Context Book Review

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and

Engineering in the Classroom

By Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager

             This book, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, relates to our course because it discusses emerging technologies through the maker movement.  “Making is about the act of creation with new and familiar materials” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p.33). 

            The book defines the three concepts mentioned in the title: making, tinkering, and engineering.

  • Making is about the active role construction plays in learning.  The maker has a product in mind when working with tools and materials
  • Tinkering is a mindset – a playful way to approach and solve problems through direct experience, experimentation, and discovery
  • Engineering extracts principles from direct experience.  It builds a bridge between intuition and the formal aspects of science by being able to better explain, measure, and predict the world around us. (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p.32). 

In a hyperlinked library, modern makers also share with others the process of making through blogs, videos, and pictures.

      In the book, Dr. Seymour Papert lists Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab:

  • The first big idea is learning by doing
  • The second big idea is technology as building material
  • The third big idea is hard fun.
  • The fourth big idea is learning to learn
  • The fifth big idea is taking time—the proper time for the job
  • The sixth big idea is the biggest of all: you can’t get it right without getting it wrong
  • The seventh big idea is to do unto ourselves what we do unto our students
  • The eighth big idea is we are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing. (Martinez & Stager, 2013, pp.73-74).  

These ideas are about proper mindsets for makers, so that makers will enjoy what they are doing, and learn that failure is okay, and how prominent digital technology is becoming.

3D printer

            From this book, librarians can get ideas on how to create a modern makerspace and the makerspace will be an exciting new service for library users.  A makerspace can have “3D printers; cutting machines; milling and routing machines; joining machines; traditional hand and power tools; and decorative materials” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p.88). 

Fabric cutting machine

             Emerging technologies in the physical computing arena are discussed in this book such as LEGO, Arduino, Wearable Computing, and MaKey MaKey.  There is a long list of robotics project ideas such as plan and construct a city of the future including robotic elements; construct a robotic dog-walking machine; invent a robotic musical instrument; and construct and program a supermarket scanner.  The book discusses emerging technologies in the area of programming computers.  Cutting edge programming languages include Logo, Scratch, Java, C++, BASIC, and Python.  The world of physical computing recognizes that technology is improving and changing.  This is a Library 2.0 concept that libraries need to be ready for constant change.

            Another important concept of the course which is outlined in the foundational reading book for this course, Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, is participatory service.  In participatory service users have a say in what library services are made.  Users can comment to library staff about what they want.  Participatory services are about users communicating about services they receive which the staff can incorporate or change a service.  The maker movement is a participatory service because it relies heavily on what the users want to make, what topic or project they want to tackle.  Having a maker-mindset means creating new things and thus, this is a user-oriented method (Martinez & Stager, 2013).

            The maker space technology will change library service as people who enter the library doors are not expecting to find a space or room for making, tinkering, and engineering.  The traditional reasons from coming to the library such as finding materials, using computers, and finding a place to study, will now include fabrication of projects.

            This book relates to the course of emerging technologies, and also includes participatory service.  Reading this book inspires one to new heights of maker spacing as there are infinite topics and projects to create and solve.  This book is also practical because it discusses what a maker space should have, and specific programming languages that can be learned.  From this book one can gather ideas on their own future projects which can benefit their community and be a resource for others to use. 

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

6 thoughts on “Context Book Review

  1. Hi Eileen,
    I love that the book covers constructivist theories when discussing makerspaces. Learning to learn (Big Idea 4) ties in really perfectly with makerspaces.

  2. Hi Eileen,
    Thanks for what feels like a thorough-yet-concise summary of the book. Making, tinkering and engineering is a huge part of why I wanted to become a librarian. I even wrote about the sixth big idea (the necessity of failure) in my reflection post on the foundational readings for this course. I’ll have to check out the book for the practical aspects you mention in the final paragraph.

    • Angie,
      The book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, is a great book for our class! It’s all about emerging technologies and ideas on projects that people might want to undertake using new technologies. It also includes information for techy people such as Arduino. The last chapter has resources for projects on emerging technologies.

  3. Hi Eileen! Thank you for sharing your thought here. I especially connected with the “Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab.” I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough report on this book.

    • Hi Ruth,
      I particularly like Big Idea #6, you can’t get it right without getting it wrong. Technology is like that, we need to keep trying until we get comfortable with the new app or new product.

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