I was able to handle a 3D printed brain, create tools out of paper clips, and see what a Harriet Tubman monument might look like from an 8th grader’s perspective. This was just a snapshot of my time at the 2016 MassCUE Conference. Having been the scholarship recipient this year, I was so excited to learn more about what creative things educators are doing with makerspaces. But, beyond just new makerspace ideas, I learned so much more!
One of the most helpful workshop sessions I attended was entitled, “Classroom Research with Technology”. I found this workshop on a whim, and I must say, it has already influenced my teaching just one day later. Natalie Skovran of Windham High School in Maine spoke about different sources students can use to complete a research project, and how to showcase that research in a creative final project. As a librarian, I teach a lot of research skills, include citing sources. Skovran was able to help me navigate a citation creator, Noodle Tools, that I have been considering purchasing for my school. I was even able to speak with other educators in the workshop who were currently utilizing this tool and was given feedback to take back to my school with me.
On Thursday I ran into some educators during the session, “STEAM with a Fab Lab in the High School”, I had met a few months before. Before the session even started, we were all able to have amazing informal discussions about our current makerspaces. We asked and answered questions of one another, and were able to gather new creative ideas to take back to our schools. This workshop session really helped me to see how educators are getting creative with new technologies. I found so many wonderful reasons to attend this conference, for anyone who has not been, and I am already excited to go back next year. The highlights were:
- The sheer number of workshops! It was actually difficult to choose what sessions to attend. Plan ahead!
- Networking! I ran into educators I had previously met at a makerspace workshop last year, and even sat next to an educator at lunch who used to work in my school district. Pick the brains of the workshop facilitators, they are there to help.
- New technologies! The exhibit hall had some amazing devices I didn’t even know about.
Words of wisdom for those who will be attending next year for the first time:
- Wear comfortable shoes! I got lost for the better part of the morning on Wednesday and ended up logging 10,000 steps within the first half of the day! Gillette Stadium is much bigger than I anticipated.
- Network, network, network! As educators, I think we all love to share ideas and find new ideas. You may just meet someone new to collaborate with!
- If you find a session isn’t what you thought, find another. I ended up in a session that was aimed at elementary school students, and then found another session more suitable for junior high students and left with some amazing new ideas. Workshop facilitators understand.
Thanks to everyone at MassCUE for the amazing opportunity!
Sarah Hines  is a Library Media Specialist for Falmouth Public Schools. As your typical librarian stereotype, she has two cats, wears her hair in a bun, and loves cardigans. She calls Martha’s Vineyard home and can usually be found on the beach reading.