Magazine article Techniques

Becoming a Maker Educator

Magazine article Techniques

Becoming a Maker Educator

Article excerpt

The Maker Movement is a "global do-it-yourself (DIY) movement of people who take charge of their lives, solve their own problems and share how they solved them" (Roscorla, 2013). This movement is gaining traction in the educational sphere, in both formal (public and private K-16 schools) and informal educational environments (after-school programs, community makerspaces, libraries, museums, etc.). As such, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of articles about the Maker Movement and Maker Education in professional journals, as well as increased attention to the topic within school-related professional development activities and education conferences.

The convergence of several current-day trends--the DIY movement, affordable technologies, a focus on bringing STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) into schools, an abundance of information via the internet and a sharing economy--are also contributing factors to the growing interest in Maker Education (Gerstein, 2016a).

Some of the characteristics of Maker Education include:

* Hands-on, experiential learning, with learners being engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically.

* Participation in and engagement with authentic tasks.

* An integrated and interdisciplinary focus that often combines STEM, as well as art and Language Arts.

* Learner choice and decision making within the learning process.

* Personalized learning based on unique interests and passions.

* Learner-centric meaning-making based on constructivist principles.

* A focus on the process of creating, innovating and learning; the process is as, or even more, important than the product.

* Educational experiences which include "success, failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes of experience cannot totally be predicted" (Association for Experiential Education, n.d.).

* Getting immediate feedback when projects work well, work somewhat, or do not work at all. Assessment becomes a personal, natural and immediate process.

Being a Maker and a Maker Educator

Maker Education is not about the "stuff," the high-tech tools (robotics, low-cost computer components, 3D printers and other digital technologies), that can sometimes overshadow the reasons for being a maker and a maker educator. Maker Education is about a mindset--those thoughts and actions related to creativity, innovation, ingenuity, out-of-the box thinking and self-directed learning.

What's more, adopting the mindset of a maker educator means switching traditional roles in the classroom from content expert and deliverer to one of lead learner. This role and mindset translate into learning alongside and with students, as well as being intentional in sharing with learners the processes and metacognitions associated with learning.

This mindset also entails directly modeling the characteristics of Maker Education discussed earlier, e.g., authentic tasks, experiential learning, a focus on the process of creating, etc.

To develop skills as a maker, along with developing a maker educator's mindset, professional development for teachers needs to model and reflect best practices similar to those expected and exhibited in highly functioning and effective Maker Education programs.

Teachers and their administrators need ongoing and repeated occasions to tinker, explore, share, discuss and connect in resource-rich environments, which include an abundance of interactive and hands-on materials; a variety of easily accessible paper and online tutorials; and materials and resources to reflect on their learning and to share these findings with their face-to-face and online professional learning networks.

Integrating Maker Education Into the Curriculum

As Maker Education receives more attention and support, educators should keep in mind that making takes on many forms. …

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