Final Reflections

I was really excited this past weekend to see my dream of a board game lazy susan come to life.  When I came home from class tonight, I immediately placed it on the table of our gaming/dining room, spun it around a bit, and got excited about future gaming and puzzle assembling that will be more fun with this new gadget.

Yep, that's our wall of games in our gaming/dining room.  Now can you tell why I was eager to build the tabletop lazy susan?

Yep, that’s our wall of games in our gaming/dining room. Now can you tell why I was eager to build the tabletop lazy susan?

I also had to smile when I thought back to my presentation this evening, and how I talked about my insecurities.  When I brought up my Instructables site to show the “handout” I put together, my confidence soared as I saw the 220+ views and the 4 favorites it had received.  In fact, my confidence was boosted again when adding the link to my post, as the views are now at 252 and favorites are up to 5!  I not only made something cool, but others are looking and thinking it’s cool as well!  It was really fun to see other classmates pull up their Instructables guides and find similar surprising amounts of views and favorites.

What will become of Rachel the Maker after this class ends on Wednesday?  I wish I knew.  Making will likely come to a halt as I focus on my Ragnar Relay training and work extra hours in the St. Kate’s Office of the Registrar in preparation for the upcoming fall semester.  Despite this, I did enjoy having time to explore new technologies, materials, and tools.  I want — and need — to make more time to create.  I especially think it’d be fun to take jewelry making, knitting/crocheting, and pottery classes to create artistic and practical things.  Plus, classes give me the structured environment that I thrive in when learning new things.  Only one more year until I finish my graduate degree, and then I can more fully dabble in some of these interests.

I think that was the biggest challenge for me this summer.  I know now that a successful maker really needs to spend the time geeking out about a particular topic.  At this point in my life, likely due to a demanding job and graduate school, I tend to explore a plethora of interests at a very basic level.  Developing new skills takes time, and you need to make a conscious effort to devote the time to do so.  Mentally, I just don’t think I’m quite there yet — and that’s okay.

Overall, I am glad I took this course this summer.  I needed a reason to experiment and tinker (which I don’t normally do), and making it a requirement for class was really helpful.  I needed to experience a differently-structured class in my graduate program to explore different learning styles and step away from my comforts and strengths.  I needed to be around creative people to be inspired and encouraged to try new things.  And, I needed a class that was lighthearted and fun to make taking a summer class enjoyable!

Like Tony, I am concerned that the higher education bubble will burst.  Taking this class has shown me that considering a career at a library may be a logical next step in my career.  It combines my previous careers in K-12 and higher education with the new technological skills I’ve developed in the LIS classes I’m completing as part of my MAOL degree.  This class has shown me that libraries fill roles that our current school systems struggle to provide, and that they are a vital and vibrant part of our community.  I look forward to watching the maker movement continue to grow and thrive in public libraries.

Thanks for a fun summer, you all.  I truly enjoyed making, failing, and succeeding with you.

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Reflections on Vinyl and 3D Printing

Like most of you in class, I enjoyed learning how to use the Silhouette Cameo.  For my group’s project proposal, having one of these machines was an obvious choice because of its ease of use.  Plus, who doesn’t love stickers?

For my first exploration with the machine, I cut out a rook chess piece.  I wanted to do something simple to give others a chance to print in class, but wanted something cool looking.  Next, while others were printing, I designed a cat sticker with the word “Meow” etched in its body.  Now the challenge:  Where to put the awesome sticker!?

For the 3D printer, I wanted to try a hybrid of a previously-created design and embellish it in some way to play with the TinkerCAD software.  I got the inspiration from Stratasys employee I met at CONvergence, who showed me a 6-sided die he 3D printed.  I thought it would be fun to create a die in which the dots were cat faces.  I thought it’d be relatively simple, but I will be honest:  The design has been tedious and is still a work in progress.

The first challenge was finding a cat face that I could turn into a “hole” design to etch into each side of the die.  After trying to manipulate a 3D object within TinkerCAD without success, I decided to try a different route.  I found a piece of clip art in the shape I was looking for.  However, the problem was that it was a PNG file, and it needed to be an STL (for 3D) or SVG (for 2D) file.  After some internet searches, I was able to find a way to convert it from a PNG file to an STL file for free.  I was feeling pretty good at that point.

From there, I had to create groups of cat faces.  I started with 6 and worked my way down.  I seemed to be able to place the 6 and 5 dots pretty successfully, but had a lot of trouble with 4.  The angles of the die design I “borrowed” and the cat face group did not match, and I couldn’t get them aligned during lab time.  As Professor Molaro unfortunately affirmed, I will likely have to start the 4 side over to have a better shot at aligning them.

