Educators from K-12 school districts in Georgia came out to learn more about the iTeach MakerBus. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Lauren Kress
Kennesaw State’s Bagwell College of Education recently added and began utilizing the new iTeach MakerBus, a mobile classroom that provides direct access to technology and other educational resources for K-12 students.
Stephanee Stephens, director of KSU’s iTeach Center, said the bus travels to schools within 100 miles of KSU and gives K-12 students the opportunity to explore different tools and technology to help them in their learning.
Stephens said the mobile classroom is outfitted with several educational tools including robotics kits, sewing machines, 3D printers, laser cutters and more.
“The KSU iTeach MakerBus is completely outfitted to take a student’s idea and help them see it become a reality or inspire a student to stretch further after they use the equipment that we have available,” Stephens said.
Stephens said the bus may also schedule visits with schools more than 100 miles from the university based on the bus’ availability. The college started scheduling the bus to travel to schools in May, and Stephens said they have already scheduled more than 30 school events for the 2018-19 academic year.
Birney Elementary in Marietta was the first school to experience the new iTeach MakerBus in May. Stephens said this first deployment was funded by a $6,000 grant from Cobb EMC. She said they hope to find more funding to be able to bring the bus to other underfunded schools in the area.
“We feel like the most important thing that students and teachers will take away from the MakerBus is the innovation and power that Maker Education can bring to learning,” Stephens said. “We have all the most popular and innovative tools on the bus, but we want students and teachers to walk away with the knowledge that they can make anywhere and with any level of tools that they possess.
“Learning on the KSU iTeach MakerBus is meant to inspire lifelong learning wherever our students may find themselves,” she continued.
Stephens said she first had the idea for the mobile classroom years ago when she worked at a local school district. She said that after working as the iTeach director at KSU in 2016, she found funding for her idea and moral support through Dr. Arlinda Eaton, then-dean of the College of Education.
Part of the inspiration for the bus also came from Stephens’ observations of the SparkTruck, a similar mobile classroom put together by a group of Stanford University students.
She initiated the project with KSU’s iTeach team, a group of more than 50 instructors and administrators “committed to transforming teaching and learning through various services and support models,” according to the iTeach website.
The mobile classroom is part of the Bagwell College’s dedication to the Maker Movement, an approach to learning that emphasizes hands-on experience to learn and solve problems.
In 2016, Stephens and her staff at iTeach designed and ran a Maker camp at KSU.
“This was our first real experience in how powerful the Maker movement can be,” Stephens said.
She also said that, because of the implementation of the new mobile classroom and the college’s dedication to the Maker movement, the Bagwell College has built a new “innovation lab” where students, faculty and staff can use the available tools to help integrate Maker education into their college curriculum.
“This type of innovation at the faculty level will trickle down into the classrooms, giving pre-service teachers powerful experiences that they can use in their future classrooms,” Stephens said.