So what is making? I’ve proposed that the heart of making is creating new and unique things. I also realize that in order for this type of making to occur, there needs to be some scaffolding so that maker learners can develop a foundation of knowledge and skills. The end result, though should be maker learners creating new things by and for themselves. The ideas in this post have been sparked by the SAMR model. I see a similar pattern or progression with maker education:
- Copy – make something almost exactly as someone else has done.
In this age of information abundance, there really is an unlimited number of DIY resources, tutorials, Youtube videos, online instructors and instructions on making all kind of things. These resources provide a good beginning for acquiring some solid foundational skills and knowledge for learning how a make something one has never made before.
- Advance – gain more advance knowledge and skills by doing similar projects
During this stage, the maker learner, who desires to learn more about a given skill, project, or product, gains more advanced skills and knowledge by exploring additional and more advanced resources and by using these resources to create more advanced makes.
- Embellish – add something that has been done; add a little of one’s self to it.
When embellishing, maker learners extend their copied projects to include their own ideas. They tailor the copied projects to include their own ideas or embellishments. Example embellishments can be found with 3D printing, Makey-Makey, and littleBits adaptations.
- Modify – take what others have done and modify or morph it into something new.
When modifying, maker learners take something that has been created before and tweak it to make something new. An example is the cardboard challenge where kids who were inspired by Caine’s Arcade build their own cardboard creations.
- Create – make or create some new, unique, different than what has been created before
When creating, maker learners create some unique or new. A simple example is when kids (and adults) take apart toys and use those parts to create new kinds of toys. A more complex example was the first folks who created prosthetic arms for 3-D printers.
Getting to Create stage will not occur for everyone but the Create doesn’t have to be that unique or earth shattering. It just means making something – anything more different or unique than what has been made before. I do believe, though, that maker learners need to get beyond the Copy and Advance stages to add something of themselves to their makes. I believe this is what true making is all about.
When asked what my first language is, I often answer, “visual.” I think in images, prefer to be taught through images, and like to express what I know through images. I find it disconcerting that as learners progress to the higher grades, there is less use of images and visuals to teach concepts.
The power of the use of vision for learning is emphasized by developmental molecular biologist, John Medina, where in his publication, Brain Rules, he states:
Vision Trumps All Other Senses
We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images (http://www.brainrules.net/vision).
Created by students for teachers, the following video shows students frustrated with the lack of visual learning in the classroom:
This post is a call to action to increase visual-based learning in the classroom through:
- Using visuals, images, video, and other visual media to teach and demonstrate concepts.
- Using and teaching learners how to make concept maps.
- Using and teaching learners how to do sketchnotes.
- Allowing and encouraging learners to show what they know through visual imagery.
- Teaching visual literacy.
Use Visuals, Images, Data Visualizations, Infographics and Videos to Teach Concepts
Our brains are wired to rapidly make sense of and remember visual input. Visualizations in the form of diagrams, charts, drawings, pictures, and a variety of other ways can help students understand complex information. A well-designed visual image can yield a much more powerful and memorable learning experience than a mere verbal or textual description (http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/visual-thinking/).
Because of all of the multimedia available to teachers, there has been an increased use of visual presentation of content in the classroom. Educators, though, should assess their visual impact. Youtube videos of talking heads or PowerPoint presentations that are text based just reinforce instructional systems too heavily dependent on the verbal and written word.
The use of slide presentations by educators help to provide visual stimulus for their learners. They tend, though, to be way too text based as satirized in Life After Death by PowerPoint by Don McMillan . Truthfully, I am a strong proponent of using PowerPoints for teaching given that they are image rich and text limited. Garr Reynolds or Presentation Zen provides tips for preparing presentations that honor the use of visuals in Top Ten Slide Tips.
Concepts can also be demonstrated through data visualizations and infographics.
Visual analytics play off the idea that the brain is more attracted to and able to process dynamic images than long lists of numbers. But the goal of information visualization is not simply to represent millions of bits of data as illustrations. It is to prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more (http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/data-visualized-more-on-teaching-with-infographics/)
Strategies for using data visualizations and inforgraphics in the class can be found at Data Visualized: More on Teaching With Infographics.
