One of the emerging trends from the 2014 NMC Horizon Report is the growing prevalence of MakerSpaces in education. MakerSpaces (also called HackerSpaces) are places where people gather to build projects, collaborate, and incubate ideas. The best way to think of them is like “Industrial Arts class” for the 21st Century — a flexible place where people can come together to do real-world, authentic work tasks outside of a traditional business setting.
There has been a long-standing trend in education of relegating vocational education to a second-tier status. Students who struggled academically were told they were “good with their hands” and tracked into industrial career training, while kids who could sit still and be quiet were deemed “college material” and offered honors courses in liberal arts and abstract math. The Maker revolution re-unites these two groups, bringing the physical and the digital together in an agile, DIY atmosphere.
A MakerSpace is lean, flexible, and informal— they bring together people from different backgrounds and skill sets to solve problems, discuss ideas, and develop skills. Rather than being a purpose-first shop with a bunch of specialized equipment, MakerSpaces are “people-first”, where anyone with a good idea can find collaborators and tools to push it forward. This “people first” attitude means introducing technology to people who have traditionally been absent from the monolithically white, male, affluent tech industry.
In the uncertain modern economy, MakerSpaces are an expression of the individual entrepreneurial spirit needed to succeed. While many twentysomethings languish in an endless cycle of unpaid internships in “old economy” businesses, MakerSpaces are where new business ideas are born and nurtured. Rather than wasting young talent and creativity, MakerSpaces are where those virtues are cultivated. Rather than pushing the public out, MakerSpaces are designed to invite the community in, foster dialog, respect diversity, and share learning broadly. They are workshops from whence the “new economy” will emerge.
In fact, a commercial on this year’s SuperBowl lists all of the revolutionary ideas that started in somebody’s garage— the electric lightbulb, the Motown sound, the personal computer. You can think of a MakerSpace as a garage where you can meet your future partners.
I credit a MakerSpace here in Oakland for helping me turn my career around after the California budget cuts of 2009 erased my job as a high school teacher. TechLiminal in Oakland became my spiritual home and introduced me to a world of passionate, talented individuals with different interests, coming together to build skills, solve problems, and be in community. I started taking classes there in digital journalism, WordPress web design, and CSS. Before I knew it, I began teaching my own classes in blogging, photography, and personal productivity software. Four months after losing my job, I had a growing resume of technology skills and experience that I gained while unemployed. These skills led directly to my current job as an instructional designer at Samuel Merritt University.
MakerSpaces in education can nicely support a project-based learning approach. In both paradigms, students do authentic real-world tasks, learn project management and communication skills, and work towards mastery, not grades.
Explore the links below to learn more about MakerSpaces and HackerSpaces– or better yet, find one near you and go visit!
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