Making in education: let’s call it Maker Literacy

I’ve heard of many projects where FabLabs, Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and 3D-print companies do workshops with kids, from making their own personalized objects to building their own 3D-printer.

Today I came across this article on Edutopia, in which Sylvia Martinez explains how the Maker Movement supports learning theories that have learning by doing at the core. At the beginning of her article she says something very interesting:

“I also think that “making” shouldn’t be just making anything. Schools have a tendency to cherry-pick the easiest parts of implementing complex ideas. When we talk about making in the classroom, we have to continually raise the bar and challenge ourselves to create an academically worthy process. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to add computational technology to the making.

A computer with appropriate software means that opportunities for design, simulation, precision, accuracy, measurement, feedback, sensors, data, and programming are not just possible, but greatly enhanced. Interaction between the digital and physical world adds a level of complexity that results in greater understanding of both.”

I especially like that last sentence. You can easily stitch a model together in Tinkercad, using basic building blocks, but making that into a physical object may result in something unprintable on your machine. You can be told that it will not print, but nothing beats the experience of seeing it go wrong for yourself.

To see how the Maker Movement already enters schools, Edutopia published this wonderful story, how a boy brought making into his own school:

This story reminds me very much of the stories my generation tell about the introduction of the personal computer in their schools (and homes for some of them). I was lucky to have a father who bought an Atari 800 XL when I was about 6. Even though I was too young at that time, a few years later I did learn to type in some lines in Basic, so at that time I learned how programming worked.

I remember we were very patient computer users back then. Waiting for half an hour to load a game from a tape-deck was normal. And don’t get me started about the amount of failed attempts of loading in the last few seconds. Today, we are patiently waiting hours for our 3D-printer to finish printing. And don’t get me started about the number of restarts, because the first few layers didn’t stick to the print-bed.

Bringing the low-cost digital machines and electronics to schools is key to have more kids exposed to how stuff works and gets created in the real world. Now that we can afford to bring this set of tools into schools, we should. Just as we needed to learn about computers and the internet, we now need to learn about making. It’s time to introduce, what I would call, Maker Literacy in schools.

This article first appeared on STORYmines