Use and Teach Learners How to Make Concept Maps and Graphic Organizers
Research tells us that the majority of students in a regular classroom need to see information in order to learn it. Some common visual learning strategies include creating graphic organizers, diagramming, mind mapping, outlining and more. These strategies help students or all ages better manage learning objectives and achieve academic success. As students are required to evaluate and interpret information from a variety of sources, incorporate new knowledge with what they already have learned, and improve writing skills and think critically, visual learning tools help students meet those demands. Paired with the brain’s capacity for images, visual learning strategies help students better understand and retain information (http://www.inspiration.com/visual-learning).
For more ideas for using mind maps in the classroom, see 10 Mind Mapping Strategies For Teachers.
Use and Teach Learners How to Do Sketchnotes
Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines (definition from Mike Rohde, The Sketchnote Handbook). Although sketchnoting was born out of the need to take better notes at conferences and in meetings, I believe the process of making sketchnotes may have tremendous educational value for students and professionals. This is especially true for students who struggle taking traditional notes or need a fresh approach to learning. Please keep in mind that this is about ideas, not art (The Sketchnote Handbook) (http://campus.murraystate.edu/faculty/jcox/sketch.html).
I discuss Sketnoting in more detail in my post – Visual Note-Taking.
Allow and Encourage Learners to Show What They Know Through Visual Imagery
Allowing learners to show what they know through visuals supports Universal Design for Learning second principle, Provide Multiple Means of Expression:
It is important to provide alternative modalities for expression, both to the level the playing field among learners and to allow the learner to appropriately (or easily) express knowledge, ideas and concepts in the learning environment. These include:
- Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, design, film, music, dance/movement, visual art, sculpture or video
- Use social media and interactive web tools (e.g., discussion forums, chats, web design, annotation tools, storyboards, comic strips, animation presentations)
- Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, comics, storyboards, design, film, music, visual art, sculpture, or video
Such alternatives reduce media-specific barriers to expression among learners with a variety of special needs, but also increases the opportunities for all learners to develop a wider range of expression in a media-rich world (http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle2).
Teach Visual Literacy
If we think of literacy as reading and writing words, visual literacy can be described as the ability to both interpret and create visuals. With the constant, overwhelming flow of information and communication today, both parts of this modern literacy equation are non-negotiable (http://gettingsmart.com/2015/07/the-new-literacy-equation-visual-literacy-is-non-negotiable/).
Visual literacy is important in multiple ways:
- Teaching visual literacy helps kids better interpret art and visual media that they come in contact with.
- Visual literacy allows a deeper interaction with texts of all kinds and introduces the process of analytical thinking about representation and meaning.
- There is evidence that, even for older children, examining and understanding how art and text interact may allow readers to “visualize” while they read–a key to proficiency in and enjoyment of reading.
- By teaching “educated perception” of artwork (for instance, how certain techniques elicit specific emotions or effects) you can teach children how to be more skeptical and informed viewers of all visual media, including advertising (http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu/Projects/youth/literacies/visual2.html).
Here is list of visual literacy resources as compiled by Kathy Schrock:
The maker movement and maker education, in my perspective, are such great initiatives – really in line with what student-centric education should be in this era of formal and informal learning.
Maker education (often referred to as “Maker Ed”) is a new school of educational thought [at least in terms of having an “official” educational label – JG] that focuses on delivering constructivist, project-based learning curriculum and instructional units to students. Maker education spaces can be as large as full high school workshops with high-tech tools, or as small and low-tech as one corner of an elementary classroom. A makerspace isn’t just about the tools and equipment, but the sort of learning experience the space provides to students who are making projects. (9 Maker Projects for Beginner Maker Ed Teachers)
Social media has helped me gain a more global perspective and become aware of some of the problems associated with the maker movement. The two I discuss in this post are:
- Maker movement initiatives are often driven by more affluent white males.
- The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – 3D Printers, Arduinos, littleBits, Makey-Makeys – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs can afford.
Maker movement initiatives are often driven by affluent white males.
When the language, culture, and tools of the current makerspaces, maker faires, MAKE publications are examined, they tend to be less inclusive of females, older adults, and people of color.
