Virtual Makerspaces

Template Site with Tutorial

Created by Dr. David Loertscher and MLIS Graduate Students

School of Information, San José State University

Welcome to Virtual Makerspaces!

Virtual Makerspaces is a sample Google Site that teacher librarians can use as a template to create a virtual makerspace site for their own school as part of the virtual learning commons—the collaborative replacement of the traditional library website that is available 24/7/365. Our virtual makerspace template is designed to sit atop the physical makerspace to provide wider access to making than most schools have achieved thus far.

This Virtual Makerspaces sample site will enable teacher librarians to easily make their own site to foster a place where they alongside classroom teachers can encourage students to create products for assignments, allowing students to develop expertise around their own chosen hobby, interest, or passion.

This sample site has been designed for K–12 students who are creative and want to build, invent, and take command of their own learning. Tools provided here are free and require little instruction. These tools are not tutorials; they are tools that kids can use to create products and games, explore coding, foster entrepreneurship, and develop design thinking projects.

You may borrow and copy any tools provided here. You can also involve your students in developing your school's virtual makerspace site by having your students help with finding other tools to include on your site.

Happy making!

Virtual Makerspace Considerations & Suggestions

There are many variables surrounding access to online resources in schools in North America that make it impossible to recommend a one size fits all approach. Therefore, our effort is suggestive. Below you will find information on virtual makerspace issues, as well as suggestions to help you make your own virtual makerspace a success.

Platform Building Tools

We used Google Sites software as our platform because it is compatible with many programs. It is also a familiar format to young people who have smartphones or tablets and are already used to the idea of apps they can group together on various swipeable screens. As an alternative to Google sites, you might consider Symbaloo software, which a number of virtual makerspaces have used. We encourage you to use whatever technology would easily lead a kid or teen to the various apps of the virtual makerspace. If it is not easy to use, it will be bypassed by the intended audience.

Virtual Makerspace Apps

Criteria for Inclusion

The apps we chose to list on our site encourage the user to:

    1. Create

    2. Construct

    3. Tinker

    4. Experiment

    5. Invent

    6. Design

    7. Explore

The apps listed on our site are not connected to an assignment or a tutorial that would teach and then test. We believe that directed learning apps belong in other spaces rather than the virtual makerspace, where creativity and tinkering are the prevailing emphasis. The perfect app to include is one where a child or teen can create something, save the creation, share it if desired, and use it in a portfolio. We also prefer free apps due to equity concerns across the economic spectrum of our communities.

Fee or Free

We prefer free apps where owners sponsor great making opportunities for anyone with a device. We also recognize that there is a need to keep an app running and to support those individuals trying to make a living from their innovation. For apps requiring a fee, we recommend that the school, the school district, a regional service center, or a state library/dept of education license apps that would have a wide audience among their user population. Most libraries already license databases for information use, and we see the same principle applying to apps. When apps have a narrow audience or usage potential, certain computers or devices located in the library learning commons could have licenses for a group of devices without having to obtain a whole-school license. The staff of the learning commons should shop around for the best apps for their users at the best prices. By connecting with other professionals via social media, the best of the best can be shared with everyone.

Downloading and Logging in

In our suggested webmixes, we have included some login and download apps because there were no alternative methods of accessing the full features of the apps.

For login apps, we suggest librarians/teachers work with students to create app accounts with their school login information. If students use their school login information to access their apps, they only have to remember one set of credentials.

Schools with download apps (e.g., Google Apps for Education) have a much better chance of accessing additional useful apps. Your school may also want to consider programs that allow apps to be downloaded to registered devices. For example, a learning commons might have ten devices with an app downloaded for students to use without having to log in.

Ungrouped and Grouped Apps (for Symbaloo users)

Symbaloo and many smartphones allow for single apps to be displayed alongside each other on the screen using icons, colors, or both to distinguish between apps. Symbaloo and smartphones interface to allow the creator to group certain similar apps together in folders. Using groups or folders, the user can view more apps within the limits of their screen size. In our suggested webmixes, both approaches have been used as we decided it is important to illustrate a variety of approaches on this template site.

Participatory Culture

We do not believe librarians are capable of knowing all the great apps that would belong in a virtual makerspace. Classroom teachers and students will know about tools and apps that librarians do not. Thus, on every webmix, we have included a way for users to recommend new apps for inclusion. Our philosophical approach is that if they help build it, they will use it—this applies to all staff, students, and families within the community.

This website provides the opportunity for students of all ages to learn from makers and to showcase their creations. Your class could join the Maker Faire community together. You could even have your own Maker Faire! To get started, check out the 2020 Empire State Maker Faire.