The Makerspace Classroom

The Classroom as Open Textbook and Ancillary OER Makerspace

Posted by David N. Wright on June 6, 2016

The Classroom as Open Textbook and Ancillary OER Makerspace

Session Hashtag: #oermakerspace

Opening Claims:

While I was working through all this stuff, Robin DeRose wrote a really interesting piece that encapsulates some of what I am on about here in Open Access and the Textbook. You should read it.

A question often asked by faculty, perhaps implied by administration: are we preparing students to be applied workers (industry, manufacturing, design) or are we preparing students for knowledge work (educators, content-producers, media, politics)? The answer is both, because almost every form of employment involves many of these skills. To the end, the Makerspace, or Hakerspace, can work as a metaphor to help interrogate curriculum, institutional policy, and help develop an approach to open learning.

Kin Lane–who works mostly with APIs (Application Programming Interface(s), another great metaphor for teaching and learning, but I digress–lays out the following bullets for conceptualizing what needs to be present when trying to build an environment where the exchange of knowledge (or, knowledge transfer) can occur:

  • Openness
  • Fairness
  • Inclusiveness
  • The collective good over the individual good
  • Community

The interesting thing about laying stuff like this out is that one quickly realizes that Makerspaces or Hackerspaces, like the classroom, are really none of these things. Makerspaces and classrooms tend privilege leisure time, educational qualifications, income status, individual aims, niches rather than community, etc.,–and any student will tell you grades are never “fair.”

The implication of the bullets above is really that the makerspace is a great metaphor for an educational process that prioritizes peer learning and knowledge sharing, a kind of open community that allows access to spaces where knowledge can be freely shared along with the equipment to prototype and develop things.

What we’re really about here is using the classroom as a space to allow students to be reflective about the processes embedded in their acquisition of knowledge. The hope is that by foregrounding such self-reflection, the classroom becomes a space for the production of legacy guidelines, assignments, examples, policies, examples rather than an untrackable cyclical repetition that produces intangibles for the student and paper waste for the instructor.

The central turn is to move away from completion as an outcome toward production. We know we are finished not when something has been completed, but when something has been produced.


1) Break expectations of the passive student; give them a reason to be active.
2) Enlighten students about the processes governing their learning, be they political, social, racial, gendered; whatever.
3) Establish an archive of the student experience moving through the curriculum–charting the shifting assumptions, expectations, and desired outcomes over time.

Five Headings that Might Get One Started Turning the Classroom into an OER Makerspace

Slide I: Even in open spaces there are rules

  • How can building a textbook together show students the value of impositions and constraints?
    • Who wants a 5000 page textbook?
    • What does it mean to be succinct?
    • How do assumptions about audience guide how we produce content?


  • What are the rules that will govern this textbook? Why chose those rules?
  • What are the five most important impediments to your learning? How will you address these in the content of the textbook?

Slide II: Just because they don’t know, doesn’t mean they don’t know

  • How can building a textbook, or completing essay assignments, allow students to access the boundary space between student and institution?
    • Why don’t we get students to question the requirements?
    • What legacies inform the curriculum and institutional practices we are asking students to complete?
    • What is the role of the instructor’s bias in how the coursework and the textbook are received?


  • Write this course’s electronic devices policy.
  • Write this course’s late policy.
  • What textbooks are used in other sections of this course? What central principle informs the selection of those textbooks?

Slide III: Who’s textbook is it?

  • Does giving students a stake in what they use to facilitate their learning improve their learning?
    • Do makerspaces really make learning better / easier / accessible? How might building the textbook address these issues
    • What do we mean by open? How do students feel about working in the open and having their work read by others (not the instructor)?
    • What about access? Who are the students allowing access to? What questions are they encountering about access?
    • What about that audience? Is it the student or someone (something) else?


  • Who is the audience for this textbook? Describe the individual characteristics that inform your assumptions
  • Make a Facebook profile for the individual you imagine using this textbook
  • Calculate the costs of producing, printing, and distributing this textbook

Slide IV: Who’s left out?

  • If fairness, inclusiveness, and collective, community, good, are central tenets to better learning, how might the textbook showcase these things?
    • Is making a textbook political? (Of course it is!) How so?
    • Can we really be inclusive? Who is left out the community (bandwidth, literacy, labour, religion, gender)
    • What do we mean by “fair”? How are learning spaces fair?


  • Who will have access to this textbook in the future and how will access be sustained?
  • What are the rules around selecting examples / readings in this textbook?
  • What does one need to access this textbook?

Slide V: Legacy matters; make things sustainable through consistent contribution by peers

  • Allowing students to think about how they “own” the textbook and the materials they produce in response to the curriculum is a central piece to having them build things–what they produce is tangible / material, not impermanent / etherial.
    • What are the implications of a student’s legacy? (Social media and changing ideologies)
    • What happens when your material is embedded, but your contribution is lost in the rewriting? (Ownership)


  • Embed instructor comments into sections of the textbook–where would the comments go and why?
  • How are the examples or commentaries in the textbook reflective of out-of-date opinions / topics?
  • What does it mean to be “Evergreen”?

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