Sit down, open your books where we left off yesterday, pay attention, underline, memorize… on and on day after day. I’m yawning just thinking about it. If just thinking about it is boring and monotonous, imagine being a student and spending your school days like that.
I don’t know about you, but when I was in school my eyes would light up when they’d tell us we were going to go to the lab, or the vegetable patch, or when they’d say the magic words: ‘Today we’re going to work on a project in groups’.
I didn’t care if it was a science project or a history project, or if we had to use the computer or not. The most important thing was that that day we were doing something different; we were going to explore and investigate by ourselves, and make something with our own two hands.
That’s what the maker culture is all about; students learn by doing and enjoy doing it. They use their hands and their heads to find practical solutions and they have fun at the same time.
What is maker culture?
It may seem like the maker movement is something new that’s arrived with the latest robotics, 3D printing, and open-code software. And although the maker culture is having a bit of a boom thanks to all of these digital and technological advances, it’s not new on the scene; it was born 50 years ago.
Maybe it was in part the non-conformist atmosphere of the 70s, or maybe because certain technological sectors were starting to emerge. But what began in this era in environments like Silicon Valley or MIT is in full swing in the classrooms of today (and the future): questioning, investigating, analyzing, and getting down to business to create a product or solution that solves a real need. This, in summary, is what maker culture is.
It’s everywhere you look. How many times have we watched a video tutorial with the hashtag #DoItYourself to learn a new skill? This curiosity will serve us well. The good news is that we can foster it in our classes and achieve learning sessions that are 100% productive.
Why should you promote a maker culture in your classes?
As we mentioned earlier, sitting in class and listening for an hour and then not having any contact with the content until the exam isn’t good for anyone. Maybe you’re lucky and find the topic of the day interesting, but after a few minutes, your brain disconnects; there’s no way of applying this information to the real world or taking anything from it.
When we receive information passively, we’re really not taking advantage of any of our higher-order thinking skills (HOTS), no matter what our learning style may be.
However, if we find the new knowledge useful and turn it into something tangible, it can give rise to new ideas, solutions, and products. In other words, we make use of our more complex cognitive capabilities, become creators, and reach the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised by Anderson and Krathwohl).
Let’s look at the benefits of promoting a maker culture in class and learning by doing.
1. Every student is a protagonist
Students can finally create their own products or solutions, using the knowledge they’ve acquired. Placing them in the center of the learning process means that the results will be unique to each student.
2. It increases self-esteem and participation in class
As a result of benefit number 1, each student will feel that their work matters and that they bring something different to the table. And we know that when you feel like your work matters, you get more involved.
3. It helps develop valuable skills for your students’ present and future
Teamwork is bound to be a part of their future and they’ll need to work with others to come up with solutions. On the way, they’ll develop important skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
4. It optimizes meaningful learning and makes class time much more efficient
Many different areas of knowledge are integrated in a single session. Each one will not be learned in isolation, but rather the most relevant information will be applied regardless of the subject matter. Learning by using and analyzing the most meaningful information in every moment will provide context and help students retain it better. More learning in less time.
5. It allows us to make the most of creating physical materials with digital products
There’s no need to choose between working with physical, tangible materials and digital materials. On the contrary! The best thing about the maker movement is that we can apply it to many different activities, initiatives, and products.
For example, we can work on an urban vegetable garden at school, where students actively participate in caring for and maintaining it. They’ll learn about identifying plants, sowing, using gardening tools, etc. and at the same time they’ll develop other skills such as collaboration, respecting the environment, and motor skills.
If we complement this activity with the creation of a digital product, the benefits and skills multiply. In this case, students could create a simple webpage where they could put photos, videos, and details about the different types of plants and the care they require, as well as news and updates.
With Genially, your class can create a microsite as awesome as this one, and with no coding required!
4 steps for promoting a maker culture with Genially
1. Transform the spaces
To adopt an authentic maker culture we must change things up and make use of different dynamics in the classroom. It will become a collaborative space where we feel free to work, share experiences, and resources and build as a team.
If we’re working in a classroom, we can reorganize the space to make it more collaborative. To do this:
- Keep the distribution of tables and furniture flexible and vary it according to learning needs. For example, if you’re going to work on a group project, group the tables so that each team has its own space. If you’re going to have a debate to discuss the solutions and products of each team, we can arrange the tables in a U-shape to better interact with the whole class.
- Create corners or spaces with the necessary material for each activity, make them visible, and encourage their continuous use and care. These spaces can include the classic materials and objects such as cardboard, glue, scissors, or even 3D printers, microscopes, laser cutters, etc. The most important thing is not the type of objects, but making them available to the students and making sure they use them properly.
- Encourage the use of digital tools. Maybe we have an interactive whiteboard and other devices. Or maybe our access to these tools is more limited and we have only one device per class. In these cases, blended learning is a great ally: we can combine classroom activities with non-digital elements, and with other online and home-based activities that require a digital device.
- Make the classroom an inclusive space where students feel comfortable. Bear in mind that what works well today might not work tomorrow. It’s about having a space that’s alive, flexible, and encourages the whole class to participate.
2. Opt for active methodologies
If you want to introduce the maker movement in your class in an organized way, do it through an active methodology such as Project-Based Learning (PBL). Although the teacher proposes a topic as a starting point, the students will develop the final product or solution, making their own decisions, researching, testing, and deciding what lines to follow.
To explain the process, give your class a canvas like this one with the building blocks laid out for them to use. Depending on their age, they’ll need a certain amount of help from you to get started, but then they can create and complete it on their own. It will serve as a reference document and to support the presentation of the final product.
In addition, working on projects activates computational thinking – don’t worry, we don’t have to know how to program! The idea is to break down problems into smaller ones, analyze the patterns of each one, and design strategies and algorithms to solve other problems based on those patterns.
3. Create a means of sharing with the rest of the school and community
With all the effort your class has put in, it’d be a shame not to share the final result, right? And, if we share their creations, we’ll be helping the rest of the school and the community, because:
- We’ll give them ideas and inspiration to put into practice in their own classes.
- They will see with their own eyes the result of working under this philosophy, the motivation of the students to develop and present their own ideas, and the increase in motivation in general. We will become ambassadors of the maker movement and pioneers of change 😉
To share their work and digital products, students can create an interactive dossier or portfolio like this one. And, they can share it with a link in the blink of an eye.
4. Evaluate simply and effectively
We know that our class has acquired new knowledge during the process and we are interested to see how they have applied it. Does their product meet the objectives set? Is it original? Is the information it contains accurate?
A very simple way to evaluate the final products delivered by our students is by using an assessment rubric. In addition, we can use the rubrics to evaluate other aspects related to the acquired skills, such as teamwork, proactivity, problem-solving skills, etc.
Check out this assessment rubric. It’s reusable, so it’s all ready for you to use in your classes and customize it however you like.
We could say that being a maker, more than a work methodology, is a life philosophy. Promoting it among our students now will mean that in the future they’ll know how to face all kinds of real-life situations with confidence. So, the earlier we start, the better!