This blog post is associated with the episode “Users manual to maker culture” of the “Digital Culture” podcast. Here, Eirini, Jingwen, Serena and I give an introduction to what maker culture is, as well as how it can be applied. In case you have not listened to it yet or just want to listen to it again, you can do so now.
“… it encourages students to think in an innovative way, and inspires students to learn, understand and create further through making”-S. Huang in “Users manual to maker culture”
In our podcast we discussed first-hand experience of maker culture within the university environment. However, integrating maker culture at an earlier stage of education could benefit the development of a maker mindset from a very young age. So why is acquiring a maker mindset considered so important?
The importance to foster a maker mindset
First of all, acquiring the skills to be a maker benefits the nation itself. Having a maker mindset allows us to use innovation to push economic growth, shifting from being consumers to producers. In practice, it means producing and utilising domestic products over foreign ones. Moreover, citizens with such mindsets are resourceful and able to improvise characteristics which prepares them for future jobs that do not exist at the moment (Irie, Hsu & Ching, 2019, p. 403). This is not only relevant in the work environment, like Serena mentions in her blog, but in the educational context too. It is important children are given the competences growing up, to be inclined for their job perspectives (Irie, Hsu & Ching, 2019, p. 403) .
Another reason why having a maker mindset is crucial, is that makers promote a democratization of technology. Here, access to technology itself and knowledge is open and shareable (Marotta, 2020, p. 2). Online maker communities allow makers to share and exchange knowledge of the development process. This provides an environment where worldwide interaction is possible, as well as the ability to engage with projects from all around the globe (Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra, 2017, p. 225).
“… to encourage student-centered and authentic learning, high-order problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, grit, creativity and playfulness”Irie, Hsu & Ching (2019, p. 398), on the importance to foster maker mindset among students
The American example
In order to foster a maker mindset from an early age, it is argued that maker culture should be implemented in educational settings. A national context where this practice is supported is the U.S, which over the years has been increasingly emphasizing learning through making.
Since 2005, the Maker Movement has been expanding constantly in American areas and sectors, such as museums (also presented by Eirini) and libraries. The clear enthusiasm towards the movement has been seen in different events such as creation of the first ever White House Maker Faire and the announcement of President Obama of the Nation of Makers initiative (Irie, Hsu, & Ching, 2019, p. 399; Sang & Simpson, 2019, p. 68). The governamental support characterised a continuous growth of maker culture in the national context, which also started to garner interest for its implementation in early educational settings, such as K-12. Applying making to education, can form young makers like the one presented in the video below.
A practical framework for maker culture in formal K-12 education needs to consist of four key elements of makification. The first element, creation, provides learning through three different phases. These include deconstructing knowledge or artifacts in small parts which are more understandable, assembling these parts and constructing greater knowledge or artifacts, and finally, organizing sub-pieces to create something new (p. 223). The second element is iteration, where repetition of the same process allows one to have a critical mind and address areas of concern that may result in failure (p. 224). In the American context, this flexibility towards failing allows students to free themselves of the pressure caused by the standardised assessments (Irie, Hsu, & Ching, 2019, p. 405). The third element, sharing, provides the students with a collaborative environment by combining their knowledge and experience and implementing constructive criticism, by giving each other feedback (p. 225). The fourth and last element, autonomy, presents students with the possibility to add a personal touch to their work, which is what makes it unique and innovative (Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra, 2017, p. 226). With these four elements discussed, one can now explore the ways in which they are applied in practice.
A more practical example: Maker Ed
The more suitable and easily accessible way to practical examples of maker culture in early education is the Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed). Maker Ed is a non-profit organization which provides feasible and concrete ways to integrate maker culture into the educational experience. The organization provides a toolset for any teacher or educator that wants to implement maker culture in early education (“About”, n.d.). From tools and material, to spaces and places, it presents a library of inspirations by linking to third parties, which have a promising value to the community of maker education (“Resources”, n.d.). In addition to that, Maker Ed also introduces educators to maker culture, by providing workshops and training, such as the video presented below.
Concretely, in the projects and learning approaches section, Maker Ed provides ideas for short or long term learning tasks associated with making. From browsing in this section of Maker Ed, multiple suggestions and practical examples are given. These can include, for example, combining making with social studies, by creating an easy website on native American cultures. In this case, the hyperlinked page above provides a PowerPoint, which extensively explains how to create the website; additionally, it provides an example made by a student. It also invites the use of a different adaptation of this activity, according to what an educator or teacher might prefer. Another example is a project that combines making with Humanities subjects. Here for instance, students had to create a monument with recycled items. The requirements for this type of project were to understand the monument and to collaboratively create some sort of replica.