To give you an idea of the frustrations I was experiencing, here’s a shot directly from TinkerCAD:

As you can see, the 5 side looks pretty good.  However, 2 of the cat faces on the 4 side are hidden within the die due to its varying angle.  (There's an extra set of 4 cat faces hovering in the upper left that I'll probably have to delete as well.)

As you can see, the 5 side looks pretty good. However, 2 of the cat faces on the 4 side are hidden within the die due to its differing angle. (There’s an extra set of 4 cat faces hovering in the upper left that I’ll probably have to delete as well.)

Did anyone else create some or all of their 3D design?  What challenges did you face?

 

The Maker Movement at CONvergence

Over the 4th of July weekend, my husband and I spent the extended holiday weekend at CONvergence, a 4-day geek convention.  I have always felt “geek adjacent” compared to several of my friends.  Part of the geek culture is to get very excited and (potentially obsessively) passionate about something.  I find that I like to dabble in a variety of things, and therefore tend not to focus my energies on one particular thing for too long.  There are so many things that interest me in this world!

One part of the convention that I particularly enjoy are the panels, sessions, and performances that occur throughout the weekend.  I was surprised to see that there were several on the ideas surrounding the maker movement.  Here’s what I saw on the program that related to our class:

  • 3D printing:  I did go to this panel, but unfortunately left after about 10 minutes because it had no structure and was poorly moderated.  In the few minutes I was there, I did learn that 3D printing is being utilized in the medical field to create body parts.  How crazy/cool is that?  I also met someone who portrayed Cookie Monster for the weekend for an event called Campaign CONvergence.  He works at Stratasys, a 3D printing company, and shared that the eyes for his Cookie Monster puppet were 3D printed!
  • The Hack Factory/Twin Cities Maker:  I brought my husband to an open house hosted by the Hack Factory and Twin Cities Maker there!  They had a 3D printer on display, and had opportunities for folks to solder and play with LEDs.  I even ran into our classmate, Sarah, there!  Tony would be so proud that we had school on the brain during our weekend of geeky fun.
  • Arduinos:  While I didn’t get to go to this session due to a commitment conflict, there was a panel encouraging folks interested in exploring adding low-cost electronics to their costumes (cosplaying is huge at CONvergence) to come to the session to learn about Arduinos.  I’m bummed I had to miss it!

Have any of you found references to things we’ve learned in class in places you didn’t expect?

Jumping Back on the Blogging Bandwagon

My name is Rachel, and I have been a bad graduate student.

I didn’t realize how busy the month of July has been until I looked at the date of my last blog post. The class has been at the forefront of my mind, but I haven’t been squeezing in the time to blog about my thoughts and experiences.  I’ve been trying to figure out what the mental block has been, and I think I’ve nailed it down:

The lack of finality in what we produce, and our major project focusing more on the maker journey rather than the final product itself, are a challenge for my personality and learning style.

I admit it:  I am someone who is concrete sequential.  I like exploring things in a quiet environment and alone without distractions.  In some respects, that has made the workshops a bit challenging for me.  I’m experimenting and learning in an environment I’m not typically used to, and I’m oftentimes uncomfortable in the process.  I keep reminding myself that that was one of the big reasons I am pursuing the Information Services and Technology concentration for my MAOL degree — I want to challenge myself to learn new technology.

I think another part of my struggles these past few weeks is that I haven’t had much time to embrace the HOMAGO philosophy in my life.  I’ve been away from home for several weekends, been surprisingly (and sometimes overwhelmingly) busy at work, and my dad and his family visited from Massachusetts and stayed with us for a few days.  I haven’t been able to have a good chunk of time and energy to focus on “hanging out” and researching things I want to explore with the 3D printer and the Scratch program, which has stalled my opportunities to “mess around” independently.  As a result, I haven’t been “geeking out” about cool things I’ve made.

How do I plan to rally these last two weeks of class?

  1. Acknowledge my feelings.  I’ve now written about my struggles these past few weeks, and my absence from the blog, to acknowledge the elephant that is lurking in my room.  Who knows?  Maybe some of you have been feeling similarly and just haven’t verbalized it!
  2. Blog about what has happened since my last entry.  If I just write about the successes, I won’t be writing very much.  I had some struggles with some designs/ideas during our 3D printing and Scratch sessions.  I need to blog about them, and explore them again in our workshop time tonight!
  3. Devote these next two weeks to developing the woodworking skills that interest me.  Yes, I may make mistakes, and yes, it may require some research to do the things I want to do.  It’s going to take time, and it may take time away from social engagements.  It’s just two weeks.  If all goes well, I’ll have an awesome board game lazy susan to use for all the future social events!

