Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Maker Culture in Schools

Maker culture is an off-shoot of traditional "do it yourself" (DIY) and craft culture. Adweek describes the maker movement as “…the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans…” Unlike the DIY movement, Maker culture is centered on tech; it involves computer programming, robotics, 3D printing, and digital and graphic design. The movement is so developed that it has its own magazine, Make, and hosts Maker Faires all over the world. Now, maker culture is pervading schools and your blogger is very excited about this creative shift in the education space.
Maker learning provides students with a hand-on, highly interactive way to explore the world around them as they engage with STEM concepts. Through a maker environment the learning a student does becomes intensely personal, project-based, and internally motivating. Maker culture is cross-curricular by nature and blurs the dichotomy between arts and sciences as students creatively design and construct novel technological products. Maker activities engage students in design thinking, a concept that is so powerful it is being integrated into curriculum at select schools. These schools are not alone. The Next Generation Science Standards advocates for computer science, engineering, and tinkering to be a part of every American child's education.

Maker projects can be as simple as using recycled materials to create a new toy. The materials used can be as basic as old cardboard to as advanced as 3D printers. Teachers could also have students explore stop motion animation by creating their own film to share. Or have students use MIT’s Scratch, a free computer programming tool, to create stories, games, or animations. Another way to infuse maker culture into a classroom is have students sew with conductive thread. This will allow them to make wearable electronic apparel or digital stuffed animals. Maker culture doesn’t have to be complex, it simply has to inspire students to invent, design, and create new products.

For teachers looking to bring maker culture into their own classrooms, an excellent resource is the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. The authors advocate that no matter your classroom budget there is a way to integrate maker principles into your students’ learning. They provide tips and ideas for students and teachers to learn together by interacting with a variety of high and low tech tools and materials. Edutopia also has a storehouse of Maker Education related articles that teachers can use to empower them to carry out maker projects in their classrooms. Maker Ed is another maker culture innovator where teachers can peruse their resource lists or get connected to maker events going on near them. It may feel daunting to take on such a large task in your classroom, but there are a lot of excellent resources out there to help support you in joining the maker movement. 

Happy Making!

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