What is the pedagogy behind a Maker Space?

I recall being a freshman in college in my first education class and hearing the professor mention the word pedagogy. I thought to myself about how it was a funny word, but I had no idea what it meant. Little did I know that pedagogy would soon become a word that I would not only know but use on a regular basis. Education has always been an evolving field, and eve more so with the promises technology brings. New pedagogies emerge into the field and bring with them new ways of best practices. One such example is that of a Maker Space.

“A makerspace is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build” (Educause, 2013, p.1) The first makerspaces were developed completely removed from an education setting; however, soon spaces could be found in colleges and universities. The idea behind these makerspaces was a push for self-directed learning, where community environment is key. At the college level, advisors may be available, but the push is for you to interact with peers. These spaces were areas for prototyping designs with supplies available for use. The fields most notable for utilizing makerspaces were engineering, computer science, and graphic design.

As I read about makerspaces and the impact for education, Stager, G said it best it shows children that nothing is impossible (2014). As makerspaces continue to evolve and develop, they can be found in other classrooms. For example, sixth through eighth graders designing video games or building robots during their lunch hour. “Children should engage in tinkering and making because it is a powerful way to learn” (Stager, G., 2014, p.1). Every classroom has the potential to become a makerspace and watch as students are benefited.

Research shows that long-term projects, like students designing wearable technology, is more effective for students (Stager, G., 2014). When you walk into a makerspace you find active classrooms and engaged students. Further, it helps students who learn best by doing and promotes a multidisciplinary approach to both thinking and learning (Educause, 2013). Much like the Flipped Classrooms, students are able to take control of their learning and in turn become more involved in what they learn. Students are able to take ownership over what they create and design.

In creating a makerspace, the best thing you can do is start by having students make something, which can be something simple (Stager, G., 2014). The first idea that came into my head in regards to designing something was the ol’ egg drop, where students are given supplies and they are tasked with designing a protective cover so that an egg would not break upon dropping from a specified height. Other helpful tips include asking for help, imaging the best, but budgeting for the worst, and knowing that you are not alone (Rubenstein, M., 2014).

I can see many positive benefits to implementing makerspaces in classrooms. I know many of my students who would be engaged in such projects, especially since the ideas are already in their head. I do have concerns about my younger students, especially some who come from elsewhere and seem to have lost their creativity. I have some who need very specific directions in order to complete a task, and still others who are not confident in their abilities as a learner. In my mind, the hope is that if I chose to incorporate the makerspace pedagogy in my classroom, it might help the students conquer these insecurities or difficulties.

Educause. (2013). Makerspaces. 7 Things You Should Know About. Retrieved June 8, 2015, from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

Rubenstein, M. (2014, August 4). How to make a makerspace: six things you don’t realize you should know before getting started. Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://makezine.com/magazine/make-40/how-to-make-a-makerspace/

Stager, G. (2014). What’s the maker movement and why should I care? Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3758336

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6 thoughts on “What is the pedagogy behind a Maker Space?

  1. You make some great points about the evolving world of educational best practices. What changes I have already experienced and there seems to be some cool things ahead. I’ve never heard of maker spaces before and am profoundly intrigued about their implementation. I know students love to create and this provides them a great way to get excited about learning. I saw a lot of connection between maker spaces among STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and I wonder about using this teaching method in social studies as well. As I start to wrap my mind about that (being a social studies teacher) I also wonder what roadblocks to implementation I might encounter. I’ve done group projects and discovery lessons before which are somewhat similar. I guess the bottom line is handling all the freedom you are giving your students to create and how we as teachers are holding them accountable for that time.

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    1. I think makerspaces could be implemented in any classroom, but it would take the right person to do it in the right way. As with most best practices, implementation is key and it takes time and effort to make sure things are implemented in a way that is meaningful for students. One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to be willing to simply try something new. You can always make adjustments to improve lessons or ideas, but if you never take the first jump/risk, you’ll never know if it works for students.

      The biggest parallel I saw with our school and makerspaces are our science fair projects. Students work for months on these projects and then present them to judges who are scientists themselves. The biggest change to make these projects more of a makerspace would be to provide an environment in school for students to work on these projects. I think some of your social studies projects and discovery lessons could turn into a makerspace easily…maybe they build a model of something from history or a backdrop to use for a play that they may perform in class or for parents.

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  2. As I have reading and researching about maker spaces I think of classes that used to be offered at the high school that I attended. Classes like auto mechanics, woodshop, electricity, home economics where hands on learning was promoted. Students actively learned through play, exploration, discovery, collaboration,

    In an article that I read, Why the “Maker Movement” is Popular in Schools(2013), the author reminds us that beginning in K-2 students make things with play dough, legos, blocks, and other objects. Some where along the way the maker mindset gets lost. The author goes on to point out how students spend a great deal of time just pushing buttons and expecting things to work rather than wondering how and why they work. It would be ideal for every school to have maker spaces where students could take a class built around maker curriculum.

    http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/Maker-Movement-Popular-Schools.html#

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    1. I appreciate the extra source, and applicable activities for younger grades. 🙂 I’m very safety conscious, especially since I have younger to middle aged students and not all of them understand how to be safe with equipment. Further, I have students who are lower maturity that I would worry about using the equipment mentioned in the sources I found. Using legos or play dough can be very beneficial for students, especially since I love playing with them and can learn with the students. I have seen with our preschool students the curiosity that you are talking about and wondering ‘why.’ However, I also see that some of my students do just expect things to work. In my classroom, if I student comes to me with their iPad, for example, and they are having trouble with it, I ask them what is wrong and how they might solve the problem. I do this to get at the bigger picture that you are mentioning – the why. The last thing I want is for children to become reliant on me and stop being self-directed students who enjoy learning. Thank you for your insights.

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  3. I have the same concern as you about some students not having enough creativity or imagination to be independently successful at a maker space. Especially because I know that I was that way when I was a student. When I was asked to do something with little to no guidelines I would freeze up and get neevous about what I was supposed to do. I think when first introducing a maker space to students it would be beneficial to provide some example activities for those students who feel more comfortable with some direction, but allow those other students who can run wild with their imaginations on their own, to do so.

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