What is the Maker Movement and why all the recent buzz in Education?

Karen Balliett explores the world of Making and Tinkering

September 16, 2013

Maker Movement, FabLab, Tinkering: It’s not your father’s workbench anymore

 

All summer long I enjoyed building on the evolving narrative that is shaping the education mission at littleBits. The key words and ideas inside that story include:

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As I moved through many lively conversations at STEAM Camps and littleBits workshops, I found myself returning to two themes: STEMtoSTEAM and the Maker Movement.

I noticed many educators leaning in to learn what the Maker Movement is all about. While those words may be unfamiliar to some, the ethos and activities that drive the Maker Movement will resonate for the educator who subscribes to an experiential and Constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning.

For many educators, Making locates its familiar counterpoint in the block area of the early childhood classroom, the hot pot on the classroom desk where Stone Soup is being heated and stirred, the woodworking bench with its array of familiar tools, art class, computer class, backstage where the high school crew is building the set for the school play—Making happens any time students use technology to make something. The Maker Movement of the 21st C is all about modern invention and innovation, and it combines new technologies into the mix to include open hardware (like littleBits,) computing platforms and programming tools (like Arduino,) and tools like laser cutters and 3D printers alongside say—a sewing machine.

Of all that I have recently learned about the Maker Movement, the news that most captured my interest as an educator, is the building momentum from educational technologists to enact a sea change: your school technology department may soon be morphing into a Maker Space or a FabLab. That led me to wonder: should coding and programming be incorporated into the Modern Language Department? A radical notion—and yet…technological fluency is a meaningful 21st skill for schools to build on.

MAKE magazine is a key resource to reference re: understanding Making in its current 21st C incarnation. They explain what they do like this:

Make (or MAKE) is an American quarterly magazine published by O’Reilly Media which focuses on do it yourself (DIY) and/or DIWO (Do It With Others) projects involving computers, electronics, robotics, metalworking, woodworking and other disciplines.”

Maker Faires are proliferating all over the world, and an increasing number of children are visiting those Faires and energizing a burgeoning Mini Maker movement.

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A bit of company history: littleBits founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir launched littleBits at Maker Faire NYC 2009. littleBits will be on site in NYC when Maker Faire 2013 opens for Education Day on Thursday 9/19 and runs through the weekend 9/21-9/22 at New York Hall of Science, Queens, NY. Check out our booth for workshops, demos and the new littleBits Exploration Kits! Ayah will be speaking at 11 AM on Saturday 9/21 on the topic “Children are Teaching Adults to Make Again.”

Exploration

Across the globe, Maker Spaces are multiplying in some surprising places to include a growing number of public libraries and museums. Here is a sampling of some of the institutions that are leading this STEM/STEAM initiative:

Harold Washington Public Library, Pop-Up Maker Space, Chicago IL

Fayetteville Free Library, NY

Westport Public Library Maker Space, CT

Carnegie Library, PA

Detroit Public Library, MI

Henry Ford Museum, MI

Exploratorium, SF, CA

NY Hall of Science, NYC

Newark Museum, NJ

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, PA

littleBits is a Maker’s tool—open hardware that requires no prior expertise. It is designed for tinkerers, designers and artists ages eight to infinity. litttleBits puts the STEAM into STEAM. We are a company born of all that defines the Maker Movement.

I have been crouching in the proverbial classroom circle for years, Making all manner of things with children. Everything I am hearing about the Maker Movement and STEAM excites me to invite you to consider:

What is gained when students of all ages have authentic opportunities to iterate, prototype, and innovate?

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Ayah Bdeir, littleBits CEO, admires a project created at the Global Makeathon.

Are you curious to learn more about MAKING and Education? Here are some additional resources to explore:

Maker Education Initiative

edutopia

FabLab

Remake Learning

Gears of my Childhood – Thank you to Marymount School NYC’s Technology Integrator and FabLab Administrator Jaymes Dec for this great resource on the iconic mathematician, computer scientist and MIT educator Seymour Papert’ and his childhood reflection on tinkering.

“Play is the highest form of research.”  Albert Einstein

 

maker logolittleBits hopes to see you at Maker Faire NYC!