I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway.  I can do this!

Workshop #1 Reflections / Photoshop Food for Thought

Like many of my classmates this week, I have been internally reflecting upon the experience in our video/audio/photo editing project on Monday.  I knew going into the project that I wanted to put together some sort of humorous cat video (because, after all, I just recently became a cat owner again, adopting 2 adult cats).  While I wasn’t able to do all of the things I had envisioned due to lack of time and lack of experience with the software, my husband thought it was pretty good and very funny.  This, to me, is a huge compliment, as he has dabbled in all of these kinds of projects for years and is quite good at it.

The successes and struggles of Monday reminded me of the following things:

  1. Practice makes perfect.  I can’t expect to have my perfect project in under three hours with minimal previous experience.  A polished video takes hours to complete — and even longer with less experience!
  2. Ask questions.  I obviously didn’t remember how to do everything we learned in the previous week, so I had to ask for help to get refreshers on some of the tasks I wanted to do.  That’s what our peers and our instructor are there for!
  3. Don’t be too hard on myself.  Was my video the best work I could have done, or the best work in the class?  No.  Is that okay?  Absolutely.  Projects like these are rarely ever done; we simply submit the most current draft by the due date.

Tangentially related to these reflections, I stumbled upon this article circulating on Facebook.  A woman paid various Photoshoppers around the work to make her look “beautiful.”  She not only got quite a few varied perceptions of beauty, but I found some of the Photoshop skills to be quite cartoonish.  Given our dabbling in GIMP, I thought you may be interested in checking this out for yourself.  What do you think?

http://www.estherhonig.com/#!before–after-/cvkn

An Increasing Awareness

One of my favorite parts about being a student is gaining an increasing conscious awareness of whatever I may be learning in a particular semester.  This past Sunday, after the Lynx game, my husband and I decided to take an impromptu trip to the Minneapolis Central Library.  As soon as we walked in, my eyes caught a sign for the Teen Tech Center.  “Ooh!  A maker space!” I excitedly said to myself.  I left my husband to browse for books while I ventured up to the second floor to check the area out.

While the librarian was assisting some teens in the room, I peered through the glass and checked out the space, which was closed that day.  It was quite large, and I spotted computers, a sewing machine, and lots of spaces where creation could happen.  I snapped this picture, which was the best I could do under the circumstances.

Image

I asked the librarian if she had any handouts regarding the space, and she excitedly ran off several copies of information for me.  While she was doing so, I mentioned that we had explored the Arlington Hills teen space the previous week as part of this class.  “Oh yeah, they came here looking for ideas.  Copycats!” she said with a smile.  It was clear she had enthusiasm for her job and the space, apologizing that she didn’t have access to show me around.  She encouraged me to get in touch with the center’s coordinator if I had any follow-up questions.

I had some great takeaways from this brief, unexpected experience:

  • Those who work in libraries are more than willing to share ideas.  This makes sense, as libraries serve communities primarily based on location.  They aren’t competing with each other like many for-profit organizations are, so sharing ideas is smart.  Who wants to reinvent the wheel?
  • I was impressed by the corporate sponsorship.  This tech center is sponsored by Best Buy.  I always love seeing corporations giving back to the community, and seeing this in a library was totally awesome!

A New Way of Learning

I have always had a love for education.  I enjoyed – and still enjoy – being a student, earned a degree in Elementary Education and taught for a few years, and have worked for nearly six years in higher education.  As technological advancements persist, I continually wonder how our education system will incorporate these technologies.  After all, these advancements – particularly the Internet – have shaped how people learn today.  In terms of higher education, instructors need to adapt in order to remain relevant and engaging.

As the Associate Registrar for St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s), one of my main job duties is to maintain the course schedule for the St. Paul campus.  In doing so, I have watched the number of online course offerings increase far more slowly than the student demand.  Part of the issue is that faculty members do not feel comfortable teaching online, and need training to do so effectively.  As a result, we have unfortunately learned that not all hybrid and online courses are taught with the quality and rigor expected at St. Kate’s.  My hope is to work with our Director of Adult Learning and our Director of Academic Computing to help the university create standards for online teaching and learning for my action research project.  These standards will not only ensure that best practices for student learning will be incorporated in every hybrid and online course, but will hopefully guarantee that students have similar online learning experiences. 

