Makerspaces: If You Can Imagine It…You Can Make It

By: Susan Gross Forneris

Makerspaces! While not a new concept, the NLN is viewing the idea of a Makerspace in an …extended way! A Makerspace, in the simplest of terms, is generally defined as a physical location where people gather to share physical resources and knowledge to build solutions. Makerspaces have been in vogue for at least the last 10 years, yet their presence in nursing education is rare. Researching the term makerspace yields variations on a theme. Here’s one definition: “a school makerspace by its purpose and simplest of terms, it is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests; learn to use tools and materials, both physical and virtual; and develop creative projects.” Yet another definition would suggest, “A maker is a MINDSET not a Space.”

So, let’s break it down starting with the word maker. By definition a maker is simply “one who makes.” The origin of the word is “one who creates, shapes, forms, or molds.” The role of educator could be seen as maker. In today’s contemporary nursing classroom, we are challenged as educators to create, shape, form, or mold future professional nurses. We know that teaching higher level reasoning skills throughout a program of study moves learners along a continuum from “knowing what” to “knowing how” and most importantly, “knowing why.” Central to knowing why requires a shift in our thinking as educators from engaging learners as doers of actions, to learners as meaning makers. Through the work of the NLN developing and delivering best practice faculty resources in simulation and technology, we communicate and support this meaning-making paradigm shift: nurse educator as facilitator of knowledge co-creation. Knowledge co-creation is about simulating real-world challenges using a maker mindset. We take real-world challenges and assist our learners to use their curiosity in solving problems and developing independence in thinking.

Curiosity is the focus of student-centered inquiry. Curiosity is what leads to meaning making. A maker mindset is about operationalizing curiosity in the classroom. A makerspace is not an endpoint but the vehicle to create purposeful learning.

At the NLN we are moving forward, broadening the scope of our programming through an intentional process of engaging members through makerspace activities, moving programming through innovation, scaling, and the launching of new programs and products. The NLN Center for Innovation in Education Excellence will cultivate and scale:

  • Cutting-edge teaching and learning resources
  • Community building to expand and support the role of the nurse educator
  • Evidence-based processes to measure excellence and educational impact

The NLN vision of a makerspace will be both physical and virtual, bringing faculty together to study and innovate contemporary teaching and learning strategies that improve student learning along the novice-to-expert trajectory. Reflection and evaluation of outcomes will be conducted with intentionality toward evidence-based nursing education research. This forward approach will require innovation with a maker mindset.

What are the characteristics of a Maker Mindset?

  • See the future – think ahead

As nurses we learn quickly that the best outcomes for our patients happen when we think ahead. As nurses, we analyze the trends in our patient data and look for cues. And then we put the cues we find together to form hypotheses on our next steps steps that drive us to a future goal. Without that goal in mind, we have no direction with our patients. We think ahead to make sure our work moves toward achieving that future goal. A maker mindset thinks ahead to envision another future and create strategies to get there!

  • Orchestrate, accelerate, and unblock ideas and ways to innovation in thinking

As nurses we are masters at orchestrating, accelerating, and unblocking ideas when it comes to creatively meeting our patient care needs. We often say, nurses will find a way to get it done. Nurse educators are in a key position to also unblock ideas and ways to innovation. All we need is an idea to orchestrate the possibilities, accelerating the dialogue to understand the multiple pathways to operationalizing the innovation. We need to come together to fearlessly dialogue with others about the possibilities. Conversation is the first step toward orchestrating innovation in thinking.

  • Disrupt and create

As with any innovation, disruption is key. In the world of nursing education, we now understand how simulation has become a disruptor. Over the past few years, as research demonstrated that the teaching strategy of simulation, along with debriefing, is effective in creating learning, we began to better appreciate the phenomenon of this revolutionary pedagogy. We now see the benefit of shifting from strictly a cognitive approach in nursing education to a relational approach, where learners and faculty construct knowledge, attitudes, and skills collaboratively. Simulation has paved the way by enabling a successful pedagogy to be operationalized and disrupt the status quo. As educators, we have the knowledge and theory to guide our disruptive innovation.

  • Embrace transformation as a continuous way of working

We transform the lives of patients and the communities around us every day. Nursing, as a caring profession, works continuously toward wellness and prevention and instituting solutions and strategies that make lives better. The ANA tells the public that “21st Century nursing is the glue that holds a patient’s health care journey together. Across the entire patient experience, and wherever there is someone in need of care, nurses work tirelessly to identify and protect the needs of the individual.” For nurse educators, a maker mindset is all about transformation, how we use our pedagogical expertise to transform our next generation of nurses.

We are excited about this new journey and the conversations we will have on this blog about makerspaces. If you can imagine it…you can make it. A maker is a mindset and a space.

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