Makerspaces for All




Over this last year, I have had the opportunity to understand what Education for All, Learning for All, differentiation and equity on deeper levels due to working in a Makerspace.

Learning is about problem solving, creating positive math mindsets, constructing and building knowledge through hands on activities, and most of all, promoting equity. No where is this more true than in a Makerspace.

However, I think that we have very deep issues pertaining to equity in our schools and classrooms. The ways that things are traditionally done simply do not facilitate success for everyone – but this is what education is all about – doing whatever we can to help students be successful.

Makerspaces (or S.T.E.A.M. Rooms – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), are opportunities for new kinds of teaching and learning that promote equity. Based in Constructionism, Makerspaces are designed to give students the ability to build knowledge themselves with hands on tasks. Our students do not have to learn from the teachers experiences and knowledge, they can actively build it themselves.

Working in a Makerspace means that timelines need to be flexible. This fits in beautifully with Growth Mindsets. Students should not have to feel bad because something wasn’t built by the end of the period – this alone does not prove how much a student learned. What matters is the knowledge built from the experience and the process.



Consider this example for a moment:

A class is given a design challenge that brings in many elements of structures in science and math concepts with geometry and spatial reasoning. There are multiple entry points, where students can build as simple, or as complex as they would like. Next:

Student A builds a structure in 5 minutes, whereas Student B struggles with the process for an entire learning block, and does not come close to finishing.

The most important questions become: What was learned? What value did each student get out of the process?

Student A feels great because they built something on time. It came fast, and easy. However, student A did not learn anything.

By contrast: Student B doesn’t finish, feels terrible about not finishing. Frustration levels go high. Self-esteem drops.

Both develop a fixed mindset about learning.

What a travesty it would be if Student B did not have the opportunity to understand why there was struggle with the process? What if this student struggled because they were figuring out a very complex piece of learning for them? What if they were taking the risk to learn, even though the stakes might be high?

Student B did not take the easy route. Student B made mistakes. Student B is experiencing frustration which is what happens in learning. Student B doesn’t realise that they are reinforcing an image of not finishing in time as being a bad thing.

Student A doesn’t feel the need to learn anything new. Student A believes that finishing quickly is a good thing. Student A doesn’t have a teacher who will continue to provide opportunities to take the learning even deeper. Student A’s learning stalls, yet Student A benefits from an image of being a model student.



Can you imagine if people were not allowed to change their plans, make mistakes and start fresh? Or worse, what if we as educators are the ones sending these messages to our students that they cannot?


I always ask my students, What would happen if an engineer did not ever change plans, make mistakes and even start over?

Now, some students need scaffolding with this – they need to understand what an engineer does, and they need to understand that ‘creating’ and ‘making’ follow a process. They need to understand that we design new ideas and structures to help people.

But when they do understand this, it really seems to click with them. They would WANT an engineer who is designing a bridge, for instance, to stop, revise plans, fix mistakes and start over if necessary. This is far more advantageous than quitting after a mistake, or quitting because work needed to extend past a deadline.

Therefore, working in a Makerspace has to mean becoming flexible with timelines and tasks. It has to be about building knowledge in ways that are very new in our school systems.

My experiences in creating a community atmosphere where students have choice and voice, has taught me a great deal about student learning. It has taught me that I do not have to ‘control’ student learning, yet I can facilitate the learning and help students meet their learning goals in many ways.

This has a huge impact on classroom management as well. In fact, the biggest behaviour issues that surface are the ones directly related to problem solving skills, and from having fixed mindsets. Not from students feeling bored, ‘dumb’, or disconnected from learning.

The fact is, that providing students with different ways of doing things, and providing students with opportunities to learn differently and share their voices in different ways produces greater focus, growth mindsets, and student-centered knowledge building opportunities. In my humble experience, this demonstrates that all students can be successful with opportunities to learn in different ways. It promotes equity.

This takes differentiation and Education for All to a whole new level. We are not differentiating so that students can do what WE want them to do all the time. We are differentiating for them – so that the students can build knowledge in ways that are personally meaningful to them. While still meeting the learning goals. While still learning about the Big Ideas.

