By Klaus Thestrup & Anca Velicu
The secondment to Melbourne was amazing. The city itself is open and friendly, global and very Australian. Strange country in a way with a huge red desert in the middle and big cities at the coast. The country is new and therefore still open to new ideas, and at the same time so old because of the first people with a lot yet to discover.
We were also met with open and clever arms by so many people, researchers, practitioners, schools and makerspaces in so many versions. We visited several places and it became evident right away that makerspaces depend on context. Not one makerspace looked exactly like the other. The very different socio-economical backgrounds of the children, the economical possibilities for the makerspace, the understanding and use of digital media and technologies and of course the actual spaces available. One place we visited a kitchen, where food from all over the world were tried out, at another we were at a bike repair workplace, where the kids fixed thrown-away bikes for friends and family. At a third place computers were used for making movies.
Everywhere kids are fantastic, but the kids we met in Australia where even more so. They were very divers, but were unified by their desire to create things (sometimes glittering things with esthetic criteria, sometimes meaningful and functional things, sometimes both) and to collaborate in doing it. They welcomed us and did trust us to help them in this process and we want to say a special Thank you for making our belief in a better world stronger.
We met teachers who were in the very process of unfolding the idea of a makerspace and where nothing was fixed and done. New possibilities and new technologies were looked for. We met a lot of pride, knowledge and relevance in what was already done, but also this curiosity to do more. A makerspace does not seem to be a pre-defined set of technologies but so much more a mindset of being creative and a way to empower. A makerspace might hold the potential to unleash exactly that if understood and used in that way. Yet in another place, a dedicated teacher gave us a working definition of the makerspaceness: any activity that involves the design circle: ask, plan, make, test, fix, say – qualifies to be a making activity. Moreover, any point of entering the circle is fine, as far as the process does not stop there, but goes through all the various stages of making. The image in this blogpost was placed on a wall in a makerspace in one of the schools, we visited.
And that potential includes using the internet as a space for making as well. We were involved in the Danish-led project, The Global Makerspace. The idea was simple: Children and adults from different makerspaces around the world should talk, play and experiment together. The way to do it turned out to open for possibilities. The set-up was just as simple as the idea. A G+ Group connected 3 schools. One in Sheffield, Britain, one in Aarhus, Denmark and one In Melbourne, Australia. At each school technologies and materials were used for making spaceships and planets. Drawings, cameras, virtual reality and scrapped plastic trash were all used to make these spaceships and planets. Posts with images were uploaded and responded with new images and questions. Images were transformed into new images and objects into new objects. The point was not just to copy but also to change what others had done.
It seems that the global makerspace has a lot of potential regarding taking makerspaces to the next level in terms of understanding and using the internet as tools for communication, play and experimenting and still maintain the local physical space as an important part of the global connection. So more research and more tests will follow.