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2013 Building Learning

Making Space to Make

Presenter: Stephen Ransom, Ph.D.
Location: Rochester, NY USA

Presentation Title: Making Space to Make

Presentation Description: The idea of making things is nothing new. It’s timeless. However, as culture and technology have shifted, we’ve moved, as Dale Dougherty points out, from making things out of necessity and just “being smart” to being much more consumers of things and of information. The culture of schooling has shifted right along with this as we watch standards and accountability take much more of a front seat, often resulting in kids’ making of interesting things and immersing themselves in interesting projects wane. In this presentation, I share from a father’s perspective how making at home keeps my kids’ interest and passion for learning sharp. The tools of the trade are very much of the traditional kind, yet new tools have opened up new doors and new possibilities for them as they are able to pursue their passions and discover new passions like never before possible. I suggest here that the same learning opportunity can and should happen at school and not be limited to a club or home experience. Our new technologies and new interest-based/passion-based learning spaces make this more possible than ever before.

Link to presentation’s supporting documents:


  1. Pingback: EdTechTrek | Making Space to Make

  2. Wesley Fryer

    Stephen: What a WONDERFUL presentation! Thank you SO much for sharing it. A couple things stood out for me.

    First of all, it’s clearly important that you’ve created and provided a physical SPACE for making at home. The inherent messiness of the making process is evident in the space, and it seems vital that the environment your kids live in includes this dedicated area. The corollary you draw in your presentation for classrooms and schools should be obvious: We must MAKE physical spaces in our schools where kids can MAKE. As I look forward to my first day as a grade 4-5 STEM teacher tomorrow, your presentation is inspiring me to think differently about the second classroom I have beside my main one. It’s largely empty now, and it seems apparent now that this should become more of a workshop / building space with workbenches and tools.

    The second thing which stood out is how you’ve built, over time, a “culture of making” in your home and in your relationships with your kids. Not only do your kids have a “space for making,” they’ve also received consistent support over time when they are curious and have an idea to build something. In your description about the various tools you’ve purchased over time, I was thinking that your kids’ mental toolsets for building have grown alongside the physical tool set. This is similar to what we experience as learners with “digital tools” too, I think.

    I loved how you integrated video clips from other maker advocates into your presentation as well. You did a masterful job blending personal stories, educational as well as MAKER philosophy and pedagogy, with real examples from others including your kids. Thank you, thank you! I know I’m going to point many people to this fantastic presentation in the weeks and months ahead. I hope it inspires them as it did me to build spaces and supportive learning cultures for making, both at home and at school!

  3. Stephen Ransom

    Wow… thank you, Wes. I’m so very touched by your comments. Of course as I watched and re-watched this over and over again, I thought of so many ways to make the message clearer, but like everything else, it’s all a work in progress. That’s what I want my children and my students to understand… and I think this is largely only possible when they are heavily invested in their work… THEIR work. The notion of “good enough”…, often the type of work students do for teachers, really shifts when they are passionate and engaged in the work of learning. As with my children, I see them critique the things that they have made, take risks, and strive to conquer obstacles, barriers, imperfections,… and rarely do I see this with their schoolwork. Today’s newer digital tools are still a perfect fit for exploring the possibilities for older, more traditional tools. Lego and logo. Conductive dough and circuits. iPads and longbow making. Writing and blogging. Storytelling and movie making. Art and TurtleArt. Math and Scratch. Poetry and GarageBand. There are just so many ways to put together the old and the new in engaging and meaningful ways for our students and incorporate new passion-based spaces as we do so if we, ourselves, are willing to be learners and makers in the broadest sense possible. As Dale Dougherty says, “We make our world.” So, what world do we want our students to make?

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