Recently I have been doing a lot of research into something dubbed “The Maker Movement”. For those not familiar with this concept it is a belief in hands-on interaction with “stuff” in pursuit of individual creativity and accomplishment. Many Do-It-Yourselfers look to find alternatives to homogenized products and design, hence this trend towards personalized construction. This movement can be traced back to 2006 when “Maker Faires” started popping up around the United States where people could come together and share ideas and resources.
In education this theory of “constructionism”, first made popular by Seyour Papert, is filling a need in school where students are lacking in 1) basic skills in building and design; 2) an opportunity to wonder and experiment. Therefore, examples such as Genius Hour (first started in companies such as Google) taking 20% of class time for non-structured learning have become popular as a method to engage kids in student-centred learning and creativity. This educational practice in the elementary schools in our district is a positive first step to what I perceive is a powerful end-goal of creativity and practicality in preparing our kids for successful post-high school lives.
The Maker Movement takes the principle of following one’s passions further, pushing the concept– from researching and presenting digital content – to the production of physical objects with digital enhancement. In a basic sense it is giving back kids some of the skills that have been lost over the past few years (sewing, cooking, woodworking, metal fabrication, and so on), and in our high schools it has developed into our trades programs preparing students for careers. However, this is not a the true essence of what this principle in creativity and design is getting at for those who leave our school system – instead it is meant as a method for individuals to experiment with the essential pillars of constructionvism – discovery learning, project-based, and physical representations in the pursuit of meaningful goals.
We took a tour of a school in Abbotsford (Abbotsford Middle School ) to see how this concept has been applied to grades 6 through 8. Abby Middle has been blessed with a rich amount of resources to create a design space consisting of two components – a lab for design and a workshop for creation. In the lab Pittsburg Education (http://www.pitsco.com/) supplies component computer module programs, hardware, and extra supplies to create standalone labs for exploration. Some of these include CNC Manufacturing, Robotics, Rocketry, CADD (Computer Automated Drafting and Design), and CG&A (Computer Graphic and Animation). The design and creation is complemented with production through multiple 3D printers, t-shirt, hat and mug presses, a laser cutter, and a wood working area. All in all a very impressive set up to let kids explore their passions and push their persona limits of creation and innovation.
So where does that leave our classrooms at Poppy?
A good resource to start with in creating this type of production environment is Autodesk. This is a professional standard software company that supports many type of industrial production including 3D design, entertainment industry, engineering and other services. They offer all of their software for free, fully supported for any student or teacher on a three year license.
Programs such as Maya, AutoCad, and Mudbox support the creativity of students and the presentation of 3D sculpture and animation that can be easily converted to online presentations – whether as pictures or video.
Besides the high-end programs, Autodesk has a large host of mobile apps that can be picked and used by anyone – beginner to expert.
Here are just some of them:
Our classrooms will be exploring these programs and apps during the coming months to see how they will complement the hands-on learning that will be taking place. With the philosophy of constructivism focusing the learning of students, it will be fascinating to see how kids will respond to the freedom for exploration and use this type of experimentation/ presentation technology of enhance their creations.
Feel free to contact me for any questions or comments you have!
Chris Janzen, firstname.lastname@example.org