The education sector has undergone significant shifts in the last decade. A common move toward data collection/analysis coupled with a move away from creativity and flexibility has left educators and students alike feeling like the classroom doesn’t foster creativity and invention like it used to. Today’s education landscape feels a bit dry, lacking opportunities for play, rich materials and extra time to participate in inspiring projects.
In addition to the significant shifts in curriculum, our nation is embroiled in a debate over the importance of fostering interest in STEM subjects and how best to ignite student passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While education professionals seek viable solutions, school are set in a holding pattern with little or no significant increase or revitalization of science or math curriculum.
Fortunately, there’s a technological and creative revolution underway that may change everything – the Maker Movement.
Amazing new tools, materials, and skills turn us all into makers. Using technology to make, repair, or customize the things we need brings engineering, design, and computer science to the masses. Hundreds of thousands of adults and children are frequenting Maker Faires, hackerspaces, and DIY (Do-It-Yourself) websites. A growing library of literature inspires learners of all ages and experiences to seize control of their world.
Online communities serve as the hub of a digital learning commons, allowing people to share not just ideas, but the actual programs and designs for what they’ve invented. This ease of sharing lowers the barriers to entry as newcomers can easily use someone else’s code and design as building blocks for their own creations.
Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of curious children and the power of learning by doing. It holds the keys to reanimating the best, but oft-forgotten learner-centered teaching practices. The magic of the middle years, where students can shift seamlessly between childhood play and preparation for serious academics are the perfect place for these engaging, transformative new tools and materials.
The Maker Kids
The maker movement celebrates the talents of young people like Sylvia (aka Super-Awesome Sylvia) who has a web-broadcast program, Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, where she sings, plays, and teaches her millions of viewers about electronics, Arduinos, and other fun projects.
Eighth grader Joey Hudy is a young maker and entrepreneur who surprised President Obama with a homemade marshmallow cannon at the White House Science Fair. Here’s the raw video footage, with the President providing some muscle power.
Caine Munroy is a young man who made an entire game arcade entirely out of cardboard and tape. A neighbor fell in love with Caine’s ingenuity and asked his father if he could make a video about the arcade. Not long after, Caine’s Arcade lit up YouTube. Caine and his arcade have inspired millions of people around the world. He’s received invitations to visit other countries, a scholarship fund was created for his college education, and a foundation was created to nurture creativity in kids across the globe. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa even gave Caine a cardboard key to the city! (See Caine’s TEDx appearance here.)
Of course these are extraordinary young people — but there are extraordinary young people in every city, every school, and every classroom who deserve the same opportunities to express themselves by inventing, creating, and making.