To Infinity and Beyond with Makerspaces

Photo courtesy of SAM Labs

By: Laylah Bulman, Education Strategist

Want to know a secret?  MakerSpaces are not the end-all and be-all in the future of education.  That place is rightly reserved for insightful educators who understand there is a seismic shift occurring in the field of education, fueled by the need to replace the 1930’s factory-driven model of education.

The STEM-infused Maker movement represents a significant evolutionary step because it returns the process of learning to its roots while infusing it with new technology and systems.  The movement empowers students to develop their own ability to think critically in an environment where facts are fleeting.

STEM and Maker are engines for rigorous learning for the challenges of today and the future.

The educator of the 21st century faces Herculean tasks: they are expected to create students who master state-mandated course exams, leverage classroom technologies which often include coding and presentation technologies, plus demonstrate deep learning to innovate on ideas of old.

Still, it’s no secret that many schools continue to embrace factory-styled processes for systematically communicating knowledge thought fundamental to a good education. Practically speaking, in today’s “traditional” classroom, an instructor is the primary source of all information. In this setting, students desperate to learn, eschew their cell phones – or at least one earbud – enabling data to seep over and cascade through them.

Enter reality.

The factory school approach has stood the test of time – except that real life now intrudes.  It has been said that known facts about the physical world are so quickly decaying that everything we have learned in school to this date will shortly be obsolete. Editor’s Note: we fully expect rock, paper, scissors to be operable well into the year 2110. That aside, we all need to continuously embrace learning to function in life, real time. Simply put: in the future the skills that relate to learning rather than retaining facts will be of greater value over time.

We don’t have to debate the merits of the new and old to appreciate many approaches to learning that can lead to student success.  However, there can be no denying that instruction in the old ways is a detriment to the student. The environment where students get a chance to conceptualize, try and fail is invaluable in a world where accumulating the most knowledge-to-date is becoming obsolete.

The elephant (3D printer) in the room

In the MakerSpace environment, waiting for the tools and materials to uncover their value for the benefit of students is a little like expecting the tools to define the process thinking like this can blind teachers to the tremendous value of this environment – open ended problem solving.  Instead, focusing students on “what problems can we solve” rather than what problems can we solve with a 3D printer, the tools become enablers rather than the features to be to be incorporated into the Maker Space process. Instead, a clear framework for pedagogy and application in Maker is key to having students make, re-mix and innovate.