This article was first published by Education Technology Solutions.
In a new book, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, internationally respected educators Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager capture the excitement of the Maker Movement and share the educational case for bringing making, tinkering and engineering to every classroom.
According to Martinez and Stager, the Maker Movement, a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe, has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, ‘smart’ materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create an innovative, collaborative community of global problem seekers and solvers. The Maker Movement in education is built upon the foundation of constructionism, which is the philosophy of hands-on learning through building things. The key message from spending hours in this book was that the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. By embracing the lessons of the Maker Movement, educators can revamp the best student-centered teaching practices to engage learners of all ages.
A Maker Space is a virtual and physical space that serves as a community hub for the Maker Movement in education – a place for inventing, tinkering and hacking. An innovative and non-structured environment where learners can connect, create, collaborate, share, invent, tinker, build and explore the elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) through experiential play. A Maker Space is flexible by nature, where tools, technology, expertise and networks evolve and change to suit the range of student-led DIY projects, sometimes with the help of mentoring from experts in the field. In some schools, these areas are found in libraries, media centres and computer labs. For educators with limited space, creative use of tinkering tables in the class breakout rooms or a dedicated corner of the classroom suffice in providing students with the same learning experiences.
Matt Richards, the Director of Edtech and Innovation at St Columba Anglican School, Port Macquarie is leading the Maker movement in Australian schools. Matt manages The Hub at St Columba, a permanent learning space for K-12 students that has many tools including a 3D scanner and 3D printer; a Raspberry Pi (a credit-card sized computer); an Oculus Rift (a virtual reality headset for immersive learning and playing); Goldie Blox (an engineering and construction set designed by female engineers to inspire young, female students); Chrome Boxes (compact computers); an Alienware computer designed specifically for gaming purposes; as well as blank computers for installing existing and new operating systems, and computer hard-drives that can be opened, taken apart, and explored. The school also participates in collaborative online environments where their students can share and explore virtual spaces with students from other schools, no matter the physical distance.