After watching a room of students working and learning via a maker project, one can’t help but be awed by the level of engagement. There’s a low hum as students buzz around, helping one another troubleshoot problems and figure out next steps. They suggest improvements and model skills for one another. Groups are working on distinctly different projects; some are engaged with wood and electronics, while others are programming, sewing, and drawing. Yet despite the wide variety, they’re all so focused that a classroom visitor attracts nary a glance. Their teacher leads, supports, and educates, all by taking a step back.
Maker education is being increasingly integrated into classrooms of all grade levels. It’s an approach that draws upon philosophies and pedagogies of the past (constructivism, constructionism, inquiry, hands-on, and project-based learning) and integrates methods from the present (design thinking, effectuation). It reimagines a progressive approach to learning through modern affordances. It democratizes the tools of creativity and empowers the learner. It develops a maker mindset that that has been described as “playful, asset- and growth-minded, failure positive, and collaborative” (Martin, 2015).
Traditional direct instruction focuses on content knowledge, while maker-centered learning orients around the learner’s context. It’s a framework for learning that can be applied to any content. It allows the learner to actualize his or her own ideas. In any subject area, with any materials or equipment, maker education is a tool or vehicle for learning that focuses on the how: the process, the social-emotional skills, and the application of problem solving, collaborating, and persisting. Yes, there is absolutely content, but maker ed creates a meaningful context for students to engage with content on their own terms.
Anyone who works with young makers sees this level of engagement, collaboration, and creativity. Indeed, there has been an explosion in the number of makerspaces in schools. But as with any new education model — particularly one with roots outside of education — there are serious questions that arise:
1. Does maker education raise test scores? (go here to find out…)