The Maker movement has grown large enough and influential enough that it’s time to turn a critical eye to the culture of the community, what we want it to be and what it really is,” declared Dr. Buechley. The most striking statistics Buechley shared focused on the race and gender of the Makers on its covers. Of the 40 people featured, she found that 85% have been men and boys–and none were people of color. The current editorial staff has a similar ratio–87% men, and also no people of color. “Are you serious!? MAKE, you can do better. It’s your responsibility to do better,” Buechley exclaimed. (Watch Dr. Buechley’s talk at https://vimeo.com/110616469) The notion that one does not need to talk about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, etc. because what matters is how well you can hack largely disregards privileges that people have in society and constitutes part of the explanation for why there are so few women, queers, and people of color in hackerspaces. But women aren’t the only ones who have felt marginalized and isolated at mainstream hackerspaces. Many men have also found the culture exclusionary or aggressive and are also also seeking safer spaces. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?)
Here are some additional quotes, articles that discuss the need for a maker environment more inclusive of gender and people of color.
I know that the Maker Movement is working to be more inclusive and I challenge its leadership to do even more to include every kid in every community in its programming. I challenge each of us to support not just our own daughters and sons in Making but the girls and boys in all communities. (Welcoming All Girls in the Maker Movement: Let’s Make it Happen) Maker and hackerspaces are meant to be places to build, tinker, and fix things, but that process won’t flourish without a friendly, inclusive environment. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?) The idea of inclusion is not only important for community organizations or schools serving underserved populations. Every makerspace should be aware of their capacity to serve all people: children and adults, all genders, all backgrounds, and those who are interested in the arts, engineering, or both. Even in the best-resourced maker environments, there should be constant vigilance about the assumptions that are made about the people who might want to use them. (Making for All: How to Build an Inclusive Makerspace)
The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs cannot afford.
Changing Perceptions About the Stuff
3d Printers, Ardinos, litteBits, Makey-Makeys, GoSpheros, Lillipads, . . . oh my! These technologies are seductive especially seeing all the press they get on social media, blogs, and Kickstarter. Given all of the media coverage, an educator new to Maker Education may get the perception that it is all about this kind of high tech stuff. For less affluent schools or after-school programs, it may seem that maker education is out of their reach given budgetary restraints. A maker education program can be fully implemented with minimal cost supplies. Cardboard boxes, recycled materials such as water bottles, detergent bottles, and other plastic throwaways, tape, glue guns, scissors/knives, and markers in conjunction with learners’ imaginations, creativity, and innovative ideas can be the stuff that makerspaces are made of. In addition, there are lots of making resources that are inexpensive. Here is an image of the circuit kit I prepared for my week long maker camp for over a dozen kids. It cost about $100 with careful shopping via ebay and the local dollar store. It contains LEDs, batteries, alligator clips, copper tape, magnets, paper clips, and electrical tape.
Changing Perceptions about What Activities Are Considered Making
In addition, to using cheaper, fun materials, we need to expand our perceptions about what constitutes maker activities.
In an analysis of every MAKE magazine cover since the first issue in 2005–36 in all–Buechley found that the photos portrayed a “very narrow definition” of Maker activities. The themes have skewed heavily towards electronics, which have been featured on 53% of covers, followed by vehicles (31%), robots (22%), rockets (8%), and music (5%). What’s missing, she said, are examples from the world of ceramics, costume-engineering, and weaving. She pleaded with the audience to reach out to a more diverse group of makers and include all types of kids. “You gotta do more than robots,” she said. (MAKE’ing More Diverse Makers)
Changing Perceptions: Making Is About a Mindset and a Process Not About the Stuff
Finally, in the same vein as it’s about the pedagogy, not about the technology; making is about a mindset and the act of doing, it’s not about the high tech stuff. As I discussed in The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education:
A maker mindset involves having a can-do attitude and a growth mindset – a belief that your capabilities can be developed, improved and expanded. It’s not just a matter of what you know, it’s a matter of taking risks and perhaps failing and learning from those failures. It’s a matter of being open to exploring new possibilities and developing your full potential. (The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education)
If making, the maker movement, maker education is viewed as a mindset, as a process, as a way to be creative and innovative; then the types and kinds of materials don’t matter. What matters, first and foremost, is the act of making.