Makerspaces in the Classroom

Maker culture is a contemporary movement combining D.I.Y., hacker, and artisan ethics. Making embraces any craft from sewing to software engineering. Additional areas of interest include but are not limited to robotics, 3-D printing, virtual and augmented reality, drone and quadcopter engineering/flight, wood working, metal working, digital fabrication, and food production. Maker culture thrives on the urgency to create rather than wait until something is commercially available for purchase. Though it is quite possible to establish a corporate business through making, this group values networking and teamwork more than competition.

Dale Dougherty of Make Magazine and creator of Maker Faire believes transforming education is the maker community’s biggest opportunity. Making encourages learning by doing to develop one’s full potential. Making in the classroom provides a space for cognitive non-routine learning. This approach to education engages more students by focusing on active participation and allowing students to be inspired by their own work within their field of study.

Higher education can incorporate making into their classrooms by developing makerspaces—physical spaces sharing some aspects of shop class, home economics, the art studio, and science labs. Makerspaces require a nonjudgmental and safe atmosphere because this learning process is experimental. Failure is routinely the first result of a maker project. Working through the errors allows ample room for development and discovery, resulting in a deeper understanding of the subject. Makerspaces are not always a formal space. Making happens during class time, office hours, as homework, or on a student’s own time. Makerspaces can be no tech, low tech, or high tech, although many makers incorporate technology in their craft.

Naturally some departments and vocational schools already include making in their curriculum. The progression and awareness of the makerspace and maker culture allows more opportunity for making in general purpose classrooms, libraries, museums, and after school programs. Since routine jobs are becoming and will continue to be automated, it is important to prepare students for non-routine cognitive careers. Makerspaces are slowly but surely developing in K-12 schools around the world. When the next generation of students reach university level they will have certain expectations for how classroom learning should be structured. Incorporating makerspaces into higher education classrooms is an investment in the future of education.

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