What is the Maker Movement and what is its educational potential?
The Maker Movement is an emerging trend that has the potential to have a profound impact on educational practice. In eLearning Papers Issue 39, authors Sandra Schön, Martin Ebner, and Swapna Kumar give an introduction to the Maker Movement and discuss how it could be used in education.
What is the Maker Movement?
The main principle is that each person should be a creative, inventive, productive individual and that through making, we learn. The authors of the paper use the term “making” as it relates to “new forms of relatively simple ways to fabricate real or digital things with digital tools, including fabrication, physical computing and programming.”
The Maker Movement is an umbrella term that covers several different terms and hubs of making, such as the following:
- Fablabs – originating at MIT, FabLab is short for Fabrication Laboratory. Its purpose is to make cutting edge tools (like 3D printers) available to anyone.
- Maker faire – a magazine called MAKE that started publication in 2005 also established the Maker faire, which is an event where people can exhibit their creations and co-create with others. It is an annual event in the USA and several have been hosted in Europe.
- DIY – This acronym stands for Do It Yourself, and it refers to the principle of using the materials and tools available to produce one’s own inventions or products.
- Makerspaces are commercial spaces that provide digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and design software. The tools are available for a small fee to users.
- Hackerspaces are community-driven spaces for software developers and experts (ie. hackers) to share ideas and collaborate.
How does it relate to education?
These concepts and principles of the Maker Movement are deeply related to the educational theory of constructionism. Educators such as Maria Montessori, Friedrich Fröbel, John Dewey and others promoted the use of physical objects and tools in education. Other theorists and educators advanced this theory and companies such as Legoand Kosmos produced the educational toys that allowed it to be implemented widely.
Today, objects and tools that incorporate digital elements are carrying constructionism into the internet age. Lego is keeping pace with its Lego Mindstorms robotic kits, and simple programming languages like Scratch are making it possible to young children to create and innovate using digital tools.
Beyond the tools and toys, what is the educational potential of the Maker Movement? Introducing the “Maker” philosophy into the classroom encourages active learning. It also fosters the need to explore, create, and innovate – all essential and valuable skills for learning and for society. It is also broad and flexible enough to be adapted to specific curriculum demands. When students are more active, it shifts the teacher’s role to facilitation and tutoring, and opens up space for co-creation and learning by teaching.
This is just a brief summary of the full article The Maker Movement: Implications of new digital gadgets, fabrication tools and spaces for creative learning and teaching. The article covers in more depth specific cases of how maker tools and concepts have been used successfully with students. It offers examples of tools and software that are relevant for education. The authors also give excellent suggestions for further research.