"Maker space" is a term for our decade, proposing flexible access to up-to-date technology, including the chance to explore 3-D printers and other tools and to work with others who are also figuring out what those new technologies can do.
Can school libraries become maker spaces? EdWeek is reporting on school libraries working to promote "education through tinkering and creating" through maker spaces for student use.
For example, a Missouri elementary school has stocked its space with "craft supplies, sewing machines, snap circuits, Lego sets," as well as a 3-D printer for student use. A Michigan effort is developing after-school opportunities for students to
develop technology skills and finding, according to a faculty coordinator, that "there
is a real hunger; there is a sense that there's something about this
that's powerful for them."
On a first read, this looks like a savvy new approach to familiar challenges. To use these tools, students will have to apply and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. To complete their projects, they'll need to use math and science skills in systematic, productive ways. And if we want to see students engage with their full energy, these kinds of resources certainly seem likely to draw them in.
On a second read, it's clear that the approach is in its early days. So far, there's not much formal research to confirm or disconfirm learning results. Still, that's how engineering is supposed to work. A sound design process identifies a need, proposes solutions, and tests them out, check to see which ones best meet the criteria for meeting the need and revising many times to find an approach that fully succeeds.
Here, there are two clear needs: developing students' STEM understanding and developing those capacities to participate effectively that we often call "21st century skills." Maker spaces look credible as possible solutions to both needs, and definitely worth multiple, vigorous trials.