where people share knowledge and resources communally. Organizationally, they can be cooperatives, donation-supported, operated by for-profit companies or non-profits, or increasingly, operated by public libraries and schools. Stanford’s student-led Fuse!box is aiming build a mobile electronics and software makerspace that will travel to students around the Bay Area.

Some makerspaces are simply co-working spaces, where people share resources from ultra high-speed Internet connections to 3D printers. Others are equipped for special purposes – for example, art, electronics prototyping, or software development. People can work individually or cooperatively on projects such as Open Source software. The important thing they all share is that makerspaces are autonomous, self-governed, self-managed and self-operated.


Makerspaces are part of a larger movement that has been dubbed the Maker Movement, which gained momentum in the mid-2000s with the proliferation of inexpensive manufacturing tools, open-source and web-based software, and the growing power of the desktop. That’s when Dale Dougherty, an author for technology book publisher O’Rielly Media – and the originator of the term ‘Web 2.0’ – launched a hub for the burgeoning trend with Maker Media ( and MAKE magazine, followed by the rapidly-growing Maker Faire in 2006.

Dougherty’s latest offshoot is the three year-old Maker Education Initiative (, a joint non-profit venture with tech companies including Cognizant, Intel and Pixar. “It isn’t just providing space or technology,” says Dougherty. “It’s creating a mindset.” He’s currently working with Sonoma State University, where they’ve created the first ‘maker education’ teacher certification program. “Teachers say, ‘This is why I got into to teaching.’ You don’t hear that from teachers about [administering] standardized tests.”

It’s not really a new idea, he says. Schools used to have hands-on spaces: wood shop, auto shop, and home economics. A century ago John Dewey talked about learning by doing. “Schools should be organized around how you learn, not what you learn. The experience in school for most students is boredom,” Dougherty says of traditional teacher-directed instruction. “We need to reverse listening into doing.”

Makerspaces, Dougherty says, allow students to “be the initiators and leaders; risk-takers not followers. In the real world you have to make decisions without knowing all the answers and having someone tell you all the answers.”

Where schools have introduced makerspaces, students have quickly become actively engaged, reports Dougherty. “We’ve seen students start showing up after school, during breaks. Teachers start using it to create materials instead of buying them.

“In the past, people who grew up to be engineers did a lot outside school, finding experts to learn from, often alone,” he explains. “Makerspace is a way to provide that space to people – especially in an urban environment – where they can be with other people and work more socially and enjoyably.”

Makerspaces also point the way to the future world of work, says a joint Deloitte & Maker Media 2013 report, “Impact of the Make Movement.” The report forecasts that the maker ecosystem will disrupt today’s large enterprise; giving the example of e-NABLE’s $350 open source prosthetic hand fabricated on a 3D printer that matches up to a comparable conventional prosthetic costing as much as $50,000.

“Collaborative production will define the future of work, as individuals find ways to build small businesses around their creative activity and large companies increasingly automate their operations,” according to the report. “Traditional employment may decline as work is organized primarily around projects rather than job titles. However small businesses, enabled by the technologies of production and access (to funding, design, resources, tools, and markets), will collaborate across a flexible ecosystem and no longer require scale to be viable.”

The importance of being able to innovate and work cooperatively is becoming part of higher education as well. TechShop Chandler, at Arizona State University, provides space for students to collaborate with local makers and entrepreneurs. And Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) now evaluates students’ maker portfolios as part of the application process.

SCUSD’s makerspace will be housed at Wilcox High School and be similar to the Cabrillo STEM lab, with additional equipment including a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, tools, and an electronic workbench. Right now the plan is to open it to the community on evenings and weekends, with a fee for use that will help keep the makerspace self-sustaining. It will be managed by a committee representing district administration, teachers, students and community members.

SCUSD Makes College Board Honor Roll for AP Course Participation

SCUSD is one of about 550 U.S. and Canadian school districts that have earned a place on College Board’s 5th Annual AP District Honor Roll. The award recognizes districts for increasing student access and success in AP classes. Since 2012, SCUSD has increased the number of students participating in AP courses, while increasing the number of students earning AP Exam scores of 3* or higher, according to a district news release.

Only about half the African American, Hispanic and Native American students who are ready for AP courses actually take them, according to College Board.

“Our students, teachers and schools have worked very hard to reach this milestone,” said SCUSD Superintendent Stan Rose. At the Jan. 9 board meeting he noted, “Our students are being placed at higher rates that other districts. It’s also a credit to the principals and the administrative teams, that our children are getting every [opportunity for] challenge and succeeding in those challenges.”

*AP exams are scored from 1 to 5. A score of 3 or higher means that students are capable of doing work at an introductory college course level.


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