What Will It Take to Push the K-12 Maker Movement to Be More Inclusive?

column | EdSurge Podcast

What Will It Take to Push the K-12 Maker Movement to Be More Inclusive?

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Sep 26, 2017

What Will It Take to Push the K-12 Maker Movement to Be More Inclusive?

It’s not solely about having a “makerspace” anymore. These days, schools are trying to figure out how to bring making into every facet of the school day, with mobile kits, clubs and more. And when it comes to incorporating making into everyday curriculum, Cicely Day and Knikole Taylor are experts. Cicely Day works in Oakland, California at Burckhalter Elementary School as an instructional teacher leader, where she helps support teachers and students in ELA/math and in the computer lab. Two times zones over, Knikole Taylor is a blended learning specialist in a Dallas, Texas suburban school district, where she supports Pre-K to 12th-grade teachers and students with all things digital teaching and learning.

But despite the work of on-the-ground educators like Day and Taylor, the maker movement in K-12 schools is far from perfect. What does it really take, for example, to diversify the communities of maker educators and mentors out there? And how does one respond to educators or critics who say that maker education is “just a fad”?

To discuss and debate these questions and more, Day and Taylor came onto the EdSurge podcast. Take a listen, or skip below to get right to the Q&A!

EdSurge: Knikole and Cicely, both of you endeavor to bring the maker movement into your practices. How do you go about doing that—integrating making into what you do with both teachers and students?

Knikole Taylor: Right now I'm looking at it as more of a digital making standpoint in our district—just really trying to get teachers used to seeing digital tools as a part of what we do every day. It’s not something extra that you plan for or some extra fluff, but something that is really getting them to see that students should not only be consumers of things when it comes to technology but also makers. We want [students] to create, and we want them to be able to share their genius with the world.

I try to build up their confidence with digital making with tools from coding to website creation so that students can participate. And as I work with teachers to build up their confidence, it opens doors for us to work with students to do the same.

Cicely Day: This year, I got a grant from the Abundance Foundation to do maker mobile bags, [which] teachers and students will be able to check out. We had a workshop already around how to incorporate agency by design—basically maker thinking capacities around what they're already doing. I also have a Mouse Squad Club (which is starting in a couple of weeks), along with a coding club, and right now, it looks like it's going to be all-girls.

Last year, I had an afterschool Makers Club, and we did coding with our third graders, which we are doing again this year. We're just really trying to incorporate more making into what we are doing currently and build from there.

This all sounds exciting, but every once in awhile, when I talk to educators, there are those who tell me that they think making is a pain—that it takes away from other instructional practices. How do you react to somebody who says that?

Knikole Taylor: I think a lot of times, people come from that angle when they really haven't experienced making. They really don't have experience creating something new. Cicely, remember I reached out to you last year, and I asked you to help me get some things together for a mobile makerspace?

Cicely Day: Yes, I remember that! It was fun.

Knikole Taylor: And so, we have some things that teachers can check out in our district as part of our mobile makerspace. But with anything that I put into the space, I wanted to make sure that it was actually useful. [A lot] of times, teachers are just reluctant to try anything when it comes to making, or when it comes to coding because they don't see where it fits into “standards.” Anytime someone says it doesn't fit into what students are supposed to know; I really think they just don't have enough experience to see how they can make it fun and merry, especially with what the state saying what students should know by the end of the school year.

As with you and Cicely working together, that relationship component can be huge. And I see the same thing with role models! Just like students need role models that come from a similar background to them, or represent diverse perspectives, I hear teachers talk about that for themselves. Do either of you have a maker role model or mentor from an underrepresented background—someone who has brought you inspiration?

Knikole Taylor: Oh, I'll definitely say Cicely. I've reached out to Cicely a lot. I had a lot of questions when it comes to making and coding and getting teachers on board, rolling things out.

Cicely Day: Oh my God, Nicole. She does this to me every time. Well, I love Knikole. She's awesome, so I have her. I have Rafranz Davis, who is amazing and always willing to help. I have my mother, who is the queen of all makers. I think everything that she's done has resonated with me so much, even though she doesn't like to talk about it. I just really feel that everything [my mom]’s done has helped me do what I do now, as a teacher and as a maker. So yeah, I have a few role models.

There are a few other people out there: my friend Anika Barber, who's a gallery owner in Oakland. There's a lot of folk in the Bay Area that do a lot of amazing things. I think I'm very lucky to be surrounded by awesome women of color—smart, powerful women of color who really use their platform to help push and promote making for all.

Back in 2016, we had a woman of color, Suzette Duncan, write about the ways that the maker movement could be more inclusive of both females and people of color. Do either of you have specific tips or recommendations for how that could happen? When I go to maker events, the lack of diversity is still blatantly obvious both regarding gender and regarding race/ethnicity. So what do you think could happen to shape the Maker movement to reflect more the diversity of people that are interested in creating and hacking and tinkering?

Knikole Taylor: I think the first thing is that we have to be there and be present. It's funny because we've had this conversation before about other spaces. I think the biggest thing is being there, making sure that whatever we learn, we actually take back and allow students to learn, too.

Cicely Day: Oh wow. It could get a little contentious for me. I feel like reaching out is always a great way of including people, but I think the imaging of makers has always been predominantly white male, and not really women, white women, women of color, men of color. So, I think that just the messaging needs to change—just really putting out that there are people who are doing this work every day.

Not everyone might want to be visual. But, for the people who do want their images and their message to be out there, I think that should happen. Imaging is number one. And then, also just outreach, as well as really making things accessible. How people see themselves or can see themselves in this movement is really, really huge.

So, that imaging piece. I think, for example, of Make Magazine, which is probably one of the more popular publications that makers read. Is it enough to connect with members of that team and say “Hey, you need to include more diverse groups within these images” or “You actually need to get people of color into those positions of power in those organizations”? On a larger scale, do you find that your voices are taken seriously when you bring up these issues?

Knikole Taylor: I feel as if my voice is taken seriously. Cicely, do you feel your voice is taken seriously?

Cicely Day: I actually do think my voice is taken seriously. I don't think that people just dismiss my voice. Maybe people just don't know how to reach out? And I have other colleagues of color who are doing amazing work. Kenan Scott is doing amazing work. And Paula Mitchell is doing some great work here in Oakland. And I feel like their voices are also being heard.

For our last big question, why do you think the maker movement has the ability to change K12 education for the better?

Cicely Day: From what I've seen in the last two years of really incorporating making in what I do with students… when I see my students have access to different tools that they can use on top of whatever they have, it makes their educational experience a lot greater. It also exposes children to tools and other things they might not necessarily get once they leave school. I think it just really pushes on growth mindset and all the awesome buzzwords of the day—and, just as importantly, how you deal with failure and disappointment.

I feel like all those elements just automatically come out when you're making something. That could be drawing a picture, or cooking, or crocheting, or even solving a puzzle on a coding program. Everyone's a maker. Everyone has a skill. And whatever you bring to the table is valued. In education, because everything is so test score heavy, if you didn't do well on your test, then that means you suck as a human being…. [but] making makes children feel like they're capable and able to do whatever they put their mind to it.

I'm always down for Making. I always will be down for Making. Ball on a budget is what I do best.

Knikole Taylor: I agree. I just think making helps to build students’ confidence. ...It’s so rewarding to see those kids take that Maker confidence and that Maker mindset, and apply it to their classroom learning. That's one of the biggest things that I want for students—and it’s also great for teachers! It's good for teachers to fail, and to be able to think through and have that same mindset as students.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up