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Partnership to Provide State’s Network of Public Libraries with Virtual Makerspaces

A new partnership between edtech company Workbench and Maryland’s network of public libraries is solidifying the place of the state's libraries in the maker movement by providing them with the capabilities to host virtual makerspaces.

What is a virtual makerspace you might ask?

According to a press release from Workbench, a virtual makerspace is an online community or "workbench" "where educators, students and fans can access and share free lessons using drones, programmable robots, 3D printers and other cutting-edge technology. Teachers use the workbenches to assign STEM lessons and track student progress."

In order to make sure lessons are relevant and designed with industry standards in mind, Workbench partners with industry leaders such as Sphero, Parrot, and Makey Makey to integrate the best content into these communities.

Workbench's partnership with Maryland's public libraries makes sense because libraries are increasingly becoming a crucial part of the maker movement.

According to The Atlantic, the idea of libraries becoming homes for makerspaces first started around 2011, when a graduate student had the idea of bringing a 3D printer into a public library in the area.

That public library would soon become a 2,500-square-foot lab that helps students of all ages learn how to become premiere makers. Soon enough, libraries across the country would begin embracing their role in communities as places where people can get together and innovate.

Maryland's network, according to the press release, contains over 200 public libraries and serves over 3.7 million state residents who hold library cards. Residents of all skill levels will be encouraged to take advantage of the new opportunities to "connect, engage, learn and teach" thanks to the new tools the partnership will provide. Additionally, the libraries will be encouraging educators to come in to find innovative technology curricula.

Says project lead Liz Sundermann-Zinger on behalf of Maryland libraries:

Libraries are now "dynamic spaces where the community can connect, engage, learn and teach using technologies that build excitement and expand opportunities. Our partnership with Workbench will allow us to engage even more people in this work by offering an online community for people who like to create, while building a statewide foundation of technology literacy."

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary federal support for the nation's network of libraries, is providing the funding to make the project a reality.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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