It looks like fun but is it learning? The Maker Movement and formal high school education

This workshop will examine the rise of the Maker movement and its applicability to modern education.  Rooted in the fusion of affordable new technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, computing with good old fashioned hands-on tools, making and tinkering has redefined STEAM education for  the 21 st century. Classrooms that celebrate the process of design and making, which includes overcoming challenges, produce students who start to believe they can solve any problem. Students learn to trust themselves as competent problem solvers who don’t need to be told what to do next. This stance can be a crucial development  for children who are used to getting explicit directions every minute of every day. It can also illuminate for teachers how authentic assessment can really work in the classroom.

Inspiring examples like  fire-breathing sculptures, cupcake cars, bicycle-powered rock bands, soda and Mentos–propelled fountains, can offer motivation for workshops in programming, soldering, welding, lock-picking, knitting, crocheting and robot making. And as students develop their skills, we can focus on the process more than the end product. Makers are constructing knowledge as they build physical artifacts that have real-world connections.

The learning-by-doing approach also has precedents in education: project-based learning, Jean Piaget’s  constructivism  and Seymour Papert’s  constructionism . These theories explain the remarkable accomplishments of young makers and remind educators that every classroom needs to be a place where, as Piaget taught, “knowledge is a consequence of experience.”

The workshop will consist of an open dialogue between teachers and makers facilitated by Ryan Jenkins,  a pioneer of the maker movement, beginning in The Exploratorium in San Francisco and currently operating as Wonderful Idea Co., and John Riley, a Science teacher and communicator with experience in starting and running educational maker-spaces and clubs and developing curriculum-aligned maker projects.