Before Caine’s Arcade there was a small group of people working away with children and young people in hackerspaces teaching them to solder and think about basic concepts of engineering, electronics and how networks work. The people behind Caine’s Arcade saw the alignment between digital literacy, technology skills and how concepts like DIY align to self-directed learning methods.
At Australia’s first Games for Change Conference in November, I spoke to the need for makers and teachers to unite and begin designing and creating learning environments that are playful, DIY-inspired, and bring together the ideas and philosophies of both cultures. I said these things well aware that makers were on the rise in education.
Now, in early 2013 there has been a maker education explosion.
It wasn’t just Caine’s Arcade -- the rise of maker culture has been slowly bubbling out of sheds, science labs, tech workshops, in schools and learning spaces. But, suddenly it is very present. The Imagination Foundation that has emerged out of energy and excitement of Caine’s Arcade is raising funds and investing in projects that support maker activities in education. The New Maker Education Initiative, backed by a range of organisations including Intel and Pixar, has just launched its first project called Maker Corps. This project will be recruiting Maker Corps members that will serve as near-peer mentors and role models in a variety of community settings. Maker Corps members will be employed at a Host Site (science center, children’s museum, school, library or other youth-serving organization) for the summer of 2013 to engage children and families in creative projects that develop problem-solving skills, while gaining experience serving as a community leaders.
There are conferences like the Make2Learn which aims to “leverage DIY culture, digital practices, and educational research to advocate for placing making, creating, and designing at the core of educational practice”.
For good reason, we are finally seeing an improved understanding of the holistic approach to education. Those behind the maker and education alliance can see that science and shop belong together. They understand that in developing technical skills, even young children are developing in a range of ways. They are building confidence and self-esteem through creating and producing something; they are facilitating the development of problem-solving skills through learning about iterative design processes, and they are even improving the literacy and math skills that are fundamental to being a maker.
I am expecting to see the Maker Movement well-represented in the K12 Horizon Report when it comes out later this year. The convergence of technology and education is fast moving beyond traditional spaces of screens and into a world where students can build robots, can play with tools like Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi. Teachers are encouraging their students to think about how to hack devices like Microsoft Kinect and engage with networked sensors like Smart Things and Twine.
Here in Australia, the specialist science and technology center, Quantum Victoria is running a program to teach teacher’s how to print and build their own 3D printers so they can take them back to their schools and teach students to do the same.
The rate of change in this space is very rapid.
This is the start of a new take on digital learning environments. This alignment between makers and educators is the beginning of the digital jumping off the screen and the classroom becoming a networked space in both digital and analogue terms. What does education look like when students begin to build and create? What does it mean when they do this with chips and 3D printers and the hardware that for so long has simply been sitting on their desks?
I’m not exactly sure. But, I do know it is a horizon we can all make together.
Thumbnail and CC photos via the_exploratorium
About Daniel Donahoo
Daniel Donahoo is a researcher and author interested in childhood learning and development, as well as technology and emerging literacies. He has published two books, Idolising Children and Adproofing Your Kids. Daniel is currently the Director of Project Synthesis where he works with education and community organisations to support digital capacity, inclusion, and research. He is a contributor to Wired's GeekDad.com and collaborates on digital projects like In B Flat 2.0. He tweets @ddonahoo and can be found at danieldonahoo.com. The NMC first came to know Daniel through his NMC Horizon Report coverage in the Huffington Post.
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