User Generated Education

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Maker Education: A “Good” 2013-14 Educational Trend

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In the midst of the implementation of common core state standards and no relief in sight from all the standardized testing, there’s been a breadth of fresh air in the form of maker education entering into many classrooms.  The Maker Movement is not easily defined nor placed neatly into a nice little box.  It can be high tech or low tech; hacking what is or creating from scratch; it can be creating from building and arts materials or creating on the computer.  We have entered into a convergence of several factors that are igniting the maker education movement.

The rise of maker culture has been slowly bubbling out of sheds, science labs, tech workshops, in schools and learning spaces. But, suddenly it is very present. The Imagination Foundation that has emerged out of energy and excitement of Caine’s Arcade is raising funds and investing in projects that support maker activities in education. The New Maker Education Initiative, backed by a range of organizations including Intel and Pixar, has just launched its first project called Maker Corps.  There are initiatives like the Make2Learn which aims to “leverage DIY culture, digital practices, and educational research to advocate for placing making, creating, and designing at the core of educational practice”. Makers and Teachers Unite!

Some maker-related educational movements that gained traction in 2013 and will most likely gain more momentum in 2014 include:

  • A focus on STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics) and STEAM (science technology, engineering, arts, mathematics):

At a time when many people are asking how we can get more students interested in STEM fields, we are hearing from teachers who have found making to be a great way to get students excited and engaged in their classrooms. We are seeing making occurring in subject classes such as math or science — in classes specifically listed as maker classes — and in a variety of less formal settings such as clubs and study halls. Many of these projects incorporate a variety of STEM topics. (Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”)

New open-source microcontrollers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical and digital worlds in ways never before possible. Plug-and-play devices that connect small microprocessors to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors mean that low-cost, easy-to-make computational devices can test, monitor, and control your world. They offer much more than just “hands-on” crafting—these tools bring electronics, programming, and computational mathematics together in meaningful, powerful ways. We must reimagine school science and math not as a way to prepare students for the next academic challenge, or a future career, but as a place where students are inventors, scientists, and mathematicians today. (How the Maker Movement is Transforming Education)

  • The growing popularity of online game making and hacking platforms like Scratch and Minecraft:

Think of the Maker Movement as DIY for technology. It’s not just a passing fad – web tools like KidsRuby, Gamemaker, Scratch, Storify and Mozilla Webmaker make it possible for people of all ages to learn to code, build games, and re-mix media. For libraries and schools, the Maker Movement means new opportunities for promoting digital, media, visual, and critical literacies (21st century literacies). (Inanimate Alice and the Maker Movement)

  • An interest in and focus on design thinking both in educational and corporate sectors:

Making is a way of bringing creativity, authentic design thinking, and engineering to learners. Tinkering is the process of design, the way real scientists and engineers invent new things. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts while often incorporating esthetic components. Creating opportunities for students to solve real problems, combined with imaginative new materials and technology, makes learning come alive and cements understandings that are difficult when only studied in the abstract. (Why we’re excited about the Maker Movement, maybe you should be too!)

3D Printing is one of the most disruptive technologies around. These printers are affordable, personal fabrication tools, compact enough to sit on any desktop, and allow anyone at any skill level to become producers, inventors and artists. Students participate in project-based learning that is experiential in nature and has real-world applications.  3D printing projects engage students in the world around them, kindles a curiosity about how machines work, how objects fit together, and how the designers, architects, and inventors who build the products, spaces and technology in their lives have found solutions to a variety of design problems.  (Makerbot Curriculum)

The goals of Imagination Foundation, who sponsors, the Cardboard Challenge is in line with many Maker Education Initiatives:

1. Instill Creative Thinking as a Core Skill and Social Value
Give kids the tools to develop as creative thinkers who can take on the jobs of the future, seek innovative and resourceful solutions, tackle social issues and find happiness.

2. Give Kids Opportunities to Create and Learn Based on their Passions
Help children find and develop their passions through play, hands-on learning and supportive communities. Design scalable Project-Based Learning programs that can be used by a wide range of communities.

3. Foster a Community of Creative Makers
Develop an engaged community (local and global) of young makers, parents, storytellers and educators who can share with, learn from, and inspire one another.  (Goals of the Imagination Foundation)

Common Core and the new Next Generation Science Standards emphasize critical thinking, creativity, and 21st century skills. To achieve these goals requires taking a hard look at both what we teach and how we teach it. The Maker Movement offers lessons, tools, and technology to steer a new course to more relevant, engaging learning experiences for all students. (Lessons from the Maker Movement for K-12 Educators)

Technology and the related movements as discussed above have amplified the human desire to create, innovate, share, learn from one another, and have an authentic audience.  What was once reserved for those with special skills and often lots of money is now accessible to the masses.  Maker education stems from developments related to Web 3.0 and the evovling Education 3.0 – which is characterized by learners being creators, contributors, connectors, and constructivists.  This is the type of education many of this generation are embracing often, sadly, in their “beyond school” learning.

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These movements, initiatives, technological advancements show no signs of slowing down in the future and hopefully, will change education to better meet the needs, desires, interests, and passions of both educators and learners. Maker education has become a grassroots movement of informal learning as so many are craving and embracing this type of learning.  Just maybe, with educators and learners taking the initiative, these developments will work their way into more formal educational settings.

The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs. Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests by Dale Dougherty, founder, President & CEO of Maker Media, Inc.

Other posts on the Maker Movement:

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 23, 2013 at 12:41 am

One Response

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  1. This semi-retired teacher found this post very interesting. Yes, you are correct when you say, “This is the type of education many of this generation are embracing often, sadly, in their “beyond school” learning.” Public schools give lip service to “critical thinking,” but the emphasis on tests and establishment views of government, history, and science penalize any effort of students to think critically. I hope “maker education” reaches many through private schools and homeschooling.

    Lane Lester

    December 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm


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