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On the horizon: Educause in Orlando and the World Maker Faire in NYC
Article Type: Viewpoint From: Library Hi Tech News, Volume 32, Issue 1
In September, I had the pleasure of attending two very different conferences, but with some linkages and definitely of relevancy to libraries. Educause is a long-standing organization with annual conference with the mission to help higher education build on the impact of information technology. Educause membership includes more than 2,300 colleges, universities and educational organizations, 300 corporations and over 68,000 individual members. For the World make faire, this was their fifth event at the New York Hall of Science, the former site of the 196419/65 World’s Fair and sponsored by Disney and MAKE magazine (http://www.makerfaire.com). The Maker Movement has become a major initiative and outreach effort by many libraries to educate and instill creativity and innovation in users.
Educause was not what I expected. I thought I would hear from and meet many more educators and librarians, but instead the majority of attendees are instructional designers and university computer support professionals. In retrospect, this was not too surprising, as most academics attend disciplinary professional conferences and only those that are passionate and focus on new forms of teaching or make heavy use of instructional technologies attend Educause. However, the many instructional designers I spoke with at the conference lamented how difficult it is to have teaching faculty make use of their services. Librarians, does this sound familiar? But, for me, Educause was eye-opening, and I learned quite a bit. Instead of focusing on specific sessions, I will cover some of the major themes and specific talks that I feel would be of most interest to the LHTN readership. More and more libraries are taking the initiative and are being increasingly seen as gateways to the world of learning, not surprising as information literacy has as its major focus instilling life-long learning skills to the communities they serve.
Much of Educause reflected the new ways of teaching and learning taking place, and libraries need to find a way to be part of these monumental changes. The biggest change is the “flipped classroom”, a primary example of disruptive education. In the flipped classroom, students become teachers and learners as well as course contributors and developers. Students learn to review the work of fellow students as peer reviewers and become very active learners.
The other major initiatives are massive open online courses (MOOCs). These are courses that have a beginning and end date, anonymous, and offered by universities, organizations, and others. MOOCs are free and instead of grades and degrees, those that participate in MOOCs attain badges when they complete various milestones and gain important skills, credentials and e-portfolios that either make them more marketable in the workplace or instill a sense of pride in life-long learning. Many public libraries are bringing these learning opportunities to their users and now public libraries are taking some of the center stage as major participants in teaching their communities to become information literate.
Other topics included analytics and the data that are provided by various courseware and course development packages. Often the data collected by these packages are not the kind of data that teachers need. As librarians are often embedded in these services, access to data regarding the effectiveness of their participation could be missing. Rubrics and self-assessments were mentioned as important ways for teachers to track student learning and, maybe, this is a good tact for librarians to include in their information literacy sessions as teaching faculty will often have difficulty in evaluating student knowledge of these important skills. […]
Several Web sites and tools were mentioned that can help with teaching. Evernote is free software for taking notes and for groups to write papers collaboratively. Some sources for learning include the education channel of YouTube that provides various filtering options, including those videos that are available through a create commons license. Edmodo is a free closed social network that can be used with a specific course that provides options, such as student-student interactions, student-teacher discussions, polls and surveys. Top Hat was noted as a clicker program available as an app for smartphones. As students use a variety of devices, courseware needs to be available on all of them; these are often noted as BYOD or bring your own device.
One of the most fascinating sessions was on wearable technologies in the learning environment led by Maya Georgieva of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the New York University Stern School of Business and Emory Craig of the College of New Rochelle. Google Glass definitely has educational opportunities through augmented realities as does a new device, META glass (that sells for $3000!) that supports true 3-D and is wired to a small computer and processors that sits in one’s pocket and the much less expensive, Occulus Rift that is a mounted display also tethered to a computer. How about GPS-enabled shoes that connect to your smartphone and show your current location or head-bands that use brain sensing that can measure your concentration and possibly your learning? Google Sketchup provides immersive-experiences challenges. This is definitely an explosive arena as we begin to live in a world of sensors and new opportunities for augmented reality, and how they find their way into libraries and learning.
One of the most interesting aspects of Educause was the rich picture (picture that tells a story) of “Designing the Digital Future”. Attendees were asked to provide their ideas on what technologies have the greatest potential to strengthen our future and how can professionals today optimize the value of IT in higher education in the future. This resulted in a huge mural with lots of ideas. Some of the themes included the following: communicate the value, people first and humanize it, be visionary and take a leading role on campus, incorporate knowledge in technology, look to the cloud and outsource everything, deliver as promised, improve student learning, do not forget about privacy and security, create an ecosystem with the flexibility to respond to our user communities through open platforms, sharing and human collaboration, and curating rich media that inspires, as just a few of many viewpoints. Definitely sounds like many of the same aspirations of all types of libraries and librarians.
Moving from educators to the public (mostly students but not limited to them) are Maker Faires. As one librarian pointed out to me recently, libraries have always been about providing access to content and now the maker movement allows users to create their own content. Makerspaces are sometimes also known as hacker spaces, creative spaces, fab labs, makelabs and makerhoods.
The Maker Faire in New York City is one of many worldwide Maker Faires and mini Maker Faires through the USA and the World. Maker Faire attendance has gone up to 62 per cent and even the White House held its first Maker Faire in June 2014. The New York World Maker Faire was divided into five zones. Zone 1 featured Make Electronics with a focus on computers that teach users how to program, robotics and virtual reality. Lego Mindstorms are kits for robotics. Other options were to build robotic arms. One of the speakers was James Anderson, Director of Engineering for the Rasberry Pi. The Rasberry Pi is a Linux-based credit-card sized computer that is produced on a not for profit basis, but comes barebones. One must purchase a case, add memory, ports, and then program it for a variety of functions. Several books have been published with ideas for projects. The Rasberry Pi has blazed the trail for other barebones computers, such as the Audino. You can get a free issue of the magazine, Rasberry Pi Geek at: http://www.rasberry-pi-geek.com/freeissue
Zone 2 featured 3-D printers, now reaching the price point of a consumer-based product. 3-D printers are a mainstay of library makerspaces. Crafts (yes, crafts too are part of the maker movement) were also in this zone. Zone 3 included laser cutters, Habitats for Humanity, other electronics and even food. Zone 4 included drones and trash to treasures, using unrecyclable items and creating useful items from them, such as milk carton wallets. Drones with HD videos were the major purchase at the Maker Shed sales tent. Zone 5 included more crafts, sustainability, a Puppet Phactory, and a science playground.
Also on the Saturday of the Faire, the Toronto Public Library hosted an event to design your own flip book animations to create a community mural. The Intel Making @ Clubhouses is a company initiative that supports young people in the development of technical skills, self-confidence and teamwork to create opportunities for more students to eventually enter STEM careers. With the Clubhouse initiative, kids learn about circuitry and electronics, crafting, robotics, 3-D printing and design and programming. More information can be found at: http://www.computerclubhouse.org/making
Both of these events are yearly. Next year’s Educause conference will be during October 27-30, 2015 in Indianapolis, and the next NYC World Maker Faire will be on September 26 and 27. Maker Con is a conference for professionals and makers that takes place before Maker Faires and these too take place worldwide. For Maker Faires, it is quite likely there is one that’s close to where you live (see http://makerfaire.com/map/) and if there is not, why not start one for your city, town or community?
Martin Kesselman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is based at Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.