Maker Movement Manifesto and the Learning Space

To create a flexible and engaging learning environment, you must be adaptable. This post examines the concepts that should guide any Maker Education learning environment to ensure that it adheres to the Maker Education spirit.

Maker education revolution

Conventional education is struggling to provide the learning environment necessary to help raise the future innovators, problem solvers, and entrepreneurs that advanced societies need. Maker Education offers a model for education in the 21st century.

“Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process.”
— Carol S. Dweck

The environment in which learning takes place is also a significant part of the process. The environment must be designed in a way that is compatible with the fundamental principles of Maker Education. Because Maker Education-type learning can happen in so many different places, like the home, the classroom, makerspace, a library, a community hall, even outdoors, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of what it actually looks like, and what kind of equipment it contains. The designer, the educator and the learners have a lot of freedom to design these elements of their learning environment.

Being adaptable is the key to creating a working/learning environment. This chapter looks at the principles that should guide any Maker Education learning environment in order to ensure that it stays within the spirit of Maker Education.

The key characteristics and guiding principles of Maker Education are summarised neatly in Mark Hatch’s Maker Movement Manifesto (1). The manifesto names these principles:

  • Make
  • Share
  • Give
  • Learn
  • Tool up
  • Play
  • Participate
  • Support
  • Change

The designer must take these principles and convert them into physical space. Let’s take each principle at a time and consider its meaning in terms of physical space. Some of these principles are mostly behavioural in nature, while others are mostly activity-oriented. For example, ‘Make’ is mostly an activity, while ‘Play’ is mostly a behaviour. All of them have elements of both types; none of these principles are entirely of one type or the other.

‘Make’ is in the centre of the Maker Education learning experience. It is the activity that the learner will spend most of their time doing. To make, they will need a table or bench. Bigger is usually better, especially as projects become more elaborate in complexity and size. The maker will need to have space for the object they are building, the various components and building materials, tools and most often a computer.

‘Share’ is about using what you have made or what you learned from what you have made to improve the lives of others. Sharing comes naturally. When someone sees your creation, they can ask, “How did you do that?” which will trigger the sharing of your knowledge, centred around the object. In the physical space, sharing tends to take place predominantly in wide-open working spaces, rather than confined and compartmentalised spaces. Tools like whiteboards and notice boards are also great for making the sharing of ideas easier. Avoid partitions and doors, unless there is a good reason for using them. For example, it makes good sense to place a noisy machine in a separate room with a door instead of in the centre of an open makerspace.

Sharing can also be done through putting aside a few shelves in a bookcase where completed artefacts can be placed for people to see. Think of it as a display cabinet, a mini exhibition in the learning space. You can call it something like ‘This is what we made’.

Sharing happens a lot in online communities. Owning a blog is a great way to share knowledge and discoveries with learners outside your immediate community. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Teachable, etc., are also great places where learners can share. These online tools are equivalent to the physical whiteboard and the display cabinet in real space.

‘Give’ is a behavioural characteristic in which you give someone something that you made. Everything a maker makes contains a small part of themselves in it. As a consequence, giving is an important gesture towards another person, an acknowledgement of appreciation, gratitude or simply good will. A learning space does not need to make any special provisions for giving, other than perhaps having adequate storage for the things that are made so that nothing has to be thrown out. Things can wait in storage until their time comes to be given out.

If ‘Make’ is the positive lead of the battery, then ‘Learn’ is the negative. These two are complementary to each other and a powerful electrical (creative) force field is created in between. You must learn before you make, and you will learn because you make. The learning environment must be designed for learning. Think about the materials needed: books, one or more computers connected to the Internet, furniture, comfort, light. You will need bookcases that are easily accessible so that books can be stored and displayed. A lot of learning happens by accessing online resources on a computer. Therefore, your learning space will need enough computers connected to the Internet so that learners don’t have to compete for their use. Just like there is an abundance of knowledge on the Internet, there should be an abundance of access devices to that knowledge. There should be comfortable chairs, armchairs and couches on which the learner can sit and become absorbed in whatever it is that they are learning.

‘Tool up’ calls for learners to have access to the right tools for their project. These tools must be locally accessible, instead of being locked in a separate storage area. This means that a storage cabinet or similar, appropriate for the tools, should be available in the learning space.

‘Play’ is about exploration without goals. It is about discovery and expanding mental horizons. The maker learning environment must be playful. It must be colourful, informal. The walls can be painted in vivid colour. Creation materials like Play-Doh and Lego can be made available. Things like the Idea Wall, which is a wall covered with a white-board friendly paint of a normal white board from top to bottom, invite you to write on them and generate ideas for whatever you happen to be working on.

‘Participate’ is about reaching out to the people around you, close and far. It is about organising special events, mini Fairs, classes and in general opportunities for makers to get together and learn from each other. Your learning space can facilitate these gatherings. It will need to be modular and flexible to change depending on the nature of the event. For example, if you are organising a seminar, you will need more seating than usual and a projection screen. If you are organising an exhibition, you will need no seating but instead you will need more displaying furniture than usual.

‘Support’ is about thinking of making as a statement about how you believe the world should be, and to be willing to support it. A movement needs support, be it emotional, intellectual, political, etc. You can reinforce this commitment to the collective Maker Movement by doing something as simple as hanging a poster of the Maker Manifesto (2), or your own version, on a wall, or images of creations that you or other learners in the learning space admire. Decoration can stir up the right emotions, and from there activities in support of the movement may arise over time.

Finally, ‘change’ is constant. This may sound like a strange concept, but it is true. In making, everything changes, all the time: technology, objectives, skills, people. As everything changes, your learning space should be flexible enough to be able to change accordingly. Allow learners to customise their small part of the space without disrupting others. It is important for everyone to have at least part ownership of their environment, to look after it, and to know that they have the power to make changes to it if they need.

Designing a learning space is a collaborative process. Talk to everyone that is affected: teachers, students, parents. What are their concerns? What are their practical considerations? What about the kind of behaviours that they hope to encourage or discourage among those that will be using the new space? Their concerns must be recorded and addressed.

Finally, there anyone organising a maker-style learning space must consider safety. It is a very different design that promotes student engagement versus one that promotes organisation and safety. Both are necessary, so a compromise, a middle ground, must be found. Safety issues can dictate changes that would not have been necessary otherwise. Equipment requirements for things like power and ventilation also introduce constraints that must be worked around. For example, the position in the space where soldering is done should be well ventilated so that soldering fumes don’t spread and the learners are not exposed to it. Consider installing a fume extractor or make equivalent arrangements for removing the fumes. Also ensure that the electrical infrastructure is safe. Consult a licensed electrician to design and install ample power points, and include residual current devices, and powerpoints with protective shutters. Position power tools and their operating stations close to a supervisor who can keep an eye on them. None of these provisions need to get in the way of creative making, but all of them add a level of safety.


Maker Education Revolution

Learning in a high-tech society.

Available in PDF, Mobi, ePub and paperback formats.

Using Maker Education as a model for education in the 21st century, Dr Peter Dalmaris explains how teachers, parents, and learners can apply the educational methods of inventors and innovators for the benefit of their students and children.

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