Session 2: Developing a Common Language

Download and print out the Program Variations Tool, grab some dot stickers and chart paper, and watch these brief videos before reading through the activity.


The purpose of this activity is to develop common language across team members related to important aspects of your makerspace practice. This tool can also be a starting point for action. This tool is designed to encourage cross-organizational discussion and consideration of many of the core aspects of makerspace or maker program activity and practice, and how those aspects fit together and impact one another.

This tool displays many of the core factors that are often considered when designing and maintaining a makerspace, such as facilitation, types of tools and materials, structure of activities, etc. as spectra. This tool encourages participants to consider these various facets of their maker program or space on a series of spectra. The spectra do not carry any weight or value. They simply visibly show many of the core tensions that are often at play when designing making experiences for learners. The spectra that are featured on the tool are not exhaustive, meaning there are many many more facets, decision factors and tensions that are at play when designing making experiences for learners. A hope is that through using the tool, participants surface additional spectra for their staff to consider together.

Participants will first use the tool to assess where they are, individually and as an organizational team, on certain spectra. They will make a mark of where they think they are (or aim to be) with respect to the different spectra.

The spectra can also be written on big pieces of flip chart paper around the room. After participants have made their marks individually or in small organizational teams, they may represent their position on the spectra that are posted around the room. This will show the variation of sites and perspectives represented among participants within and across the organization. Once individual and public marks have been made, participants will discuss where they placed themselves on the spectra.

Rather than looking for similarities, the discussion can center on where significant differences in perspective are represented (e.g. one person thinks their activities are characterized as open ended while another person thinks their activities are characterized as close ended), within and across teams and the organization.

Ultimately, these spectra are intended to facilitate discussion. Depending on where your makerspace or maker program is with respect to some of these spectra, discussions can be had to consider how you might achieve some meaningful changes with regard to your vision or activity. Revisit these spectra from time to time as a way to evaluate where you and your team have made such changes or which aspects of the makerspace or maker program have remained constant and strong.

Introduction to the Tool

Guide for Using the Tool

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