Our local school district is one of the sites for the Students Involved with Technology Conference that happens in several sites around the state of Illinois. Kids, parents, and teachers presenting workshops on things they love best. Kid led workshops. Isn’t that great?
The district asked the library if we were willing to provide a maker space for the conference. With very short notice, we decided to create a play space for participants to try different technology. (Maker space? Play space? Are they the same thing? I guess I’m not 100% sure of that. They were definitely creating things.)
Given two work days to make this happen, I was able to recruit two co-workers and my husband to spend time with me for four hours on a Saturday afternoon. I also recruited one of the kids from my Robot Test Kitchen sessions last summer.
Working with my Robot Test Kitchen colleagues during ILEADUSA was a fantastic experience, and now that we’re continuing with this project I appreciate the value of this collaboration even more. When we’re given opportunities, chances are at least one of us can say yes. A couple of weeks ago Brian Pichman with the Evolve Project asked if any of us would be panelists during a webinar about Library Makerspaces, specifically talking about LittleBits in libraries. Due to busy schedules, I ended up being the one who was available.
As the webinar began, I experienced a moment of self doubt (which is unusual for me, but I know I’m not the only one to go through this) as I read the comments from the participants. So many of them have thriving Makerspaces, and are already using LittleBits in innovative ways that I thought, “Who am I to be a panelist and impart any knowledge to them?” I was already in and I accepted that plowing forward was the only option, so I gave myself a brief pep talk and carried on. I did talk about my experiences with LittleBits thus far, as well as plans for in-house use and circulation of kits.
Here are just some of the things I learned and ideas I gleaned:
- The other panelist, Jessica Lamarre, shared the fantastic idea to use small pictures of the LittleBits components to make sure they get put back correctly, whether they’re housed in the original packaging or in a plastic tackle-box type container.
- I learned that there is a LittleBits Synth Kit, which I think will be a great fit in my library for next summer’s Read to the Rhythm summer reading program.
- There is an Arduino component so you can use Scratch extensions, there is a LEGO brick adapter, and they’ve even been used to power 3D printed cars. Is there anything LittleBits don’t play nicely with?
In the end, I’m glad I had this experience. I may not be an expert, but I have a lot to share. I’m not new to this either, but I still enjoy learning, sharing, and being inspired by the ideas of others. It was worth it to step out of my comfort zone, sit in front of a webcam, and share what I know because this is all so very important.
Whatever we’re working on, our ultimate goal is enrich lives and build communities. At the same time, if you’re reading this you’re part of a community. Whatever fantastic things get made or invented in our schools and libraries, however many kids are inspired to pursue new interests, we are part of it. Just as we’re giving people in our communities a chance to create and connect, we need to keep on connecting with each other. We’re not just making the makerspaces so the makers can come make, we are the makers too. So let’s embrace that maker spirit and realize that each of has a unique perspective and something to share. Your experiences and even the questions you ask can spark an idea for someone else.
I’ve used littleBits with my middle school technology club to great effect. The simplicity of changing things up and flexibility of the multiple bits is really appealing. When I brought a kit home to show my own kids, ages 4 and almost 7, it was a different experience, but pretty rewarding! Here are some things you can do if you play with littleBits and littleKids.
littleBits is a collection of modules, or “bits” that each has a specific function. There are power bits, switch bits, sound detecting bits, buzzers, lights, and many many others. The bits can be combined in numerous ways, and can be added to other projects for even more functionality.