Playwright Samuel Beckett once wrote "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." This quote could just be the basis of the "maker movement," which draws inspiration from Jean Piaget's constructivism and Seymour Papert's constructionism. Maker education focuses on the century-old idea of "learning by doing" — in other words, giving students the tools to try it out and acquire knowledge in the process.
"In maker-centered learning environments, students imagine, design, and create projects that align the content of learning with hands-on application," notes the Makers Education Initiative. "Maker education isn't about the stuff we can make, it's about the connections, community and the meaning we can make, and who holds the power to decide what our futures hold."
Educators who advocate for the implementation of maker-ed in classrooms focus their curricula on problem-solving by building or making things. Whether they be toy cars, dragons, animated puppets, or other digital monsters, students' toys and activities should challenge them to think outside the box and collaborate with those around them.
An essential part of maker learning is accessibility. This should be an important point for teachers considering using this approach to learning. "Today, the availability of affordable constructive technology and the ability to share online has fueled the latest evolutionary spurt in this facet of human development," writes Sylvia Martinez for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
Finding New Ways to Experiment
There are plenty of technological advancements that have made it possible for working adults — even children — to use professional tools to create. These can be anything from 3D printers, programming languages and apps to microcontrollers and robotics kits. There are plenty of resources for personal fabrication, physical computing and computer programming such as the 3D designer app SketchUp, Arduino's microcontrollers and the project Hour of Code, among others. These are all either free or very financially affordable.
Educators can teach nearly every subject with Maker Learning theories. Topics such as art, music, drama, woodshop, sewing and cooking need "to return to the daily experience of children trapped in schools with no time for anything but test prep. For too long, schools have undervalued learning with one's hands," notes Martinez. With the popularization of hyper-academic curricula and STEM and STEAM in schools, the need for a space to experiment with a hands-on application has grown. It's even possible to open the way for students to create their own space at home.
Megan Jacobs from Edutopia gives tips on how to do just that. Some of them include involving parents and giving students the option to ask for their help, allowing autonomy and a right of choice and encouraging learners to use the materials they already have at home.
Maker Learning is using what you have at your disposal — whether it be actual physical materials or knowledge. Students must be encouraged to find solutions and fail while trying, as failure and adjustment are essential steps of the learning curve. The U.S. education system focuses on perfection and high achievements that students may not be wired to respond well to failure. Maker Learning aims to redefine the fear of risk-taking and encourage students to try again.
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