What Makers Bring To Education

By Marie Bjerede     Oct 10, 2012

What Makers Bring To Education

What doesthe Maker movement have to offer education?  One compelling idea is whatsome many consider to be an upside-down way to learn.

Larry Rosenstock, founder ofHigh Tech High, started me thinking about this idea in a conversation we had on project-based learning. He pointed out that most programs teachkids in advance the skills they will need to succeed at the project, but Larry believes that the students should learn the skills as part of the project - just at the moment they need them.

Forexample, if one were to teach skills in advance for, say, scientific data collection, ateacher might show students pictures of the equipment they will use, test themon their ability to describe the function, demonstrate how to organize theirdata and warn them to label their axes--a somewhat mind-numbing approach.

Consider instead the opposite approach--laying out the objective of the lesson, and then helpingstudents discover what tools will help them reach their goal. Imagine, forinstance, that a teacher organized the lesson around activities such asdetermining water quality, cataloguing wildlife, or building a nature trail inuneven terrain. Students will wind up becoming deeply engaged in both thetask--and in how to accomplish it. They may at times get frustrated--but then thesmallest hint will send them seeking (and finding!) knowledge, and specializedequipment and tools, all of which will be seen as treasured gifts. What abeautiful and counter-intuitive way to think about teaching and learning!

It's thedifference between passively accepting data and actively seeking knowledge--adifference that involves mindset, disposition, context, purpose, authenticity,and a pack of other finely nuanced technical terms.

The Makercommunity takes an important step even beyond project-based learning in thatthe projects and goals themselves are chosen and initiated by the Makersinvolved. Makers choose to Make--whether they display the results in a booth ata Maker Faire, or have an ambitious project of their own that they want to bringinto the world. The challenges they encounter are their own challenges and thelearning happens on the way to creating something.

The Maker communityprovides an environment and context for learning to Makers of all ages. One of the salient characteristics of this community is the urge toshare--projects, skills, materials, and resources are available to anyone whohas the desire to learn. And the Maker Faire gatherings provide a wonderfulopportunity to find experienced Makers who can point a novice in the rightdirection. Online resources abound and many cities now have Makerspaces whereMakers have access to industrial equipment and fellow enthusiasts.

Noviceslearn through the guidance of more experienced Makers and over time becomeadept in finding and accessing the resources they need to accomplish trulyamazing things. Not only do they acquire specific skills--building a circuit,programming an Arduino, or welding the joints of a robot, for example--but indoing so they learn how to learn. In short order, novice Makers becomecontributors--perfecting a new technique, combining materials in a new way,sharing their discoveries back with the community, and perhaps helpingnewcomers to find their way in turn.

SinceMakers are focused on doing, rather than learning, the question “Why do I needto know this?” becomes irrelevant. As Makers participate in different physicaland virtual communities, they learn both the “hard” skills needed to complete asuccessful project and the “soft” skills of collaboration and communicationthat we all use as productive citizens. Since every project is unique, Makersare often faced with fresh opportunities to find a new way to learn or a newsource of information. What better example of an environment for learning couldthere be?


Marie Bjerede is a recovering telecom executive, #makermom, and citizen advocate for education. Bjerede funds and oversees wireless edtech explorations in school and runs a neighborhood young makers club with her 9-year-old daughter, Annika, where they learn together about sewing circuits, programming arduinos, and playing with low-tech and high-tech tools and materials.


What Makers Bring To Education

By Marie Bjerede     Oct 10, 2012

What Makers Bring To Education

What doesthe Maker movement have to offer education?  One compelling idea is whatsome many consider to be an upside-down way to learn.

Larry Rosenstock, founder ofHigh Tech High, started me thinking about this idea in a conversation we had on project-based learning. He pointed out that most programs teachkids in advance the skills they will need to succeed at the project, but Larry believes that the students should learn the skills as part of the project - just at the moment they need them.

Forexample, if one were to teach skills in advance for, say, scientific data collection, ateacher might show students pictures of the equipment they will use, test themon their ability to describe the function, demonstrate how to organize theirdata and warn them to label their axes--a somewhat mind-numbing approach.

Consider instead the opposite approach--laying out the objective of the lesson, and then helpingstudents discover what tools will help them reach their goal. Imagine, forinstance, that a teacher organized the lesson around activities such asdetermining water quality, cataloguing wildlife, or building a nature trail inuneven terrain. Students will wind up becoming deeply engaged in both thetask--and in how to accomplish it. They may at times get frustrated--but then thesmallest hint will send them seeking (and finding!) knowledge, and specializedequipment and tools, all of which will be seen as treasured gifts. What abeautiful and counter-intuitive way to think about teaching and learning!

It's thedifference between passively accepting data and actively seeking knowledge--adifference that involves mindset, disposition, context, purpose, authenticity,and a pack of other finely nuanced technical terms.

The Makercommunity takes an important step even beyond project-based learning in thatthe projects and goals themselves are chosen and initiated by the Makersinvolved. Makers choose to Make--whether they display the results in a booth ata Maker Faire, or have an ambitious project of their own that they want to bringinto the world. The challenges they encounter are their own challenges and thelearning happens on the way to creating something.

The Maker communityprovides an environment and context for learning to Makers of all ages. One of the salient characteristics of this community is the urge toshare--projects, skills, materials, and resources are available to anyone whohas the desire to learn. And the Maker Faire gatherings provide a wonderfulopportunity to find experienced Makers who can point a novice in the rightdirection. Online resources abound and many cities now have Makerspaces whereMakers have access to industrial equipment and fellow enthusiasts.

Noviceslearn through the guidance of more experienced Makers and over time becomeadept in finding and accessing the resources they need to accomplish trulyamazing things. Not only do they acquire specific skills--building a circuit,programming an Arduino, or welding the joints of a robot, for example--but indoing so they learn how to learn. In short order, novice Makers becomecontributors--perfecting a new technique, combining materials in a new way,sharing their discoveries back with the community, and perhaps helpingnewcomers to find their way in turn.

SinceMakers are focused on doing, rather than learning, the question “Why do I needto know this?” becomes irrelevant. As Makers participate in different physicaland virtual communities, they learn both the “hard” skills needed to complete asuccessful project and the “soft” skills of collaboration and communicationthat we all use as productive citizens. Since every project is unique, Makersare often faced with fresh opportunities to find a new way to learn or a newsource of information. What better example of an environment for learning couldthere be?


Marie Bjerede is a recovering telecom executive, #makermom, and citizen advocate for education. Bjerede funds and oversees wireless edtech explorations in school and runs a neighborhood young makers club with her 9-year-old daughter, Annika, where they learn together about sewing circuits, programming arduinos, and playing with low-tech and high-tech tools and materials.


From our Guide

How to Build Your Makerspace

How to Build Your Makerspace

further reading

Next In

Next in

STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.
STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.