Saying farewell to the #SCUMAKERS AKA Everything is AWESOME

The biggest reward for a thing well done is to have done it. ~Voltaire

I can’t believe it. We have reached the end of this chapter in our lives. I have a mind to give everyone a failing grade so that we can continue, but alas, your work has been far too tremendous to warrant that. And so, as this class comes to a close and you embark on tomorrow, I can be deeply comforted in by the words of Mitch Albom “There are no random acts…We are all connected…You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind…”.

It has been my honor and privilege to join you on this maker journey. We will always have the distinguished pleasure of participating in the first maker space course at St Kate’s, and of any LIS program in the country, nay of any institution of higher education anywhere that I am aware of.

At the beginning of the course we had discussed our mission. These were the themes that emerged for us:

  • Play
  • Create
  • Exploration
  • Collaboration
  • Learn
  • Teach
  • Encouragement
  • Hack
  • Challenge
  • Unique
  • Crazy
  • Fun
  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Respect
  • Risk
  • Try
  • Sparks (figurative and literal)
  • Passion

I have been just completely blown away in your achievement of these themes and of our mission. The projects have been so diverse, yet inspiring. You have all demonstrated such perseverance and tenacity in the completion of your projects (whatever state they may be in). The creativity, innovation and risk-taking of your projects are completely astounding.

You all meet your own version of adversity and frustration on this road boldly. When things didn’t go your way, you kept moving onward. Some had to move forward by moving back to the design phase of your project, but you kept going. I hope that when you meet frustration and adversity in the future, that you reflect back on this grand experiment and remember the deep well of fortitude that you possess, a fortitude that carried your through this crazy class.

I fear that the course may not have meet everyone’s expectations and hopes. But I take great solace in the fact that each and everyone one of you utterly exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. I could never have imagined reaching this side of our journey with the projects that you all created.  I am so grateful for our experience together in this class.

From you have learned fundamental truths about being a maker.  This class is not so much about the tools. The class as about freedom and liberation.  The tools and the use of them liberate us.  Being a maker is about being free, free to create, free to explore, free to make and free to dream.  Being able to make gives us a voice.  A voice that no one can take away.  Being a maker is about taking our place in this world.  Its about taking our place in something bigger than ourselves.  As I sit here and reflect upon our journey, I cannot shake the words of my old pastor

We need to embrace the simple truth that we were made

to give ourselves to a cause bigger than ourselves…

a cause that increases the peace in the world…

a cause, a purpose, a task that makes the world a better place.

Have you give yourself to a cause bigger than yourself that’s making the world a better place?

How is it making the world a better place?

May you become aware of your anger.

May you learn to channel it, to focus it, direct it into something beautiful.

And may it fuel sacred acts of healing and restoration.

I find that fate would have it that a song that irks me like no other, has grown on me so much. Yes, you know the song. Everything is awesome. I can think of no better theme song for our unique experiment than that, and so I leave you with…

Making, Breaking and Actually Breaking #scumakers

Yesterday we explored the Cameo Silhouette.  This device is a great entry into the maker movement.  While it is relatively easy to use, it still has the ability to create some incredibly sophisticated stuff.

Yesterday’s class has been one of my favorite classes so far.  Not only did Rob Dumas @stray provide us with an incredible overview of the CPL makerspace, but I also really loved the vibe in class.  I covered only about 15 minutes of my teaching materials before we were off and running cutting to our hearts content.  I’m not sure if it is the Cameo, or that we are more comfortable just diving in, but everyone really just took to this session. It was a great moment for me.  Our space really transformed from a typically classroom with rows of students unengaged with the sage on the stage into a true makerspace where people are helping each other.

The only downside.  We somehow broke the cutting blade on the last cut job.  I spent an hour or two trying to fix this thing at home, but to no avail.  So I went out and bought two more.  It’s important to keep in mind the cost of keeping these machine up and running when creating a budget and/or plan for a makerspace (ahem, report coming up).

I can’t wait to see you #scumakers

I know it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen my #scumakers class, but man do I miss them.  Tonight we are lucky enough to have Rob Dumas @stray visit us from the Chicago Public Library Innovation Lab.  I am so excited to hear what Rob has to say on all things maker.

We are also covering the Silhouette Cameo (a paper/vinyl/fabric cutter).  It’s amazing all the stuff you can do with this cheap device.  From now on, I think I will advice libraries to purchase this machine as their entry point into makerspaces.

On an unrelated note, makerspaces is now official as the LoC created an official subject heading

For those in the #scumaker class.  I’ve been so impressed with your blogging lately.  Everyone is doing an AMAZING job.  We are quickly approaching the end of our time together.  I only actually teach two more sessions after tonight.

