“Dublin Mini Maker Faire 2013” by Science Gallery Dublin is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
In 2004, respected American publisher O’Reilly Media launched a magazine dedicated to readers interested in technology from a do-it-yourself (DIY) point of view. The idea behind MAKE magazine was formulated by Dale Dougherty, an O’Reilly Media executive who came up with the Web 2.0 term to describe the Internet applications paradigm of the early 21st century.
The Maker Movement got started thanks to the enthusiasm of MAKE readers. The magazine wanted to celebrate the hands-on and DIY mindset of its readers with an event organized for the purpose of bringing a community together; it was this desire that launched the first Maker Faire and its subsequent editions.
In essence, the Maker Movement combines the ingenuity ethos with modern technology and innovation. This is a community that enjoys curiosity, tinkering, learning, and making; for this reason, Arduino and 3D printing projects are very popular among Makers.
Education and the Maker Movement
The Maker Movement has evolved in a way that presents an attractive proposition for educators. The Maker Movement experience is similar to what an ideal course curriculum should be; MAKE magazine is a combination of lesson plan and delivery while readers who attend Maker Fairs are like engaged students enjoying a school science fair.
Members of the Maker Movement embrace critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration; these happen to be the tenets of active learning.
What educators have noticed about the Maker Movement is that it runs parallel to the principles of learning by doing in the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields.
The Maker Movement inspired the creation of MAKESHOP, a special learning space within the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. At MAKESHOP, children are given materials and tools to build creations through circuitry, textiles, woodworking, and other real-world activities.
By following the principles of the Maker Movement, a STEAM Makerspace can be developed by just about any school. A Makerspace can be like a combination of a traditional school science lab, crafts shop and home economics workroom. The idea is to give students an opportunity to tinker, observe and experience with real materials instead of with assembly kits.
Advanced technology has been utilized by educators as long as it has existed, enabling them to leverage its potential and surpass the limitations of traditional teaching and learning methods. Educators who have closely followed the Maker Movement have determined three major technological activities that are well-suited to the learning-by-doing methodology:
1 – Fabricating
The rapid development of 3D printing in the last few years has made it more accessible to the public, and this is good news educators who wish to implement a STEAM Makerspace.
Learning does not have to be linear anymore; technology has enabled multimedia and hypermedia, which are highly didactic. 3D printing in the classroom makes sense insofar as students are able to design and create their own objects; meanwhile, teachers can create engaging lesson plans about 3D modeling so that students can use computers and software to scan, download or mask models they can ultimately print.
2 – Physical Computing
With scalable robotics kits in the Arduino category, students use sensors, interfaces, controllers, and moving parts to bring the physical and digital worlds together in the classroom.
The current state of robotics at the consumer level is a wonderful opportunity for a STEAM Makerspace. The idea goes beyond teaching about robotics; students can be encouraged to learn about innovations that they can not only enjoy but also make. Two examples in this regard are the Flora and LilyPad versions of Arduino, which are micro-controllers specially designed for wearable computing projects.
With Flora and LilyPad, students can create wearable computing projects that they can be sewn to fabric with conductive threads. Furthermore, conductive ink allows students to combine graphic design with wearable devices.
3 – Computer Programming
Both critical thinking and logical reasoning can be developed through coding projects. The key to getting students interested in programming is to introduce them to the most appealing aspect of the Maker Movement, which is to stop being a passive consumer of technology and become a creator.
Young students tend to be captivated by the idea of being able to create programs that can control devices they use and enjoy. When it comes to coding these days, there is no limit insofar as the number of languages and their purposes.
In 2015, elementary schools in Slovakia introduced a special curriculum that starts with coding simple Java projects in early grades before moving on to full-fledged Android programming by the ninth grade. For education officials in Slovakia, the national economy is at stake; this country, which traditionally relies on manufacturing, would like to switch to a knowledge-based economy.
In the end, the Maker Movement in the classroom can give teachers additional roles as technology facilitators. For students, the added responsibility of taking on projects that can be accomplished through active learning is beneficial to their development. Learning-by-doing involves collaboration and engagement, which ultimately results in higher standards of learning.