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Education

Maker Education: In a nutshell 

 December 23, 2022

By  Peter

This post is my latest Hack on apptime.app. It draws from one of the chapters in my book, Maker Education Revolution.

See the original Hack on Apptime (I have compiled a version of the Hack in this post).

This Hack is an overview of Maker Education (“in a nutshell”) organised into three Insights and six Actions.

Let’s dive right in.

Overview

Maker Education is a system of education that can be traced to the writings of ancient philosophers. This system is validated by modern research as a viable successor to the industrial-era mass-education paradigm, which is better suited to complex, high-tech societies.
Favourite quote

“Anything that we have to learn to do, we learn by the actual doing of it… We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate ones, brave by doing brave ones.”

Aristotle

Introduction

Aristotle spent a large portion of his life thinking about education and learning. Although not a maker himself in the modern sense of the word, Aristotle was perhaps one of the first to recognise the relationship between education with quality of life.

Aristotle is credited with saying that “the fulfilled person was an educated person” and emphasised that learning must be balanced, with play, physical training, music, debate, science and mathematics all playing a role in developing healthy minds and bodies.

Insight #1: Learning is lifelong and best done by doing.

In more recent times, philosophers and educators have worked diligently to understand learning and education in a modern context.

John Dewey, an American philosopher and reformer, greatly influenced the thinkers that eventually shaped the Maker Movement.

Dewey believed that students should and must be allowed to interact with and experience their curriculum and that they should be encouraged to take an active part in their learning.

Dewey is one of the first modern educators who argued that education should strike a balance between the delivery of knowledge and the wants and personal needs of the student.

Dewey became a proponent of hands-on learning and experiential education, which is related to experiential learning.

Experiential learning is the process of learning through doing and reflecting on doing.

Experiential education involves both a teacher and a student. It is the process of learning via the direct experience of the learner within the learning environment and the content.

Action point #1

Learn by doing

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally occurs”
— John Dewey.

Action point #2

Reflect on what you have learned

Learning is highly experiential. As a learner, you must take a moment to reflect on your new learnings. This can be done through testing, or simply writing down notes about your learning experience.

Insight #2: Learners re-construct knowledge through their experiences

Seymour Papert is widely acknowledged as the father of the Maker Movement (see “Maker Culture“). Papert developed constructionism.

Constructionism is the theory of learning that arguably best explains the efficacy of Maker-style Education.

Papert’s constructionism is, in turn, heavily influenced by Jean Piaget’s theory of constructivism.

In constructivism, a learner constructs a personal understanding and learning of the world through their experiences and their reflection on those experiences.

In constructivism, passive learning does not lead to a real learning experience, only memorising facts.

A student of Piaget, Seymour Papert, through his constructionist approach, created a framework that can be used to apply Piaget’s core constructivist ideas.

According to Papert’s constructionism, students learn by applying what they already know in practical projects designed to expose them to new knowledge.

The teacher is like a coach.

Step-by-step guides and lectures can be used as learning tools where it makes sense, but they are not necessary.

In Maker-style education, the critical component in constructionism theory is that students will learn best if they actively create tangible artefacts in the real world.

Action point #3

Learning as the reconstruction of knowledge (for teachers)

If you are a teacher, re-frame your role as someone that can help the student to construct knowledge. Teaching is not the transmission of knowledge; it is about setting the conditions necessary for the student to reconstruct knowledge.

Action point #4

Learning as the reconstruction of knowledge (for learners)

If you are a student, re-frame your role as a knowledge creator. Don’t expect your teacher to “give” you pre-fabricated knowledge. Rather ask your teacher for help in constructing the knowledge you seek.

Insight #3: Knowledge reconstruction tools

Papert demonstrated constructionism by creating educational tools, some still in use today. He was one of the first educators to advocate using computers by students to learn anything, not just computing.

This was in the 1960s, the very early days of computing. In those days, computers cost more than a car.
Papert suggested that children should be allowed to play with these machines and be encouraged to connect them to external appliances like lights and door locks.

The children could then write programs and create interfaces to control appliances from the computer programmatically.

This was the precursor of what today we recognise as “physical computing”, in which microcontrollers allow people to experiment with interfacing computers with the world around them.

A modern example of a physical computing learning tool is the Arduino prototyping platform. Lego’s Mindstorms robotics kits have been heavily influenced by Papert’s work and even bear the name of his important 1980 book, Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas.

Over the years, Papert developed various educational technologies that connected computer programs and software with the physical world.

All this was designed to help learners learn through experience.

For example, the Logo programming language was developed in his MIT lab. In Logo, the learner writes a program to control a turtle icon on the screen. The turtle leaves a trace behind it as it moves around the screen, which eventually can become an elaborate drawing.

The learner can see the result of an instruction in the program immediately on the screen and use that as instant feedback that can be used in the process of improving or extending the program.

Papert worked directly and indirectly on several other impactful projects, always informed by the principles of constructionism.

Maker Education is essentially an education paradigm by which learners learn by exploring their curiosities and by using real-world artefacts to construct and reflect on their learning.

Action point #5

Maker Educational tools help students construct knowledge

To determine if an “education tool” is truly compatible with the principles of Maker Education, consider if it is designed to help the learner construct knowledge.

Action point #6

Reference materials are still important educational tools

Materials such as reference books are designed to capture knowledge. They are an important part of a learner’s tool kit. A learner must be skilled in using reference materials in the process of constructing knowledge.

Wrap up

In Maker Education, knowledge is reconstructed (created) by the learner rather than transmitted by the teacher.

Students should interact with and experience their curriculum and be encouraged to participate actively in their learning.

The teacher is like a coach who sets the conditions necessary for the student to reconstruct knowledge. In sports, the player is active in the game to win it.

The learner constructs knowledge by doing what they want to learn.

Constructivist educational tools are designed to help the learner construct knowledge.

Such tools encourage learners to experiment, make mistakes, correct those mistakes, and reflect on their experiences.

Read the original book chapter here.


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