Maker Faire: Quest for Survival Became Great Fun

Recently, as part of my program at Michigan State (MAET), I was exposed to something that I had vaguely heard about but never experienced, the Maker movement and by extension Maker Faires.

As we were introduced to the concept of the Maker culture through readings, visiting Maker Spaces, making circuits to light up bulbs, etc., I came to appreciate the need for this type of learning in our schools.

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A bit more background is in order before we dive too deeply into the details.  Making has been defined as “a set of activities that can be designed with a variety of learning goals in mind” (Halverson, 2014, 501).  A Maker Faire ranges in size from gargantuan to science fair size. The objectives of a Maker Faire are summarized in this article. Gegan (2014) explains that the objectives for a school maker space are to:

  • allow for a wide range of creative techniques
  • form new thoughts and ideas
  • find ways to gain deeper understanding of ideas
  • create new ideas while using them and sharing them
  • “be open and responsive”
  • show originality
  • show failure is expected, but not the end
  • “implement innovations”
  • “act on creative ideas”

As we looked into Maker Spaces, Maker Faires, and Makers themselves, I was struck by how much this movement has to offer to our students.  As we have spent more time delving into constructivist learning (FYI I mentally call it experiential learning) mindset in education, the need for experiential and experimental learning stands out as a desperate need in our schools.

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With that said if I were to be totally honest, the whole means of our discovery and implementation of Maker ideals was frustrating and a bit annoying.  Our instructors used principles from the Maker Movement and costructivist theory to teach us (or show us the way to our understanding) about this movement. Please don’t read that to mean it was bad.

Anyone that has been to my class knows that I put my students in the very same positions I was placed in.  I grew from hating the idea to having one of the most enjoyable two hours of my life when we had the Faire.  Why is that?  Our instructors cared enough about the movement to give us the space and time to come to understanding ourselves (with the appropriate amount of guidance). If they had just told us, I would not have grown to love it.

How does all of this relate to education?  I have always believed that students grow in their knowledge and problem solving capabilities when they are put in uncomfortable positions where they have a lot of unknowns.  The Maker Movement embraces that idea.

Technology is best learned through trial and error, as is a multitude of other disciplines.  With that in mind, how can this be utilized in my context at my school?

As you may have read previously, I am transitioning out of being a classroom teacher and into being the Technology Coordinator at my school.  In this role, I will have less control over a classroom (none).  However, I will have the ability to bring the ideas the Maker Movement holds to be true back to my colleagues.

I will also be in a place where I can actually provide the resources a Maker Space would actually need.  There are a few needs that I would have (such as space, teacher buy in, my knowledge of how to set it up, etc.).

With the information that I have found through articles, discussions with my PLN at MSU, and my experiences with organizing and executing a Maker Faire, I have identified these next steps:

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My one major concern for bringing the Maker movement into the school system is best worded by Ericka Halverson (2014).  She writes “Perhaps the greatest fear on the part of those deeply invested in the make movement is that attempts to institutionalize making…will quash the emergence, creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit that are hallmarks (of the movement)” (p. 500).

We need to keep this concern in the forefront of our minds so that we can notice when the slow creep begins.

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If you would like to see what my team did for our project, check out the plan embedded below. We used Ozobots to have students use Ozobots to explore computational thinking.  Through trial and error, students will discover how sensors work and how the color coding determines the actions of the bot.

They also will through experimentation and play form ideas of how the bots work and test them out.  They will be openly encouraged to try multiple different attempts to determine just how the bots work. Failure will be looked at as a step in the right direction.

 

 

References:

Gegan, W. (2015, April 24). 9 Goals of a Successful School Makerspace. Retrieved from http://www.fractuslearning.com/2015/04/24/goals-school-makerspace/

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-565.

Images:

Title image provided by Bridget Bennett.

List of Location image provided by Kelsey Masserant.

Image of Sparty Robot created by Christen Woodruff

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