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Making it into Your Classrooms? The Maker Movement

Posted in Blog on 9 September 2015

At one time in the not-too-distant past, higher education was nothing more than an apprenticeship in an identified field of need… such as metalworking, woodworking, or a particular craft. Young adults would be guided towards working with masters in an industry and gradually learn all the elements of the trade before setting out on their own career path.

Today, with many questioning the value of higher education, and companies looking for more job-ready graduates, several offbeat educational solutions (think career clusters, nanodegrees, and MOOCs) have been nascent. Amongst these new age, high tech methods comes a tribute to the traditional apprentice and DIY methods of learning on the job. The Maker Movement.


What is the Maker Movement?

Technopedia defines the Maker Movement as “the name given to the increasing number of people employing do-it-yourself (DIY) and do-it-with-others (DIWO) techniques and processes to develop unique technology products.”

By creating a “learning-through-doing” social environment, the Maker culture believes in education through informal, networked, peer-led examples, which share knowledge and motivate by self-driven interest.


How does it encourage learning?

This method follows the Constructivism pedagogical method, in which social constructivist scholars view learning as an active process. Learners should discover principles, concepts and facts for themselves, and through it explore intuitive thinking (Brown et al.1989; Ackerman 1996).

The Maker Movement believes in encouraging students to explore new subjects by taking up a project in the field and executing it to completion using resources found online or in peer-driven workshops with experienced professionals acting as mentors.


What can students learn?

While in the far past we had carpentry and blacksmithing, and in the near past shop and home economics, today’s Makers are into using the latest technologies to create new projects.

In her blog post, “How the Maker Movement Is Moving Into Classrooms”, educational influencer Vicki Davis observes how many educators are concerned about the unidimensional expectation from technology. In her example, she emphasizes that one shouldn’t look at apps as only a way to get kids to memorize math facts. Because students don’t necessarily want to use apps — they want to learn how to make them.

Today’s makerspaces need to incorporate tools from 3D printers to drones to electronics and more. Collaboration is encouraged on everything and many workshops have projects incorporated into every academic major.


How can colleges take advantage?

While many consider this a geek movement with focus on engineering, science and technology (STEM) skills, the fact is that the Maker Movement can help students acquire real-life careers skills across a variety of subjects.

To achieve this Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times (LIDT) believes that colleges universities need to incorporate maker principles in the same way they have incorporated entrepreneurial programs.

Students need to proactively seek the skills they wish to add to their resume, and develop projects using the tools and skills provided on campus in Maker workshops. But if they aren’t available, the project lies in finding the right mentors and bringing together the team required to complete the skill set.

Edtech Magazine states in ‘Making Makerspaces Work on Campus’ that USC is one of only a few universities to center an entire academy inside a makerspace where students take the majority of their courses.

According to Mitzi Montoya, Dean of College of Technology and Innovation (CTI), providing students access to a Maker workshop does a few things. Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) partially partnered with a new TechShop in Phoenix, and co-located one of its campuses in the same building and offers free or highly subsidized access to TechShop for all of its students.

Partnering with the TechShop allows her students to tinker which furthers their ability to experiment, learn and master tools without the pressure of an expected output or grade, while connecting with the local Maker community.

Montoya’s CTI students can now also connect with the large base of engineers from Intel and other local firms, master shop gurus and match ideas, skills and time to collectively convert ideas into projects and businesses.


Maker Spaces, Who’s Doing What?

The University of Mary Washington has a ThinkLab located in its Simpson Library. A collaboration between the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, the College of Education, and the Library, ThinkLab hosts a variety of emerging technologies and tools for students and faculty across all disciplines.

IDeATe@Hunt is a makerspace in Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Library which supports undergraduate (and increasingly graduate) level programs in integrated arts, design and technology. Facilities include extensive laser and 3D printing labs, design studios, physical computing labs, a fabrication workshop, a black box performance studio and adjacent sound room.

The Garage Physics lab at the University of Wisconsin is a makerspace for student-driven interdisciplinary innovation. Garage offers all undergraduates and graduate students an unstructured safe environment to explore technologies such as 3d-printers and electronic devices and to develop creative ideas through project-oriented, just-in-time learning.

The Open Hardware Makerspace at North Carolina State University has a workspace (through a partnership with the Open Design Lab), tools and equipment, and various resources for skills training and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Stanford’s FabLab@School is a growing network of educational digital fabrication labs that put cutting-edge technology for design and construction into the hands of middle and high school students.


In this Hackeducation post ‘The Case for Campus Makerspace’ writer Audrey Watters states that “one estimate put the number of makerspaces on college campuses at about 60, which (…) is not quite double the number of college campuses that have partnered with Coursera.”

Perhaps because as Roger Schank of the Institute for the Learning Sciences Northwestern University writes, “When there are ‘doing devices’ available, it is easier to implement learning by doing.”

So while edtech companies and hiring industries continue to explore innovative methods to help students be more career ready, innovative colleges that are implementing classical methods of learning such as the Maker Movement are already ensuring their students get a headstart.


Further Recommended Reading:

The MakerSpace Playbook For Schools

MakerSpaces in College Libraries

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