Integrating Making and Teaching

The Maker Movement has been gaining a lot of attention nationwide. Last week was even the second National Week of Making, kick-started by the Second Annual National Maker Faire in Washington, DC. It has been a primarily casual movement, taking place in “museums, garages, and informal ‘faires.’” Now, however, making is starting to migrate into “the highly regulated world of K-12 education.”

“For fans of hands-on, student-driven learning the shift presents an opportunity to breathe fresh life into old teaching philosophies.” In other words, introducing maker spaces into schools and classrooms will allow educators to make-over their curricula and implement new ways of teaching. This can help reach students who don’t comprehend material well when presented via traditional methods, and it can help students understand topics and concepts more fully.

Another interpretation is turning communal spaces within a school building, such as libraries and computer labs, into maker spaces. This would allow students to independently explore things they are interested in; Monticello High School in Albemarle County, Virginia, for example, has “converted its quiet library into something that now resembles a hipster co-working space,” complete with a student-staffed technology help desk, a writer’s café, and an area where students can work with circuits, programmable microprocessors, and art supplies.”

Some, like Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE magazine and “godfather of the modern maker phenomenon,” argue that “if schools don’t get the spirit of it,” – i.e. the “do-it-yourself, only-if-you-want-to ethos,” – it won’t “benefit them a whole lot.” While it is true that a learning target-specific project may not fully embody the “spirit” of making, “academics have consistently found that making ‘gives kids agency’ over their learning in ways that traditional classes often don’t.” Making introduces an element of creativity, exploration, and imagination into lessons that may otherwise be, for lack of a better word, boring.

Integrating making into formal education will not be a seamless process; hurdles include agreeing on a definition of making in such a context, deciding whether making should “happen primarily in a dedicated space or inside every classroom,” and whether the purpose is “to help students better learn the established curriculum or to upend traditional notions of what counts as real learning.” However, “the maker movement has also tapped into a deep desire among many educators to return to the type of instruction that drew them to teaching in the first place.” And if educators, administrators, and students alike are all excited by making, doesn’t that mean we’re on to something worth much time and energy to make it work?


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