Inspirational Inquiry Posters for Your Classroom

Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt have made available some inspiring posters from their Inquiry Mindset book. The posters are a great reference and might be helpful to post on the wall in your classroom as a visual reminder to students about where they are in their inquiries. The posters could also be helpful when talking to students about their inquiries, to visually show them where they are in the process

Above is the Inquiry Roadmap poster. To see all 7 of the posters, go to Trevor’s website and download the high-resolution versions made for printing:


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Zotero Love for Google Docs – Finally!

It has been a long time coming, but the open source citation manager Zotero finally natively supports Google Docs! This means that instead of manually managing citations and bibliographies for essays and research papers, Zotero will handle it all for you saving you a huge amount of time!

Simply select your favorite or required citation style (in my case APA), and then use the Zotero plugin for your web browser to add the citation information for journal articles and website to your personal (or shared) Zotero library.  To make a bibliography, simply put your cursor in your Google Doc at the location where you would like your references to appear, and the go to the Zotero -> Add/Edit Bibliography, and BOOM, your bibliography is done!

Because Zotero is open source software it is free to download and use, and is supported by universities and libraries around the world. For more information on how Zotero works with Google Docs (and other word processors), please check out the new documentation page for Google Docs on the Zotero website: .  Below is a short video that shows how easier it is to create a bibliography in MS Word (which is very close to how it is done in Google Docs). Enjoy!

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Posted in education, Google, Open Source

Library Makerspaces: Outreach & Programming for the Whole Campus

This is a video Dani Johnson, and I created for the International Symposium of Academic Makerspaces (ISAM) 2018 conference at Stanford University, in August 2018. Below is a transcript of the video.

The University of Victoria Libraries opened our Digital Scholarship Commons, or Makespace, in April of 2017 and it is a “Community + Machine space.”

We occupy 2700 sq feet of flexible space for workshops or individual making. We have 2 full-time staff members, and 4 part-time graduate student “experts”, and 4 part-time undergraduate student staff.

We don’t charge for any of our workshops or instruction, so the funding for staffing comes from a mix of reallocated base library funding, soft money, and for our graduate students, one-time provost funding for 2 years that we hope to renew.

We purchase equipment for our space with base library budget money, as well as from our annual allotment from the campus-wide Vice-President of Academic equipment fund.

We loan a wide range of tools and equipment, focusing on “cleaner & quiet” tools because of our library setting.

We offer a number of introductory workshops that students can sign up for individually, and instructors can also arrange to bring their classes to our workshops organized specifically for them.

At the ISAM 2017 at Case Western Reserve I reported in my conference paper that in the first months that we offered workshops, 55% of the registrants were women. However because our library based makerspace was new, there were lots of library staff attending which might have skewed the results.

I’m happy to report that between September 2017 and April 2018 the percentage of women participating in workshops has remained at approximately 55% which was unexpected, but wonderful! This number is in line with our University registration statistics.

There are three reasons why we think that the makeup of our workshops mirrors our university population:
1. Our makerspace is housed in the library which is traditionally common ground, without any formal attachment to male-dominated faculties or departments on campus.
2. Related to that, our space is not only open to students from all over campus, but welcomes the whole campus community, including faculty, staff, & students.
3. The workshop format is a low stakes way to be introduced to the makerspace, especially for those who are interested but don’t have a project in mind.

To explore each of these three points, I interviewed a student who used our Makerspace workshops and tools to help her create a prototype of a biodegradable glow stick.

Paige Whitehead is a 3rd-year Microbiology and Environmental studies student who loves music festivals but doesn’t like all the garbage they create, especially the toxic chemicals in almost all glow sticks. I interviewed Paige to talk to her about how our Library Makespace helped her with her biodegradable glow stick project.

And actually rather than a full on a lesson that was more structured, it’s just great especially for someone who doesn’t know much about the topic kind of a person, it was awesome introductory lesson especially where you learn the software and then you learn on the actual 3D printing machine.

It was so nice not to have to take a whole course, but just come for an afternoon and leave with a new skill that you can actually use and keep building on your own and then come back if you want to upgrade or refresh but you don’t actually have to enroll in a program or declare a major or minor to actually learn the material.

But if you have no background in electrical engineering or in software design or using a 3D modeling program it’s really helpful to have an instructor there to give you the basic foundations, and that’s really what this Digital Scholarship Commons [makerspace] is all about. So that’s really what I’ve done is taken these courses here, feel like I then have the foundations or at least know the language enough so that I can ask the right questions to continue building up my experience using these tools.

The library is, especially at the university, is kind of a neutral zone. There is sometimes engineers who rag on the philosophy students and back and forth, but the library is really the common ground where there is everything you need for any subject somewhere in the library, and then people are always walking through and studying here, so I think that having it in this space where it’s kind of neutral, everyone is welcome zone, absolutely. I know quite a few people who feel intimidated or don’t feel welcome in some buildings on campus because of their gender, or maybe because of what they’re studying, or a whole suite of reasons. I feel the library is probably one of the least intimidating places in that sense. Every student is welcome.

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Flipping the Makerspace to Maximize Active Learning Time in Introductory Workshops

IMG_20170926_092840.jpgI had the privilege of participating in the 2nd annual International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM 2017), at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland at the end of September.  I wrote a research paper based on post-workshop survey data from our University of Victoria Libraries DSC Makerspace titled, “Flipping the Makerspace to Maximize Active Learning Time in Introductory Workshops.” I also presented on the same topic at the conference and enjoyed the good discussion followed my talk.