More complex activities are also present. For instance, combining making with engineering, by creating a flashlight tag detector. For this task, the materials purchased are more specific than just recycled items or a computer. The exercise includes the need for objects such as resistor, a mini-bread board, a 9V battery and connector, etc. However, useful links on where to buy these materials are provided. In addition, the activity needs to have some steps performed by an adult, for the safety of the students. Since this might be a more challenging activity, a video tutorial is provided, as well as a step-by-step procedure. Another example showing the combination of making with engineering is creating a 2-way cardboard phone. Similarly to the previous example, a video tutorial, a detailed procedure, the items needed and the information on where to buy the materials is provided.
The presented examples of projects and activities show how Maker Ed provides a concrete way of how to apply creation, iteration, sharing and autonomy in a practical setting. The organisation also puts the educators and teachers as learners themselves, in order to inform them and advocate an alternative to standardised education.
Overcoming the limitations of maker culture
Despite maker culture having a promising future with regards to its application in education, it has been criticised. To begin with, the maker movement has generally been blamed of targeting mostly wealthy white males, instead of more diverse groups (Dufva, 2017, p. 131; Irie, Hsu & Ching, 2019, p. 403). Minorities, poor individuals and females seem to have little to no presence in the maker movement (Sang & Simpson, 2018, p. 79). Providing the same opportunities starting from early age, enables a generation with the equal opportunity to a non-standardised education. Moreover, governmental funding of a wide range of activities, both numerically and geographically, provides more accessibility to a maker education for all citizens (Sang & Simpson, 2018, p. 79). As this post has shown, it is possible to address the lack of representation through adding maker activities in early education, such as the K-12 environment (Irie, Hsu & Ching, 2019, p. 403).
Another problem related to maker movement is the selection of shared information. Some makers prefer to keep their work to themselves instead of distributing it to the (online) community to have a more profitable product. Moreover, some governments might reject those types of sharing that do not conform with their legal statutes, such as the intellectual property ones (Irie, Hsu & Ching, 2019, p. 404). However, making in education instead of experiencing these problems, could provide a solution to them. In creating a collaborative environment, students can witness how group effort creates greater accomplishments (Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra, 2017, p. 225). There is hope that providing this basis, especially at an early age, creates a mindset open to a more collective feeling rather than an egoistic one.
In this post, I have discussed the maker mindset and the importance of establishing it in the majority of the population. Being a maker provides the tools for turning consumers into producers, to be creative and improvise, to be prepared for future jobs that do not yet exist and to create a democratization of technology. By adding maker culture in early education, it is possible to incorporate such a mindset, with many different activities. Practical examples of such can be easily found in Maker Ed, a non-profit organisation which also provides formative events for educators and teachers.
Implementing maker culture in education helps in overcoming some of the problems that the maker movement itself has been facing. Adding making in children’s education, such as in the U.S. K-12 education, provides equal access to everyone starting at an early age. It also develops minds that can think creatively and critically in a playful and collaborative environment. This makes young makers value inventiveness over indulgence. Having minds that can think innovatively and constructively, as well as being critical of their own work, gives a nation the tools to have citizens that are problem-solvers and unique.
Thank you for reading my post about the importance of maker culture in education. Hopefully it made you better understand how this educational approach can be applied in practical examples and inspired you to engage in the making process. If you’d like to know more about other applications of maker culture, visit the following blog posts:
About (n.d.). Maker Ed. https://makered.org/about/.
Cohen, J., Jones, W. M., Smith, S., & Calandra, B. (2017). Makification: Towards a framework for leveraging the maker movement in formal education. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 26(3), 217-229.
Dufva, T. (2017). Maker Movement: creating knowledge through basic intention. Techne Series: Research in Sloyd Education and Crafts Science, 24(2), 129–141.
Irie, N. R., Hsu, Y. C., & Ching, Y. H. (2019). Makerspaces in diverse places: A comparative analysis of distinctive national discourses surrounding the maker movement and education in four countries. TechTrends, 63(4), 397-407.
Marotta, S. (2020). Making sense of ‘maker’: Work, identity, and affect in the maker movement. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 0 (0), 1-17.
Resources (n.d.). Maker Ed. https://makered.org/resources/.
Sang, W., & Simpson, A. (2019). The Maker Movement: A global movement for educational change. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 17(1), 65-83.
Videos and images sources
McCoy, W. (2018, September 19). Creating A Makerspace For K-12 Schools. Retrieved from https://edtechauthority.com/creating-makerspace-k-12-schools/.
YouTube. (2015). Maker Ed: A Story of Why Making Matters. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt1rjyKzX-E.
YouTube. (2019). About Maker Ed’s Workshops. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kpJBVZpZoM.