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Innovating Pedagogy 2013: Maker culture

blendedlearning's picture

The Innovating Pedagogy report is an annual overview of edutech from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University. The 2013 report, the second in the series, selects 10 emerging innovations from the long list of existing technologies which the institute believes have the potential to make a significant impact on education. These are not technologies which are in development or even new, but rather technologies and ideas which are already being effected but have room to expand. The report ranks each innovation in terms of potential impact and timescale for implementation, describes its current application, and then explains the pedagogy behind the innovation and how it could be re-envisioned for maximum impact. One of the final innovations described is the renewed interest in, and revision of, maker culture.

Potential impact: medium
Timescale: medium

Perhaps surprisingly, the pedagogy behind maker culture is similar to the pedagogy behind learning through gaming. Maker culture works through many of the same means: social learning facilitated by the creation of informal and formal peer networks, providing a space for experimentation wherein failed attempts are valued rather than punished, creating implicit motivation to learn, etc. In fact, it seems that the primary difference between the two is all in the names: the idea of gaming vs. making.

As the report describes, maker culture is very literally focused on "the social construction of artefacts." Production - as one might expect - is central. As of now, maker culture is used to teach mostly on the peripheries, if not totally outside of, formal systems of education. However, educators looking at student disengagement and trying to rethink the way STEM subjects are taught are seeing potential in the way maker culture reframes learning. Proponents suggest that making STEM subjects more hands on could make them more alive and more appealing to students. Put more plainly, the basic idea is simple: these subjects will seem more real and more useful if students feel like they're making something real and useful.

Of course, it isn't enough for maker culture to have potential. The report goes on to explain that learning through making is also increasingly feasible. The necessary tools - from open source code to 3D printers - are becoming more affordable, and more readily available. The communities that support maker culture are becoming bigger and better networked. Despite this, it's worth noting that the report does not describe learning through making as a good fit for short term implementation. Even if much of the infrastructure is already in place, integrating maker culture into formal education will require a shift in perspectives and teaching methods that can't be rushed.

For more information or to read the full report, visit Open University's blog.