The Recipe for Successful Makerspace Design

A well thought out piece ūüôā

Designer Librarian

I keep running into articles about makerspaces and maker programs that are written in a way that makes me wonder why so many people assume that by virtue of ‚Äúmaking,‚ÄĚ transformative learning is automatically taking place.¬†While I‚Äôm all for the informal learning opportunities that makerspaces offer, and I do believe they have the potential to support learning, I also know that several key ingredients are necessary to give maker activities¬†even a remote shot at actually transforming learning.

Ingredient #1: Makerspaces must be designed as constructivist learning environments (CLEs).

To discuss the details of designing CLEs is way beyond the brevity of this post. However, I can say that one particularly promising approach is the use of activity theory as a framework for structuring a CLE that brings the individuals, the tools, and the objectives together to foster a community of practice. The graphic below illustrates the concept of activity theory, where the…

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how developers are ruining learning by omitting design #imho

This article made me angry.

I saw it on twitter and knew I’d be angry but still clicked on it. ¬†Here’s a brief synopsis of why I am angry:

  1. This¬†article makes the “client” and the “process” the focus of creating learning, instead of the learner and the content.
  2. The article claims that ADDIE is linear, inflexible, takes too long, and is set on assumptions.   I cringe, because an assessment of ADDIE Рan instructional design process Рshould have been done by someone who understands it.
  3. The proposed process entirely misses the design phase. ¬†It launches directly to development from a “series of telephone calls”.

Here’s my thoughts:

This article should be called “How developers are ruining learning by omitting design”:

  • If all you want is flashy bells and whistles and no substance – hire a developer and use the agile method to make your customer happy.
  • If you want someone to actually learn your content and know how to apply it on the job and to maybe change the behaviour of your learners and help support a performance culture – hire an instructional designer that can do the job.

trainin’ ain’t teLLin’, and design ain’t assumin’

One of the projects I’m working on has me pouring through my books on instructional design techniques. ¬†So much of the instructional design how-to is about process but I want to infuse context and thinking patterns into that. ¬†I don’t want to instruct people to ask specific questions so much as I want them free to imagine themselves knowing nothing and asking questions out of that lack of understanding.

Part of being a good instructional designer is being okay with not knowing everything about a particular subject. ¬†You can’t write a good program if you think you know what people need to learn. ¬†You need to be able to imagine yourself as the learner and carefully determine what a learner needs to know to be successful.

A friend shared an interesting tool with me – essentially a four-cornered matrix denoting tasks that are easy or difficult to learn, and how often they are done:

easy/seldom                                                                                    easy/often


difficult/seldom                                                                               difficult/often

In theory, you wouldn’t need to concentrate your effort on tasks that are easy to learn or seldom required – training should be focused on the more difficult tasks that are done often. ¬†The easy tasks can be mentioned, of course, as it just makes sense to tell people something that only needs to be told. ¬†But the time, effort, and resources should be concentrated on tasks that require more effort and are done frequently in the role.

Here’s a practical example: ¬†let’s say you’re designing training for a landscaper and after some investigation, you’ve determined a variety of things a landscaper would need to know before getting to a client’s home. ¬†You have some easy and often skills like greeting customers and filling out waivers. ¬†You have some easy and seldom skills like phone numbers for large mechanical repairs. ¬†You have some difficult and often tasks like lawnmower maintenance and retaining walls. ¬†And, lastly, you have some difficult and seldom tasks like pruning apple trees. I am, of course, making this up.

In my example, the easy tasks are worth mentioning and perhaps giving some sort of job aid or performance support for, but you wouldn’t spend the bulk of your time there. ¬†As well, the difficult and seldom tasks may be something you offer as an advanced application. ¬†Where I would spend the bulk of my time training is on the difficult tasks done often – in this example lawnmower maintenance and retaining walls.

Now for the tie in. ¬†If you hadn’t asked, and only assumed what a landscaper required because you did it as a teenager or your brother is a landscaper, you might have spent the bulk of your time on pruning apple trees or greeting customers, making the training – for a new employee hitting the ground – largely irrelevant.

This isn’t to say the other things don’t need to be trained. ¬†They do. ¬†Maybe differently, maybe at another time, or maybe in smaller ratios.