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How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education

1 Jul 2015 by Heather Breedlove

Learning Manifesto: Learning occurs when a new experience makes connections to existing knowledge. Learning cannot be delivered to the learner. The best way to ensure understanding inside your head is through active construction of shareable things outside your head.

“The maker movement is the seed of something that is going to change the world,” said Sylvia Martinez, co-author of the book, “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom,” and former president of Generation YES, a non-profit organization evangelizing student leadership through modern technology. During her ISTE presentation of Maker Movement: A Global Revolution Goes to School, Martinez said the maker movement will change the world just as dramatically as the Industrial Revolution.

According to Martinez, the maker movement is, “People who are learning and working together to solve problems.” Problems can be big or small, and solutions can be community based, like fixing bicycles, or very high-tech, where people share their plans to 3-D print prosthetic hands.

“The kids in schools today will solve problems of tomorrow,” said Martinez. Although the problems of tomorrow may be unknown, Martinez feels that providing opportunities for inventing or making in schools will help develop the skills students need to think critically and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Maker Faires nurture entrepreneurship.

Martinez sees examples of this hands-on, problem-based learning at Maker Faires. She refers to them as, “The greatest show and tell on Earth. It’s like a cross between the Comic Con, a Star Wars convention and the Renaissance Festival.” Maker Faires are where people from around the country share their creativity, art and inventions.

One story Martinez shared was of a student named Andrew, who created an automatic dog feeder using Arduino, a microcontroller board. When asked if he would sell his design to a large dog food company, he responded, “Hopefully if it gets good enough I will be able to publish the plans online so that people can make it themselves, and make their own versions.”

Students get a voice and choice in learning.

Martinez says Maker Faires motivate students to actively engage in their learning because they love it, and they are driven to learn new things and share them with others. She believes the success of Maker Faires is because people are able to be responsible for their learning.

Teachers know students learn by doing, and that a hands-on, project-based approach gives students a voice and choice in their own learning. One way teachers can start bringing the maker movement into their classroom is to provide students with opportunities to create something that solves a problem.

“Kids are being invited to share what they know through the maker movement. It opens the doors for kids who can’t find it for themselves,” says Martinez. She says the maker movement can support teachers in the classroom with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), art, language arts and other areas of the curriculum. 

Try these 3 maker projects for the classroom. 

  1. Using a Makey Makey Kit, older students can create a carnival game for younger students. The kit connects to the computer, and the students program it using Scratch to create the commands of the game.
  2. The floors are messy at school. What can students create that will push the trash into the dustbins?
  3. Find a solution for videotaping with a small phone or tablet. What can the students create with Legos, tissue or other materials that will not only solve their problem but that they will actually use?

Martinez gives more project ideas for maker classrooms in her blog post, “Making Matters! How the Making Movement is Transforming Education.” She is helping educators bring making into the classroom through her book, “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom” and provides great resources to get started in the classroom on her blog, Invent to Learn.

Looking to start a Maker Faire at your school? Click on How to Make a School Maker Faire to get started.