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Busted: common myths about maker education
Part 1: It’s expensive

 

Adam Horvath 2021. 06. 21. 10:59

Pricey. Only suitable for STEM subjects – and students who are already interested in them. Requires special expertise and tons of extra effort from teachers. These are just some of the most common misconceptions about maker education that hold schools and educators back from embarking on their makerspace journey. In our new series, I’ll take a closer look at the four most widespread maker myths and sort fact from fiction. Here’s part one.

 

First, the question is what we’re putting a price tag on. Let’s run through what maker education is, how it fits into curriculum delivery and what outcomes it can bring, both for educators and for learners.

What’s maker education for?

Maker pedagogy is a set of methodological approaches that supports the development of a variety of competencies.

As opposed to memorizing facts, it fosters long-term knowledge retention and a better learning experience.

It can take place in any environment, but it’s best applied in a workshop setting, where children are free to use and experiment with tools and technologies to see how the things they’ve learned about in class work in practice – and transform information into useful, hands-on knowledge.

In terms of theoretical roots, maker education is basically a form of constructivist pedagogy practised in a makerspace environment. The term ‘constructivism’, however, does not refer to the construction of objects but of knowledge. It goes back to the 1960s, when pioneers of constructionist and constructivist learning recognized that students are not empty vessels to be filled with information. They argued that this cannot be a desirable outcome of education, nor is it a sustainable one. Instead, the creation of one’s own knowledge happens through social interaction. Children build new understandings and concepts as they talk or read about our world and connect with others in it, a process that is extremely personal and different for everyone.

How does it work?

Maker pedagogy, and making in general, is probably educators’ best bet to make this learning model a reality. In maker classes, children use a combination of cognitive processes as well as skills and knowledge, like maths, writing or reading, without even realizing it, while building new knowledge for themselves. The teacher’s task is to create a setting and come up with workflows that facilitate this process with guaranteed results. When developing Maker’s Red Box, one of the challenges was to create a learning design where students with different backgrounds and strengths can develop a common ground for building knowledge.

What do we need to make it work?

Our teaching materials offer frame stories that transform children into eco-engineers or superheroes, while helping them develop knowledge through an active construction process driven by curiosity and creativity, challenge and reward. Whether it’s about homeostasis or how to design and then 3D print a pipe elbow.

The output of maker activities can be aligned with the curriculum or any learning outcome requirements – and the input with schools’ budget, space and technology allocation.

All you need is a workshop that’s good enough for achieving them, no matter if it’s filled with new or used, high-tech or low-tech equipment.

How the investment will pay off

But back to the high price myth: if you’re just about to buy your first 3D printer or laser cutter so you can run a maker ed course, it will certainly put a dent in your budget. But if you look at all the different ways these tools can be embedded in classroom activities across grades and subjects, it’s easy to see how the investment will pay off in the long run. Take buying a new desk as an example. If you get a desk only for the purpose of folding a single paper aeroplane on it, it’s not worth the cost, even if it’s the cheapest desk available. Use it for years to come, however, and it becomes an investment you’ll be glad you’ve made.

To bring a more practical example, I’ve recently visited a local school that’s part of an initiative to help teachers unleash students’ creativity through digital technologies. In one of the classes, the students printed a teddy bear as an award for whoever fares best in the in-class environmental science test. I thought it was such a great and easy way to bring children closer to 3D printing and use it as a motivation booster at the same time.

Even better, it also proves that investing in maker technologies can go a long way in enhancing the classroom experience – way beyond a course or a workshop.

Download our ebook on maker education

We’d love to share the insight we have gained in the past five years experimenting with it. Read Unleash the power of maker education: a guide for teachers. It contains ten questions about getting started with maker education, all answered.

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