• Rafia Shabbir

What is Maker Education?

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

Maker movement encompasses a group of creators, innovators, engineers, tinkerers, artists, and hackers who work collaboratively to design innovative and consequential products to solve real-world problems. This high-spirited and synergistic community calls itself makers and shares a common vision of making an impact through creative inventions and encouraging others to become makers.

Origin Of The Maker Mindset

This term was first coined in 2005 by Make magazine and the first Maker Faire in 2006. However, this mindset is as old as the life of humans on this planet. We as humans are extremely curious creatures. We work hard to discover the unknown and invent for our better lives since we started to populate this planet billions of years ago. Every invention that has a significant influence in our lives today like planes, 3d printers, rockets, machinery, and computers etc. is attributed to the Maker mindset.

What is the Makerspace?

The Maker movement believes in the incorporation of inclusive culture. Therefore, this movement emphasizes on shared spaces where makers can interact to share their ideas. The place where the makers harmonize to create prototypes of their impactful innovations is known as makerspace.

The primary objective of makerspace is to permit the free flow of creative ideas and information, while working cohesively as a community to invent something meaningful. Fortunately, because of technological advancements sharing and comparing project ideas and information has become easier.

Maker Education

Maker movement has taken the educational industry by storm. Maker education is a term coined by educators keeping in mind a famous and trending "Maker movement". Educators are eager to instill a maker mindset among students especially those studying the STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or STEAM (incorporates Arts in STEM) subjects.

Kids are already inclined towards project-based learning, i.e. they have a basic instinct to learn by doing and playing with materials. The maker education basically exploits this deep-rooted curiosity of children to make them innovators. The development of makerspaces in and out of the schools helps to enhance learning opportunities for students at an unprecedented pace.

When students work in harmony to accomplish a shared purpose, they become more empathetic. Incorporating the maker mindset in the school setting has the potential to nurture creative and learning skills of the students while encouraging them to think out of the box solutions for complex problems. Project based learning activities are critical to strengthen their content knowledge in STEM fields. Focusing on this pedagogy of teaching also supports active learning and drives greater student engagement.

Primary Elements of Maker Education

1. Learning by Doing

Maker movement harnesses the power of natural curiosity and creativity of kids. In other words, we can say that the focal point of Maker education is project-based learning or learning by doing. Learning through textbooks in a traditional classroom setting is a 20th-century thing. Traditional curriculum which is designed to prepare students for better grades and standardized tests has failed to give individualized learning experiences to students that are essential to build 21st century skills like critical thinking and problem solving.

21st century skills are built when educators emphasize on teaching STEM or STEAM concepts through inquiry based activities. These hands on activities allow the students to learn by prototyping their ideas in design studios or makerspaces.

Fortunately, we are living in the era of the internet which has made sharing of information and tools online much easier and affordable than ever before. Before the maker education, students were expected to get enrolled in the specific courses and keep studying up to a certain age.

After the completion of education, they were actually able to realize their ideas and start practical work in their fields. But maker education is revolutionizing the educational sphere by empowering the students to pursue their interests while studying. In other words, maker education engages students and prepares them to solve the complex real world problems.

2. Sharing is Caring

The maker community practically implements the saying “Sharing is caring”. Makers work in collaboration because they believe that it's about “Us” as opposed to “me”. Their outlook towards creation is not limited to projecting themselves, but they care about the people around them. They share their codes, designs, tools and ideas with other makers and embrace criticism with an open heart. In educational setting, this openness let the students think beyond instructor led classroom learning for grades and value the importance of practical inquiry based learning.

3. Taking Risks in Designing

Makers employ state of the art and modern technology to design their prototypes. The design of material-based prototypes or designs is an outdated concept now. Nevertheless, many schools are still using it. Now, the computers can be used to simulate impeccable designs that can be painlessly distributed, analyzed and enhanced.

Makers believe that “Practice makes a man perfect”, hence they are continuously looking for ways to improve their designs. Unfortunately, there is a little space for anomalies in material-based designs and the mistakes can be expansive. On the other hand, computer-based designs offer cheap revisions to the prototypes while enabling the students to take risks.