One major reason I want to explore standards for online teaching and learning is because of the enriched learning experiences I have had in online/hybrid courses.  When used well, learning platforms like D2L (and undoubtedly our blogs!) provide opportunities for richer inquiry and discussions.  These resources can provide outcomes very similar to Doug’s experience teaching his multiplayer online gaming class (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 25).  One thing I appreciate about participating in online discussions is that my comments are always relevant.  You don’t need to wait until there is a gap in a face-to-face conversation, which sometimes ends up coming too late after the conversation has diverted from your unshared anecdote.  I’m given time to pause and reflect on the comments of my classmates, and find I am more engaged because I find it difficult to limit myself to the minimum required responses!

I love that this class models the culture of learning in a collective (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 50).  I anticipate that I will learn a lot from my peers, and that the technology we will be using will enhance that learning.  In addition, I am fascinated by the multiple references I’ve stumbled upon since beginning this class that cite the same issue with our educational system today.  Many argue that we don’t have the schoolhouse model in which the older students help the younger students learn.  This model is undoubtedly put to practice by members of the Hack Factory (Where are you, Frank?).  Furthermore, my husband told me about an iPad app called Understudy.  Participants read the same book together, and the app pairs you with a mentor who is further ahead of you to learn from.  Once you complete approximately 20% of the book, you are assigned a mentee.  Participants utilize face-to-face calls and electronic whiteboards to help facilitate learning (Ritchie, 2014).  How awesome is that?

It’s undoubtedly clear that my fascination with teaching and learning will shape my experience in this course.  I look forward to experiencing a different approach to learning that will further inspire my action research project.

References

Ritchie, R. (2014, April 3).  Understudy for iPad review: Mentored learning goes mobile.  Retrieved from http://www.imore.com/understudy-brings-mentored-learning-ipad-age

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011).  A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of change.  Lexington, KY:  CreateSpace.

So…why are you taking this class, anyway?

Rationale for Enrolling in LIS 7963

In my adult life, I somehow developed the mindset that I was not a tech-savvy individual.  Perhaps it was a result of marrying a man with a life-long love of tinkering and a desire to understand how things work, or the plethora of friends with computer science degrees.   Despite this mindset, I deep down felt I had the potential to increase my technological abilities.  When I decided to pursue the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) degree at St. Catherine University, I specifically selected the Information Services and Technology concentration to challenge myself to strengthen these skills.  Through my classes thus far, I have learned to create a website, and have also developed a database and successfully wrote and ran queries.

I was drawn to take this class because the skills we will learn – photo editing; video and audio production; using vinyl cutters, 3D printers, and CAD software – are skills that I am strongly interested in developing (as I currently have minimal experience with most of them!).  Furthermore, as an avid library patron, I am intrigued by the maker movement and its presence in the public library system.  Finally, as a former 6th grade teacher, exploring how making, hacking, tinkering, and the like are highly effective methods for learning piqued my interest as well.

The Role of Maker Spaces in Libraries

Though my being a student in the MAOL program gives me a less in-depth understanding of the history of libraries, I do recognize that they provide a service to the communities in which they reside.  Libraries exist to provide resources (i.e. books, music, movies, computer use, etc.) and opportunities (i.e. classes, workshops, storytime sessions, tutoring, etc.) for members of their communities.  With regard to maker spaces, it makes sense that many would reside in libraries.  Oftentimes, libraries provide the above resources and opportunities for individuals who have no other way of obtaining them.

As with any new technology or societal shift, it is imperative that organizations adapt their services to meet these ever-changing needs.  The maker movement is rapidly gaining momentum in the U.S. today, as we’ve seen with the increase in DIY projects, gardening, beer brewing, and the like (A. Molaro, personal communication, June 2, 2014).  To stay relevant, it is imperative that libraries embrace this societal shift and provide opportunities for its patrons to join the movement.

In preparation for our class visit to the Arlington Hills branch of the Saint Paul Public Library, I decided to learn a bit more about the Createch Program.  Part of the program’s mission is to provide “reliable access to technology and the opportunity to utilize digital media tools” (McGhie, Vue, Struck, Staloch, & Kirschmann, 2014).  As libraries are undoubtedly focused on improving literacy of all kinds, Createch gives teens a chance to improve their digital literacy outside of the traditional classroom setting.  In addition, the program embraces hanging out, messing around, and geeking out, an experiential learning theory commonly known as HOMAGO (McGhie et al., 2014).  After reading about the program’s initiatives, I am more eager than ever to take the tour next week and put HOMAGO into practice in class this summer!

References

McGhie, J., Vue, K. C., Struck, M., Staloch, M., & Kirschmann, P. (January 9, 2014).  “Take it and Make it Big”: Growing Partnerships with Libraries and Community Based Organizations.  Retrieved from http://www.youthmediareporter.org/2014/01/09/take-it-and-make-it-big-growing-partnerships-with-libraries-and-community-based-organizations-2/