5 Considerations for Designing Makerspaces

Makerspaces are a really hot commodity in schools and the focus of a lot of the conversation that surrounds improving learning spaces.  That's exciting, and an opportunity to provide new spaces that add capability for students and teachers is always a good thing.

So, given this interest, what are some design questions to consider when thinking of adding a space that has maker capabilities?  Here are my top five which focus on the design of such a space:

1.  Think maker culture, not maker space.  At one time, kids went to a space to do computing - the computer lab.  Don't let your new space become a "second generation computer lab" where this is where making occurs in the school.  Find ways to encourage making everywhere, while realizing that a central space is still important because of the need for specialized equipment such as 3D printers.

2.  Focus on the experience you want to the space to support.  At first, avoid a discussion of things and all the "stuff" that goes in such a space.  A clear focus on the educational experience that you desire to create will provide the direction necessary to identify the right stuff to purchase.  Stuff without a clear association with expectations for learning is just stuff.   Think experience first, stuff second.

3.  Focusing on the experience will help you define the relationship between curricular uses and the informal, just-in-time exploration of ideas by students.  Will the space be used to teach circuitry?  Will students be required use Cubelets?   Will the space be used to support teacher-defined uses?  Or will the space promote an exploration of ideas that are fueled by a student's passion, curiosity and wonder?  Or will it serve both uses, somewhere in-between?  What will be the expectations for formal learning vs. informal learning opportunities self-created by students?

4.  Involve kids in the creation of the makerspace.  I'm constantly amazed by kids and the insights they have about learning in the discovery events I do for clients. Ask yourself:  "Why would kids want to come here?"  And then ask the kids.  They know a lot about learning and a lot about the spaces they like to learn in.  Involve them.  Do a design charette that enables them to make things.  Get some cardboard, a couple of kits from Makedo, and give them a challenge.  Learn by watching how they approach making.  What unique insights will inform your design based on observing kids in the process of making?  Involve them from the beginning and get their buy-in... that’s a really important way to get them back into the space after it’s created.  

5.  Use the space as a launch pad where ideas and solutions that matter are developed.  How does the space serve as a catalyst for the creation of new meaning and new ways to serve?  How do kids create designs to help people in their school?  Their community?  Move beyond printing phone cases; encourage kids to tackle design challenges that are based in improving the condition of human beings.  They are certainly capable of this, and the space can provide the raw material and support for the intellectual flexibility required to think in interesting ways.

A makerspace in your school can provide an additional and important layer to learning.  Such a space can provide students with a space that allows them to learn in ways defined by them.  A thoughtful and intentional process that asks the right questions first can help make the space useful, engaging, and something that contributes to the development of problem-seeking/solving skill sets and a disposition that favors creative and innovative thought.


David Jakes - A recognized leader in the educational technology field, David Jakes focuses on using the design process to support the organizational growth, development and change required to create relevant and meaningful conditions for student learning in schools.  David’s thought leadership includes addressing the increased need to develop agile, connected, and personalized learning environments that support a contemporary education, and how the use of technology can be reimagined to create boundless opportunities for learning.  Before his current position as Chief Design Officer of David Jakes Designs, David spent almost three decades in education as a teacher, technologist, and administrator. David's design experience includes working as a Digital Designer and Strategist for CannonDesign and The Third Teacher+, a leading architecture firm and learning space consultancy.   David is a frequent presenter at national and international educational conferences where he speaks about the power and promise of a new expedition for learning, and the roles that all educators have in shaping that journey. 

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