We must re-imagine school curriculum not as a way to prepare students for the next academic challenge, or a future career, but as a place where students are inventors, scientists, musicians, painter, poets and mathematicians today.
The Maker Movement, a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe, has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.
Fortunately for teachers, the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. By embracing the lessons of the Maker Movement, educators can revamp the best student-centered (in-fact human-centered) teaching practices to engage learners of all ages.
The big game-changers of the Movement should be on every school’s radar:
• Computer Controlled Fabrication Devices
Over the past few years, devices that fabricate three-dimensional objects have become an affordable reality. These 3D printers can take a design file and output a physical object. Plastic filament is melted and deposited in intricate patterns that
build layer by layer, much like a 2D printer prints lines of dots that line by line create a printed page. With 3D design and printing, students can design and create their own objects.
• Physical Computing
New open-source micro-controllers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical and digital worlds in ways never before possible. Wearable computing – in which circuits are made with conductive thread-makes textiles smart, flexible, and mobile. Plug-and-play devices that connect small microprocessors to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors mean that low-cost, easy-to-make computational devices can test, monitor, and control your world.
Programming is the key to controlling a new world of computational devices and the range of programming languages has never been greater. Today’s modern languages are designed for every purpose and learners of all ages.
Hard Fun and the Process of Design and the breadth of options and the “can-do” attitude espoused by the movement is exactly what students need.
Tinkering is a powerful form of “learning by doing,” an ethos shared by the rapidly expanding Maker Movement community and many educators, that inspires students to dig deeper and construct big ideas. Making learning hands-on honours the learning drive and spirit that is all too often crushed by endless worksheets and vocabulary drills.
Real science and engineering is done through tinkering. We owe it to our children to give them the tools and experiences that actual scientists and engineers use, and we are at that point in time when we can bring these tools and learning opportunities into classrooms. There are multiple pathways to learning what we have always taught, and things to do that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
There are extraordinary young people in every city, every school, and every classroom who deserve the opportunities to express themselves by inventing, creating, and making. All students need experiences that call upon their heads, hearts, and hands.