Friday afternoon, I will hop on a plane and fly to Atlanta Georgia for the 2014 ISTE conference. I missed the last couple of conferences as I had multiple competing events. I am excited to see what this year has to offer. There has been much happening in the world of educational technology. It seems that the conversations for the longest time have been around 1:1, BYOD, Web 2.0 in the classroom, 21st century skills (whatever that means), PLN’s and other trendy marketing terms. I suspect that this year will see more of STEM and STEAM but my real excitement is for where the Maker Movement will land in the conversation.
While it also seems like a trendy term, and likely is, I believe it is one that really has possibilities for changing the way school is done in the future. For those of us who like theory, it seems that the construction of knowledge has been at the root of what it means to teach in a progressive classroom. Students construct understanding as they wrestle with real problems. This has been manifested in the forms of experiential education (Bruner and Dewey) and Problem Based Learning PBL which was born out of the field of medical education back in the 1960’s. While the Maker Movement draws on these theoretical constructs, it is highly informed by the work of Papert and what he termed constructionism- the idea that students actually produce objects of their understanding and knowledge is constructed and archived through the physical building of objects of understanding. For a great read on this history and the foundations of this movement, I highly recommend Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. You will also find this book a great resource as you explore “making” as a method in your classroom.
What excites me about the Maker Movement is not that it is new. After all, we had wonderful “maker programs” in our public schools for years until they were removed to make room for more rigor to prepare all students for college and preparation for all of the state mandated testing that has become so popular in our educational system.
SIDE NOTE: Check out the word RIGOR. Have you used this term as a positive in redesigning your courses? Does your school talk about making courses more rigorous as a way of making them better? Do you hear conversations about how classes need to be more rigorous? Again, check it out. What part of RIGOR do you want in your classroom? While there are education dictionary sites that are trying to change the definition of rigor by justifying the misuse of the term. If we want a term that means “stimulating, engaging, and supportive”, we should just use those terms or may I humbly offer Challenging as a possible replacement.
Now…Back to ISTE…Yes, the maker movement is not new. I recall taking Woodshop, Drafting, Print Shop (Yes, print shop where I set physical type and learned to use an offset pres- now that is technology), and perhaps what has been the most useful, imapactful for me- metal shop. It was a crime that these were removed from education in Los Angeles Unified School District back in the mid to late 1980’s. These classes were far more than “shop”. This has me wondering, why is it that the maker movement is coming back? What is interesting to me is that the conversation about the Maker movement is involving teachers of the Arts, Computer Science, and Science. It is interesting to walk into some maker spaces and see the return of drill presses and milling machines among the soldering irons, circuit boards and computers.
In my mind, what makes the Maker Movement so compelling is that it really does not belong to any one domain. While the old versions of maker classes where seen as trade classes, this new version actually draws from many different disciplines integrating knowledge in ways that require “makers” to make connections is novel ways. It has new respect and is actually celebrated! Students today are inventing and making things that truly illustrate what they understand. In many ways, they are practicing Papert’s vision of constructionism. What will I construct this year at ISTE?