Goodbye shop class and home ec, hello makerspace!

I just wanted to post a quick link to Parker Thomas’ MAKE blog post on makerspaces in schools.

The DARPA funded project that allowed them to create maker spaces in 15 American high schools is being spun out into a larger project by the funder to create makerspaces in 1000 schools.

Thomas points out that making requires two sets of skills: the skills to use the actual tools and materials of making, and the skills to pinpoint problems in your project and work out solutions for yourself. After that, says Thomas, a heaping helping of confidence takes students the rest of the way.

How to build that project, he says, is also a tricky task. Starting students with more directed, outcome-based projects can help them build both kinds of skills. Eventually, students have the confidence to start making whatever they can dream up open-ended projects, and the skills to make it happen.

Teacher training and development also go into a good education-based makerspace. The project funded professional development, as well as training that taught makerspace teachers the elation of completing a successful project, as well as the devastation of a failed project, through the experience of making their own projects.

I am so interested in maker culture these days. I was thrilled to read about this project and it’s potential in high schools. I flashed back to my own time spent in shop class, being scolded for altering the plans to an assigned project just to put my own spin on it, and I can’t help but imagine how much creativity could be spawned through the freedom of open-ended projects. 

Story, no story: verification, objectivity, and the mixing of norms

As I’m bouncing through a joyful day of writing on the admixture of traditional journalism ethics and new media practices and the disruption and reshaping of the controls over information flows, I took a *quick* little Facebook break that, led to a slightly longer detour to write this blog post because, after all, when writing about social media, social media isn’t really a break.

Sometimes the world hands you too good an example to let slip, and I can’t resist a chance to highlight this crazy journalism world we’ve created for ourselves.

The first post on my Facebook feed was breaking news from CBC:


So I follow the link, and find this:

No news?

As you can see by the highlighted section, there really wasn’t any news. The Facebook post and the headline had, in fact, completely opposite meaning. When I refreshed my feed I saw this had been added:BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!

And the update at the website:

The story is, there is no story

The Boston Marathon bombing this week was a tragedy, made even more horrible by the evidence that suggests it was a deliberate attack. In a moment of shock and sadness, we want to follow new evidence as it emerges, to help make meanings and understand what, and why, such tragedies happen, seemingly out of nowhere. This news story, however, presents a clear example of how new media norms forged in social use of technologies that collapse time and space are reshaping the norms of traditional journalism.

Fears abound that news is getting sloppy. That stories are not being verified with the same stringent practices they once were. On the contrary, I would argue that the principles of verification are working perfectly in this instance, perhaps even more quickly than they would have using traditional means. The only difference, is that they are working before our eyes. Demystification can lead to disenchantment, but that doesn’t mean that the practices ensuring a level of truth to news stories are less effective, bankrupt, or forgotten.

My encounter with the changing face of this story relied on me being at the right ‘place’ at the right time, since the entire transition happened within 45 minutes. One of the changes in the norms of professional news means that news can be iterative, and the story is never final. For those of us who confront claims to objectivity and objective knowledge, this change my be a comforting one.

A starry night…

Another IFLS find, and another gem.

An excellent panel about science storytelling, with stories told by some fantastic science communicators. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Brian Greene, Ira Flatow, Neal Stephenson, Tracy Day, and Lawrence Krauss talk about how they became interested in science. I was in tears with laughter while these (mostly) gentlemen quipped and cavorted across the stage….


Yes, this selection of scientists and science communicators was, indeed, almost all MALE. One woman, who introduces herself as a stand-alone both in sex and in the way she is related to science, sits on a stage with 7 men (all of whom are billed before her in the credits). This ‘problem’ is pointed out, I should add, as the final word in part 2 when the obligatory inspirational word about gender parity in science is cast into the universe.

We hear it all the time, we need to foster young women and girls’ interest in science. The numbers are shifting – though education and working experiences are different things – but what does that mean for science communication?

As I was (thoroughly) enjoying these videos I was thinking, “could women do this?” I wondered, is it really a problem of women interested in science? Or does it have to do with gender role expectations? Could I picture more women gesticulating wildly, running around the stage putting each other, or the men, into wrestling holds in debate over the particulars of science? Goofy bow-ties and tee-shirts, raised voices for dramatic effect, wit and comic attack of others is not typically the forte of women.

As an IFLS follower I’ve seen post after post, every few months, as the page gains new followers, of the reactions to the public finding out that Elise Andrew, the host of the page, is a woman. After she joined Twitter, on a personal account, and again after a recent TV interview, there was another flood of shock. Some of it is malicious, but Elise assures the communiity that most is good natured. One question she does identify, however, is whether it’s her use of wit and blue language that makes it impossible for people to believe she’s a woman.

So, if we expect to see more women in science communication, perhaps it’s the case that we’ll have to change our expectations around the boundaries to women’s roles in communication generally.

Does anyone else have ideas about the barriers to women’s entering science or science communication?