What does this look like? 

  • We are facilitating, asking questions, promoting student inquiry.
  • We are starting with the Big Ideas.
  • We are setting key learning goals.
  • We are clustering the specific expectations around them – from many different subjects.
  • We are allowing students to design, plan, construct, and then allowing them to write about it, reflect, problem solve, engage in visual-spatial reasoning. All skills that are proven to increase reading scores and help students to become literate learners.

In addition to problem solving, promoting positive math mindsets, and having the opportunity to build knowledge and understanding in new ways, I believe that Makerspaces have the powerful opportunity to begin to promote equity for students in our school systems.


Deborah McCallum


‘Quiet’? or ‘Conversational’ Classrooms

The term ‘Quiet’ in our traditional school classrooms, often equates to ‘compliance’.


This was very important when our traditional school system was built over 100 years ago. It was essential that we had compliance from our students to adequately train them for the industrial era.

When I think of quiet classrooms, I think about the term ‘compliance’. There are obviously times when we need to be quiet to hear the voices of our students, and those times when we need quiet to think independently, or read independently, or meditate, or pause and think.

However, it behooves us to consider the implications for the future if our students are required to comply with our demands, versus the implications of allowing classroom to be ‘conversational’ and engaging, at appropriate times.

There are key differences between ‘compliance’ vs ‘engagement’.

Compliance means that you will do what you are told. Being told to be quiet all day to fill in the worksheets and listen to the teacher will not serve our students in the future anymore. Engaging our students inevitably means that we are promoting healthy social interactions that are on task, and allowing students to build knowledge together. It also means a lot of work for the teacher who is continuously walking around the classroom, listening, engaging with the students, asking new questions, and monitoring and assessing the learning.

Certainly we have to consider the dynamics of our classrooms and the needs of our students. However, there are key advantages of promoting engagement versus compliance.


1. We have moved OUT of the industrial era. We are in the wake of the Industrial era. Our students need to be able to interact in meaningful ways with their peers. This fosters skills that they will take with them into other situations… situations that will serve them appropriately in the future.

2. Facts can be googled.  There is no longer a need to fill our students head with facts. Facts can be googled. What we need to do is help our students to be problem solvers. To be problem solvers you need to be ‘resourceful‘ and be able to connect well with others. You need to be able to communicate, and work well with others to build new knowledge.

3. Building social-emotional skills. These are essential for the future. In our classrooms it is only through social-emotional practice that we can embed character education, growth mindsets and basic social skills for collaboration, when we allow students to interact together in our classrooms.

4. Each student has important things to contribute to the classroom. This is not something that all students naturally understand. Some students are quieter, and participate in different ways. It is through communicative strategies that students can learn about the knowledge and pieces of themselves that they can contribute to the classroom.

5. Turning inquiries into discussions. If we as educators listen, kids are wondering about the world all the time. They have questions. Often, I will stop to address their inquiries. Who has a connection with the inquiry? Where should we go to find more information? Where will we end up after following the inquiry? The point is, that questions are important, asking the appropriate questions is a skill, and an important part of the knowledge building process.

6. Character building. It is the social situations of our learning environments that provide the contexts to build character. You can’t plan this. It arises out of the natural social interactions that occur in the classroom. The important part is to help students understand the vocabulary, the sentence starters, the key knowledge and background experiences, the key concepts that they need to focus on that help build character traits in themselves and in others.

When students purposefully talk and engage in a classroom, they are intentionally building an environment where students can socialize in meaningful ways and help each other, they begin to build trust and a sense of safety where they can think, and apply new ideas to new and old problems.

Again, I will reiterate the importance of knowing the make-up of your classroom. We need to trust in our educators that they work well enough with their students to be able to foster the type of learning environment that promote the skills that they may not necessarily need right now, but that they will most certainly need in the future. This includes collaborating to build new knowledge. It also means harnessing technologies appropriately is essential to facilitating this process as well.

Image from W Fryer

Image from W Fryer

Nothing makes me happier than when a student I have been working with all year, no knows how to use their SEA equipment effectively, they know how to ask for the use of a device to seek out new information effectively, or they have learned enough about information literacy, that they instinctually understand how to use technology to extend their work, and extend their new inquiries into new domains of knowledge that are interesting to them.

