Maker Movement in Classrooms?

Maker in classrooms

  New York Hall of Science/Maker Faire

Can the Maker Movement Infiltrate Mainstream Classrooms?

I posted earlier about the Maker Movement.  Here is an article about the Maker Movement in classrooms by Katrina Schwartz.

At the White House Maker Faire recently, where President Obama invited “makers” of all ages to display their creations, the  President investigated a robotic giraffe, a red weather balloon and shot a marshmallow cannon made by a student. With so much fanfare and media attention on the event, some educators are hopeful that the idea of tinkering as a way of learning might finally have made it back to the mainstream. But will the same philosophy of discovery and hands-on learning make it into classrooms?

“Most of the people that I know who got into science and technology benefited from a set of informal experiences before they had much formal training,” said Dale Dougherty, editor of Make Magazine and founder of Maker Faire on KQED’s Forum program. “And I mean, like building rockets in the backyard, tinkering, playing with things. And that created the interest and motivation to pursue science.”

That spirit of play and discovery of knowledge is missing from much of formal education, Dougherty said. Students not only have no experience with making or the tools needed to build things, they’re often at a tactile deficit. “Schools haven’t changed, but the students have,” Dougherty said. “They don’t come with these experiences.”

Dougherty often watches kids as they interact with hands-on experiments or materials at Maker Faire events. “It’s almost aggressively manipulating and touching things because they’re not used to it,” he said, which is unfortunate because that kind of work is in high demand in doing engineering or mechanical jobs.

“Even at the university level we’re choosing talent based on math scores, not on capabilities and demonstrated abilities,” Dougherty said. He thinks engineering programs could learn something from art schools when it comes to the application process. No art school accepts a student without examining a portfolio of work that demonstrates the student can do the work required of them and has the potential to grow. Dougherty helped lobby MIT to begin accepting “maker portfolios” along with other application materials to ensure the things kids make are considered alongside test scores, essays and recommendations.

STUDENTS WILL DRIVE THE MOVEMENT

Dougherty is hopeful that events like the White House Maker Faire will help catalyze a movement that accepts maker-style self-directed learning in schools. He sees a lot of interest in affluent communities, but a lot less involvement in low-income areas. Incorporating the maker movement into public schools would reach help reach all students, perhaps sparking a life long interest in kids that might not otherwise be exposed.

“I think kids are going to be the drivers of change in this.”

“The context of making is playful,” Dougherty said. “At the high school level that’s when it stops being fun.” It’s that playful spirit that gets kids engaged, not a set curriculum or even access to technology. Kids have to feel invested and passionate about something to care about it for the long term. “If we are really about STEM, how do we make if fun, how do we make it engaging, how do we keep it playful?” Dougherty asked.

Parents are even starting to recognize the motivating power that this movement has on kids. “I think kids are going to be the drivers of change in this,” Dougherty said. “They’re going to be the ones asking for this, and asking if their parents can support them in this.” Dougherty knows many young people ready to go to high school who don’t see their passions being supported there. A lot of high schools got rid of classes like shop and metal work that were the “maker spaces” of a previous era. Parents didn’t see a use for those skills and they were gradually phased out.

“The key idea here that I’ve promoted is I want people to see themselves as producers, not just consumers,” Dougherty said. “I’d like to see it become a capability that we use in home life and at work and that we’re proud of it, where we see ourselves as having these powers to do stuff.”

Dougherty hopes that if students raise their voices, parents demonstrate support and passionate teachers are willing to champion the cause at individual school sites, maker spaces could become a fixture of school. They don’t have to include the fanciest 3D printer, they just have to be spaces for exploration, hands-on learning and a playful attitude towards discovery. Source 

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2 thoughts on “Maker Movement in Classrooms?

  1. Reblogged this on Tutoring 101 and commented:
    First, I’d like to thank My School of Thought for posting such an excellent article on The Maker Movement. As a tutor and “maker” myself, I couldn’t be more thrilled by the take-off of this movement and am very hopeful for the future of our classrooms knowing that more and more teachers are beginning to incorporate more opportunities for students to build, explore, and engage with the materials they’re learning in new ways. Just take Allen High School’s Blu Bistro, for example. When I was a student of AHS (I can’t believe how many years ago now that was!), cooking classes were basically nonexistent, but were in the works as a possible future extracurricular option for students. And now? Now AHS’ student chefs are not only serving restaurant-quality food of their own making to Allen community residents, but they’re also competing in kitchens across the state of Texas (in both cooking and restaurant management) including in the 2013 Texas Pro-Start Invitational state finals wherein dishes were judged by “members of the Texas Restaurant Association and chefs from culinary schools such as Le Cordon Bleu and The Culinary Institute of America”. These students are learning to be Makers of a different kind than the Engineering students we’ve started hearing so much about, but they’re Makers just the same. It’s in the art of being a producer that students can often start finding new interests and motivations for themselves to learn and become more active consumers. As Dale Dougherty, editor of Maker Magazine, explains in My School of Thought’s post, “…I want people to see themselves as producers, not just consumers. I’d like to see it become a capability that we use in home life and at work and that we’re proud of it, where we see ourselves as having these powers to do stuff.” I couldn’t agree more. Being a consumer, while fun, challenging, and interesting in its own right, is often today conflated with being more passive whereas being a producer seems to naturally mean being more active and invested in the product itself. But this does not always have to be the case. Rather, by encouraging children and friends to be more active producers, we can help them and ourselves become more active consumers as well. We often see this in English courses where students can have trouble getting interested in assigned readings yet leap at the opportunity presented by a creative writing project. Why is this? It isn’t because students are inherently lazy or come out of the womb not enjoying to read — loving reading, loving science, loving learning (loving being a consumer of knowledge) are all things that must be taught and demonstrated for children from a very early age. How can you be a creative writer without also learning to love and actively engage in the process of reading — in the process of consuming written materials? How can you be a builder without also learning to love and actively consume the necessary mathematics and scientific principles? The answer is simply that you cannot — but you can sometimes begin as a producer and so work your way into becoming a more active consumer. These two identities, these two ways of learning — producing and consuming — feed into each other in a natural cycle. So who’s to say that you need to have one first before the other can follow? Why not let kids try their hand at building or writing or cooking something before they’ve learned all the elemental pieces? — It might just be the kick they need to start asking questions, to realize what might be out there for them to learn from the cookbooks, mathematicians, and libraries. Our children learn from us — their mentors, parents, and teachers — what it means to have fun in one’s leisure time. If we spend all of our leisure time watching TV, then that’s what they, our children, will associate with down-time rather than more active and mind-engaging activities like reading, building, or exploring. And this is why we can’t leave this Maker Movement up solely to our schools and teachers. If we want our children to be more enthusiastic creators and more active consumers, then we must model this behavior for them and become more active and interested ourselves. This can be as simple as swapping out a night of television for a night of reading or puzzle-piecing or fort-building or creative writing or cooking or gardening or scavenger-hunting. It can be as easy as having fun with each other.

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