Towards Our Mission/Vision/Manifesto #scumakers

In class on Wednesday, we began the process of creating a driving document for our time together.  Whether it is called a mission and vision or a manifesto, doesn’t matter, the importance is the heart of the document and what it represents about us.  Here are a few quick photos from our process

IMG_20140604_195533 IMG_20140604_205620 IMG_20140604_205633 IMG_20140604_205627 IMG_20140604_205638


Here is a list of key words and themes that have emerged that encapsulate what we are embarking on

  • Play
  • Create
  • Exploration
  • Collaboration
  • Learn
  • Teach
  • Encouragement
  • Hack
  • Challenge
  • Unique
  • Crazy
  • Fun
  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Respect
  • Risk
  • Try
  • Sparks (figurative and literal)
  • Passion

What is Making? #scumakers

We had our first class meeting yesterday for our content creation course (aka maker spaces and digital media labs and awesomeness).  It was a great first class!!!  I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

Happy Dance
Happy Dance

One of the most amazing things happened when we started with this very simple question.  How do you define making?

IMG_20140603_074836 (1)

Lots of amazing themes emerged from this simple exercise.  Here is a list of the themes (in no particular order)


anti-capitalism (make instead of buying)

a process




pursuing a passion

impacting your environment (world)

moving ideas into reality

asking questions

researching answers

trial and error

learning from mistakes





making the world fit you

opening up the world (no trademarks, copyright, patents, etc…)

Making is the belief that everyone should have a comfortable life regardless of access to products

creative abilities used for the greater good



The Amazing Power of Maker Spaces #scumakers

Yesterday, amidst all the rain, and my bathroom remodel and installing a garden, I was lucky enough to visit the local maker faire.  You can see some picture here.

I’ve only attended 1 other maker faire (which was equally awesome), but I had a major realization at the TC maker faire.  One of the things I admire most about maker spaces is there ability to meet the needs of so many different people.  On a side note, I wish that I took pictures of the people I met yesterday and not the stuff I saw.

The amazing power of maker spaces is that you can find starving artists working side-by-side with a diehard Star Trek geek. Yes, there is a debate over the importance of STEM vs. STEAM vs. STREAM vs. blah, blah, blah.  When you step foot inside a maker space, all of that becomes non-important.

What matters in a maker space is the desire and passion to create something.  Sometimes, you create something in the physical world.  Lots of times, you create friendships, connections, and new knowledge in your mind.

Maker spaces have the power to be a great equalizer.  They truly bring people together.  It is something to behold, to witness a young man asking an older women how she created her project at one table, to turn around and see a young woman ask an older man how he created his robot at the next table.  Whether young, old, rich, poor, regardless of racial or ethnic make up, sexual orientation, religious differences, political orientation, none of that mattered.  To witness that (in an era of tension) was very moving.  The most important tool in a maker space is the people.

A maker space depends on people (lots of people).  A maker space for one person isn’t a maker space at all.  And in so many ways, a maker space is made up of people being “excellent to each other” which is one item on the code of conduct at the TC Makers / Hack Factory.

TC Minne Faire (Maker Faire) #scumakers

I was lucky enough to attend the local maker faire known as the TC Minne Faire.  It was an awesome experience.  I will write about a major realization that I had in a following post, but I wanted to get some pictures up.

Star Trek bridge control panel
Star Trek Captain’s Chair (AKA my seat)
Star Trek and Star Wars props
3D Printer
3D Printer
3D printer
3D printer
Solar gadgets and toys
Solar gadgets and toys
another 3D printer
another 3D printer
Cool stuff
Cool stuff
Art work before converted for laser printer
Art work before converted for laser printer

Productivity: My Crushing it Regimen

OK, so I’ve been crushing it lately.  Things are flying off my to-do list.  I feel like my productivity has been sky high.  And one of the best parts, as I am faculty, when my work is done, my work day is done.

Here are a few of the techniques that I have been using:

1. My new standing desk



I’ve been using a standing desk for about a week now.  On a side note, I couldn’t stomach the $$$ to buy one and many of them didn’t fit my needs so I build my own.  When I was at my old job, I used a spare OPAC stand, but only to minor success.  The desk I built only cost me around $50 at Home Depot, and I didn’t even need to cut any wood.  Basically it is two wall shelves the bottom shelf being much deeper than the top shelf.  I elected to sand, stain and drill cord holes in mine, but you could certainly skip all of that.

The first few days were difficult and painful.  I would stand for an hour or so and then need to sit down.  Now, on day 5, I’ve been standing for 5 hours without a single problem or desire to sit down.  Here are a few links on the benefits Smithsonian, Lifehacker,  and Fast Company.

I have found myself more engaged with the work that I am doing.  I feel far less distracted (I’m not sure why).  I find myself walking around and mulling over ideas (I plan to get a big white board to begin writing on).  And I feel much more energized.  This was unexpected.  I have even been going to bed earlier and waking up far earlier than before (could be coincidental, but I don’t think so).