Here is the introduction from my conference paper:

A flipped, active learning teaching method not only makes efficient use of limited makerspace time and space but also allows participants to work through instructional materials at their own pace before a flipped makerspace workshop. This is done by devoting face-to-face workshop time to hands-on activities, moving most of the instruction into online modules to be completed before the session starts. This contrasts with a common makerspace pedagogy of peer-to-peer instruction or assistance, which “takes advantage of the student-run aspect by creating a comfortable environment taught by peers”. While in many instances the individual peer-to-peer instruction is the preferred way to meet the needs of makerspace users, in the case of students without previous makerspace experience, workshops that don’t require a routine commitment can be a great introduction without the perception of any commitment beyond the workshop.

A flipped, active learning teaching method where face-to-face time is devoted to hands-on activities in makerspace workshops, and most instruction is completed online before the session, not only makes efficient use of limited makerspace time and space but also allows participants to work through the pre-workshops materials at their own pace.

In order to better understand student perceptions of the flipped makerspace workshop format, we conducted follow up surveys after every introductory workshop in order to answer the following research questions:

  • RQ1: What are student satisfaction levels for introductory makerspace workshops taught using a flipped, active learning teaching method?
  • RQ2: Do students value being able to work at their own pace in flipped active learning workshops?
  • RQ3: Would students prefer peer tutoring over a flipped workshop to be introduced to a new technology?
  • RQ4: Are there any differences based on the faculty students belong to?

For those interested here is a link to the complete conference paper:

I referred to our Creative Commons licensed Workshop Curriculum in the Q&A session following my presentation. Here is a link to the curriculum: 

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Want to Use an Arduino But Don’t Have One?

If you’d like to experiment with an Arduino project, but don’t have access to an Arduino board or add-on electronics, consider working with a “Virtual” Arduino using the wonderful TinkerCad website that is hosted by Autodesk. I was recently looking for a tool to draw Arduino circuits for documenting projects in the course I’m putting together and found that and much more at  Autodesk has provided us with a wonderful website that is useful even if you already have an Arduino. For example, using a great way to make sure your project should work the way you have it wired up and programmed.  If it won’t work on, it for sure won’t work on your Arduino.  If it does work on, then you may have a problem with faulty hardware or wires on your Arduino that you can then track down. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to troubleshoot a problem for several hours, only to discover that you were working with a broken piece of electronics.

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You’ll need to setup an account on, but once you have you’ll be able to create your own projects from scratch, or import other people’s projects that they have made available to the community. Some of the projects of mine that you might want to consider tinkering with on include:

  1. Lucky 8-Ball
  2. Love-O-Meter
  3. Light Theremin
  4. Four Colour Randomizer
  5. External LED Blink (Arduino’s Hello World)



A “Light Theremin” Schematic

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So Many Cool Arduino Projects: Where to Start?

You can do so many different cool projects with an Arduino microcontroller, it’s hard to know where to start once you’ve mastered the basics.  To help with that, I’ve brought together some of my favorite projects. I’ve completed some of them, and other I have on my Arduino bucket list. Let’s start with a project that can make Halloween even more exciting for kids that walk up to your home trick or treating!

Arduino Halloween Props – Animated Halloween props are fun, but when you buy props at the dollar store, you come face to face with some serious limitations.  Because each prop is activated by its own sensor it’s difficult to get them to work together. “If the props are out of sync, the overall effect isn’t as scary.”  The second problem is that that the built-in “motion sensors” don’t work well. This project by Jason Smith lets you control all your animated Halloween props with an Arduino device, and lets you choreograph how and when each prop will turn on and off.  Link to the project:

Halloween Props

Twitter World Mood Light – This mood light project searches Twitter for emotional content, and then collates the tweets for each emotion, does some math, and then fades the color of the LED to reflect the current World Mood. Red for anger, yellow for happy, pink for love, white for fear, green for envy, orange for a surprise, and blue for sadness. “If an unexpectedly high number of tweets of a particular emotion are found, then the LED will flash to alert us to the possibility of a world event that has caused this unusually strong emotional reaction. Link to the project:

twitter mood light Read more ›

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Canadian University Makerspaces Open to All Students

I recently was asked to look into how many Canadian Universities operated makerspaces that were open to all students on their campuses. Almost all universities have at least one makerspace on campus, but they are often only available to engineering students, or to students participating in a research lab.

Canadian_University_Makerspaces_Open_to_All_Students_-_Google_Fusion_TablesLink to Google Fusion Table map of the data.

With this in mind I, along with two summer students, used Google and searched for, “[universtiy name] makerspace” and “[university name] library makerspace” to try to identify university affiliated makerspaces and then determine if those makerspaces were open to all students.  While we have tried to identify all open makerspaces at Universities in Canada, our list may not be conclusive. Special thanks to my student assistants for their help in gathering the data. If you are aware of any open makerspaces we have missed, please either comment on the Google Sheet listed below, or send me an email.  Enjoy!

Fusion Table Map:

Here’s an example of the same data with a visualization created in ARC-GIS:


Lastly here’s a random link to miniature goats in Seattle in 2015 in Fusion Tables: 

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