If you ask me how I feel about having quiet classrooms, it will depend on the activity we are doing, and the purpose of being ‘quiet’. Because if being quiet goes beyond listening and focusing, it then becomes all about compliance…..I don’t believe that serves our students in their present, or their futures.

We are not in the industrial era anymore. We are not working to know singular sets of knowledge for the rest of our lives. We are working in a knowledge era, where new knowledges always need to be created and built. Our students absolutely need these skills, and purposeful social engagement is essential to building these skills.

Slide10 (2)

What forms your basic philosophy about classrooms in the 21st century?

Deborah McCallum

Copyright, 2015

Math Differentiation with Open Ended Questions

Rich Questions in Math for Differentiation by idmccallum on GoAnimate

GoAnimate and Math

Facilitating a Digital Publishing Program in my new Education Commons Role



Last year started out as an exciting year, where I had the opportunity to launch a Student Publishing Program in our Library.

Inspired by the SAMR and Technology Integration Matrix, and the TPACK models, I decided to design a Digital Publishing Program.

As I continue with this initiative in this new school year, I hope to inspire and motivate students to Publish the wonderful work that they are already doing in their classrooms. It will provide many new opportunities for, but not limited to, collaboration, differentiation, sharing, creating, and consolidation of learning. Work stations will be set up with iPads, netbooks, laptops, and other devices that students may have.

This program will also be linked with the Forest of Reading initiative through the OLA.  I will also be presenting this model at the BIT 2014 Conference in Niagara Falls in November. Don’t lose the forest for the trees!

This program will meet criteria from:

  • Board Improvement Plans
  • School Improvement Plans
  • School Effectiveness Frameworks
  • Essential Practices
  • Digital Citizenship & BYOD policies and Procedures
  • Curriculum Expectations
  • Community, Culture & Caring
  • FNMI knowledge and FNMI-friendly strategies can be infused

Students can come down to Publish their work!

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the suggestions of what students will be able to do:

    • Publish short Stories on iBooks
    • Blog your reflections instead of journal writing OR re-blog your journal writing
    • Create a ‘Fakebook’ page for a character in a book you are reading
    • Publish poetry into an eBook
    • Classroom Newsletters & website updating
    • When a class finishes for example, art work, send a student down with all of the pieces, and we can take pictures of them all and put them into a dynamic presentation
    • Explain Everything’ where students can explain what they are doing in math to teach another group of kids, or show to their parents.
    • Publish work anonymously to your website/blog
    • Take pictures of your work in class at various stages, then come back later with those pictures to put them into a slideshow presentation that demonstrates a continuum of learning
    • Record your findings of an experiment
    • Create oral or written ‘Book Reviews’ to share with others
    • Drama Presentations turned into iMovies and even use of Greenscreen
    • Create infographics, or other visual representations of data from your findings in math
    • Record music you have made
    • Discover new ways to demonstrate your knowledge from your readings to replace traditional  Book Reports

The benefits of Student Publishing can include:

  • Safe ways to publish student work
  • Motivation for students to get their work done knowing that they can work on it using technology
  • Feelings of Pride and accomplishment for seeing a Published piece of work
  • Something to share with parents
  • Opportunities for students to teach other students
  • Knowledge consolidation
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Differentiation
  • Collaboration and support from other people in the school
  • Gives student work new purposes
  • Ideas can be shared and transferred into different classrooms with students teaching other students about new tools they learn about
  • Inspiring others to do new things with their work
  • Inspiring new types of learning
  • Feedback that Teachers can use for summative assessment and evaluation:
  • Assessment OF learning
  • Reinforces the learning process
  • Ability to share work ‘anonymously’ with other classrooms and students. Peer feedback from others.
  • Meeting different needs of students to provide motivation or enrichment to some, but not mandatory for those students who may be overwhelmed or be experiencing processing difficulties with the myriad of visuals and text, for example.

Please feel free to share some of your ideas based on what you have done or would love to do in your own classroom or Library! 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AM

The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.