2. Keeping a to-do list.

Screenshot from 2014-05-15 13:10:07


I have always had a hard time with a to-do list.  The problem is that I typically have 3 or more lists going at the same time.  I’ve decided to stick with Google Keep (at least for now).  There is a great Chrome Extension to place your Keep in a panel on the side of your screen.  You can see mine in the left hand corner of the page in the above image.  This means it’s always watching me, and I it.

If I were to switch to another setup (and I’ve tried many of them), I think I would go with It has some great features, and recently won the Lifehacker most popular to-do list.  But I don’t really need anything super robust, just a simple list will do.

3. Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a rather simple productivity technique.  You work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break.  You repeat this 3 times, and on the fourth iteration you take a 15 minute break.  This technique is the most popular technique for increasing productivity according to Lifehacker readers.  I’ve also tried other techniques (GTD, Covey, etc…) but they tend to be over complicated, spending a lot of time on the system instead of the task, and one-size-fits-all.

I’ve been using Marinaratimer.  It has a standard Pomodoro timer, which I find really nice.  It lets you change the sound it plays when your time is up.  I just run it in another window in the background when I’m working.  The nice thing about this web app is that it also lets you create your own interval schedule.  This is what I’ve been using.  I work for 20 – 25 minutes (one leg dedicated to email) with breaks on schedule, but I also change my break routine.  For me I take a break, then use the ab ball, then meditate,  then take a 20 minute walk.  It was really cold here today, so my walking break was just me walking laps in my garage.  Each of these activities is design to improve productivity and creativity.  You can see it below.  I really like this approach, and the ability to customize.

Screenshot from 2014-05-15 13:22:19


The hardest thing to do is to take a break when the bell chimes.  However, I learned a valuable lesson from Cory Doctorow in Contextabout setting a goal and stopping when you hit it.

Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence.
Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence.
That way, when you sit down at the keyboard
the next day, your first five or ten words are
already ordained, so that you get a little push
before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit
of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they
know where to pick up the next day—they call
it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the
wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the
night—it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.

4. A Plain Text Editor.

Again, this is a trick I learned from Cory Doctorow.  In the same book I mentioned above, Cory decries the use of modern word processors.  He argues that while these tools are full of wonderful features that can help you edit later, they basically only serve as a distraction while writing.  I can’t agree more.

Forget it.  All that stuff is distraction, and the last thing you want is your tool second guessing you, “correcting” your spelling, and so on.  The programmers who wrote your word
processor type all day long, every day, and they
have the power to buy or acquire any tool they
can imagine for entering text into a computer.
They use a text-editor, like vi, Emacs, TextPad,
BBEdit, Gedit, or any of a host of editors. These
are some of the most venerable, reliable,
powerful tools in the history of software (since
they’re at the core of all other software) and
they have almost no distracting features—but
they do have powerful search-and-replace
functions. Best of all, the humble .txt file can be
read by practically every application on your
computer, can be pasted directly into an email,
and can’t transmit a virus.

I’m writing in Gedit (remember I’m an Ubuntu user) as it comes standard with my OS.  What I’ve noticed is that I write when I’m suppose to be writing which means I am writing more (quantity counts here).  Then I edit better (in word processing software) when I’m supposed to be editing.  I know that there is very little research about writing in the digital age (we do research reading a lot though), but it has been invaluable for me to mimic pen and paper.

I also use a couple of other little tricks, but they are really not essential.  So, what types, tricks and techniques do you use to be more productive?


Author of Your Own Destiny

In preparation for my maker space class, I’m reading Makers by Cory Doctorow.  This is a fantastic book, and does a great job describing the maker mentality and culture.  I’m very sad that I didn’t select it as one of the texts for my course.

There is a great dialogue in this book talking about 3D printers.  When one of the characters asks “what are they supposed to do with those” 3D printers, we get a powerful narrative in response.

Everything…Make your kitchen fixtures. Make your shoes and hat. Maker your kids’ toys–if it’s in the stores, it should be downloadable, too. Make tool chests and tools.  Make it and build it and sell it.  Make other printers and sell them.  Make machines that make the goop we feed into the printers.  Teach a man to fish, Francis, teach a man to fucking fish.  No top-down ‘solutions’ driven by ‘market research’…the thing that we need to do is to make these people the authors of their own destiny

That is the power of the 3d printer, the maker movement and DIY culture.  You have, at your fingertips, the means of production to shape the world in which you live, and you can do so free from dictates and mandates of companies worldwide.  Where computers and the Internet gave us all the tools to become authors, the maker movement has given us the tools to become manufactures, creators, inventors and tinkerers.

Jenni Wagner dot com

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