What is Maker Culture?
A Maker Culture (or the Maker Movement) is one whereby students construct and build tangible objects or produce personalised content to support their learning.
Where did Maker Culture come from?
Maker Culture has its roots in constructivist and constructionist pedagogy which is founded on the work of Piaget Vygotsky Bruner and Papert. In constructionism (which builds on the ideas of constructivism) tinkering building creativity and exploring are key pillars of the learning process. These elements of “bricolage” are more regularly present in children’s learning where play and experimentation are part of the discovery process (Sharples et al. 2014). Maker Culture extends this concept to people of all ages where risk taking experimentation and iterative improvement are valued and encouraged.
Maker Culture is a product of the 21st century in which Web 2.0 technology (that encourages the creation and remixing of digital artefacts) and participatory culture are producing new spaces for creativity. The Maker Faire (a maker festival which celebrated creativity resourcefulness and invention) is an example of grass roots community driven approaches to learning and discovery which brings together a variety of people (artists engineers builders gamers etc.) to collaborate and create in the UK.
How does Maker Culture work?
The process of making creating and experimenting occurs both in digital and analogue spaces but is often part of a hybrid approach which connects the physical and digital worlds: the low-tech and the hi-tech. In digital spaces the use of Web 2.0 tools (e.g. blogs and wikis) and other representations (e.g.mindmapping and infographics) promotes a creativity that involves the remix and repurposing of other works and ideas. Innovations in technology including 3D printers and robotics are often part of the maker process and at maker events such as hackdays a variety of materials and tools are used (e.g. soldering irons Lego sewing machines Raspberry Pi Computers) for collaborative problem solving (NMC 2015).
This video explores Maker Culture as a generative and networked learning experience which is inherently interdisciplinary.
Where is Maker Culture currently being used and how?
At the heart of the maker movement is the idea of a learning space in which a diversity of people with skills and knowledge are brought together and a wide range of resources are made readily available to them. These maker spaces are a radical departure from the traditional function of lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
At Harvard University Professor Karen Brennan has reimagined the lecture theatre she was assigned to teach in re-purposing it as a creator space. Working within the boundaries of tiered fixed seats Brennan introduced small group working experiential learning activities and pasted the walls with paper to encourage students to draw the flow of their ideas.
Other institutions are building new learning spaces from scratch. Case Western Reserve University is investing £35m in a project to create an innovation centre that has maker philosophy at its core. The Think [box] centre for Innovation is designed as a makerspace in which hands-on collaborative learning is the driving principle of curriculum design.
In 2014 Arizona State University held an international Maker Summit to open a dialogue about integrating Maker Culture into degree programmes and the admissions process. This video details ASUs aims in advancing Maker Culture
In the UK Maker Culture is beginning to develop in Higher Education but some interesting case studies are emerging of grass roots movements with loose connections to formal education (e.g. FabPub - a commercial makerspace located in an old public house) The University of Arts in London is developing a MakerSpace MOOC with the aim of connecting makerspaces across the country and bringing Maker Culture ethos and experience to a larger audience. The availability of credit-card size computers is providing opportunities for students to produce inexpensive yet sophisticated devices in many STEMM disciplines.
What are the potential benefits of Maker Culture?
Maker Culture promotes experiential and social learning that is activity based. Through either problem-based or project-based approaches students are encouraged to be self-directed and purposeful in their creativity. A growth mindset is required to engage in iterative improvement in which learning occurs progressively through multiple failures; an important 21st century skill. The National Centre for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicentre) has collected some reflections from their Innovation Fellows about Maker Culture within universities. The benefits of developing problem-solving skills and hands-on practical expertise are a common themes as are the improved employability prospects of graduates who attain them.
How do I get started with this approach?
Visit MakeSchools.org a learning exchange which catalogues the impact of Maker Culture in Higher Education across the USA. It provides a rich picture of the maker movement by documenting a diversity of maker projects and maker spaces. Of particular interest is the MakeSchools interview series which explores what it means to make with a selection of leading enthusiasts.
In the UK there are many ‘Makerspace’ and ‘fab lab’ projects developing often around the interface with computing technologies. Many references will be finked though the technologies themselves e.g. BBC micro:bit and Raspberry Pi computers.
Other Projects from around the world can be found from the Maker Map http://themakermap.com/
How else can the HEA support my professional development?
The UKPSF provides the framework for recording aspects of professional practice where Maker Culture could be included. Find out more about UKPSF.
Come to a HEA event to share your experiences with your peers – See https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events-conferences
In your social media share your experiences of Maker Culture – you can tweet about it and include the #HEA to share it with those following the tag or perhaps you can submit a guest blog posting through us. See https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/blog
Talk and Share
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