4. Thinking Out of the Box

Makers are not only interested in how the technological tools work, but they are also eager to use them for problem based learning. Take an example of a 3d printer. Makers not only decipher how it works to get 3d printed designs, but also utilize it for printing the design of the next AI-powered robot that will revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

Similarly, take another example of a computer algorithm. Makers are not only interested in how this algorithm works, but they are also determined to learn how this algorithm will be helpful in problem solving. Consequently, this mindset serves a dual purpose - helping to work on new inventions and improving the existing ones.

5. Encouraging Diversity in the Community

The Maker movement does not discriminate individuals based on their age, ethnicity, nationality, and country. It embraces people of all ages and nationalities, given they are passionate about deeper learning and sharing their expertise. This aspect of the Maker movement is very helpful for schools that want to embrace the Maker education because they can benefit from the mentorship of senior makers, scientists, designers and engineers.

Teachers may have limited content knowledge or experience in practical applications of the concepts. Therefore, it is a wise decision to take the gold standard expertise of senior designers, artists, engineers and scientists rather than just an instructor or teacher to make the professional learning experience more worthwhile for students. Alternatively, teachers can play the role of the facilitator to conduct the maker workshops and host the maker events. A teacher is responsible to create a learning environment that is critical for student interest development in STEM subjects. Consequently, students will be a part of multicultural learning community that promotes their success and retention in STEM courses.

Online Resources for Maker Education Projects

Now, that you are aware of what maker education is, you might be wondering where to start and fetch ideas to incorporate the Maker education in the class setting? Well, we understand that the Maker education emphasizes on sharing the knowledge, ideas, and designs. Keeping this attribute of the Maker education in mind, the number of schools and educators have shared their valuable resources online which will support you in your teaching journey. Some of these online resources are given below:

1. Makerspaces.com

This website shares many inexpensive and creative makerspace or STEM project design ideas and inspirations which you can incorporate in your class effortlessly. Interestingly, the majority of these project based instructions involve the use of recycled goods as raw materials that are easier to get and are pocket-friendly. You can also get the free Ebook on the website which has 250 + makerspace resources. In addition to this, the website offers many other E-books related to the makerspace ideas that can be purchased.

2. Makerspaces Australia

If you are teaching a course related to technology or engineering, then this website is a great resource for educators as they can find many useful project ideas. These projects are a brainchild of the group of four students belonging to the Queensland University of Australia who share a common passion of sharing technology-based educational resources with others.

3. Maker Education

This website has a collection of fun and exciting STEM projects that will help the students in utilizing their creativity to learn and invent new things. When you will click on each project on the left side of the web page, you will be exposed to tons of resources available on other sites. Students can also work on the projects by watching videos that are given at the bottom of each project resource.

4. Maker Ed

The place where makers collaborate to invent is known as makerspace. The design and aesthetics of makerspaces in schools are essential to foster creativity among students. Schools around the world are investing capital in designing professional makerspaces for their students. Maker Ed contains an extensive list of innovative makerspace ideas and inspirations which you may find helpful.

5. Getting Smart

This website contains an extensive list of makerspace projects which are tried and tested by professional teachers. The web page shares the resources which have been implemented in the schools already. The professional teachers have shared these resources because they consider them as a powerful tool for engaging students in STEM subjects.

6. Makezine

From science and technology to digital design, this website offers many makerspace project ideas. Follow this link to access the amazing list of makerspace project ideas.

7. Renovated Learning

This website has curated some of the great Maker education articles, useful advice and project ideas.

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you are an educator, then join the movement by integrating maker culture in your curriculum. It will be the best decision that you will ever take for enhanced student learning experience. The project based lesson plans in the above resources are intelligently curated and are easy to implement in the class. The resources will facilitate self directed learning and promote critical thinking among the students.

Don’t forget to share your creative ideas with the rest of the world online, if you have any. After all, you are part of the maker's community and it’s all about sharing 😊. If you like the article, then comment in the below section. You can also give suggestions for new topics.

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