Online resources for Maker learners
There are numerous high-quality online resources for makers to find inspiration, knowledge, and practical advice. Some of them will be highlighted in this post.
To guarantee that they focus on teaching and learning, I chose resources that are not directly supported by a specific equipment vendor.
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.
“We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education, and it's impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.”
— Ken Robinson
There is a wealth of online resources for makers from where you can draw inspiration and practical advice. This chapter will highlight some of them.
Part of what made the Maker Movement possible as it evolved over the past 20 years is the growth of the Internet as the dominating means of access to knowledge and communication on the planet. Peter Diamantis, the executive Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, delivering a TED talk in 2012, said that the average person at the time with a smartphone connected to the Internet had more access to information than what President Clinton had while he was in office (1). This is even more true at the time I am writing this, in early 2017!
There are numerous high-quality websites on the Internet that can be used as a source of inspiration and know-how. I list and discuss some of them in this chapter. I have selected resources that are not supported directly by a particular equipment of components vendor in order to ensure that the resources that I propose focus on topics such as teaching, learning, projects and community, rather than being a sales channel for corporates.
For some high-level inspiration, I invite you to visit ted.com and in particular to view two talks. The first one is by Dale Dougherty, publisher of Make magazine, delivered in January 2011, titled ‘We are makers’ (2). In this talk, Dougherty argues that America was built by makers, and that essentially, humans are all makers. He discusses the power of making to change the world, and the importance of technologies like the Arduino affordable 3D printers. His call to action is for everyone to start making!
The second talk is by Gever Tulley in February 2009 (3). Tulley is founder of the Tinkering School and in this talk he demonstrates the valuable lessons that children learn at his school. Once children are given tools, materials and guidance, they become imaginative problem solvers and start building. Under the right environment and circumstances, their passion can last for a lifetime.
There are many websites that contain step-by-step instructions for all sorts of projects. These projects are contributed by makers for other makers. They represent, perhaps, the best kind of project-based learning that resonates so well with the maker philosophy. An example of such a website is Instructables.com. Instructables has a special collection of projects specifically designed for children that employ mostly components that are readily available in most homes, or can be purchased cheaply from a supermarket or a crafts store (4). Example projects include how to make a rubber band helicopter that uses a propeller, a couple of craft sticks, masking tape, a paper clip, rubber bands, paper and scissors. Other example projects on Instructables that use similar materials include slingshot rockets, extending grabbers, siege engines and slingshot cars. There are dozens of projects that involve similar materials on Instructables that will keep young makers very busy.
In a similar way, Make magazine showcases numerous craft-type projects on their website. For example, in Ten Easy Woodworking Projects, makers using basic woodworking tools can learn how to make DIY wood toys for kids, chairs, puzzles, couches and coffee tables (5). In the craft category, we find projects on a diverse range of topics, like how to set up your own astrophotography rig using a Raspberry Pi, how to grow a crystal around an LED powered by magnetic induction and how to create a 3D optical illusion using a discarded clear CD case.
At diy.com you will find projects categorised by skill. For example, if you are interested in wind-related projects, like making a kite, parachute or a wind turbine, you can look them up in the Wind Engineer category. This site promotes the social aspect of sharing. It invites makers to post a picture or a video of their creation on the site for other makers to see and comment on it. It is incredible to see the great variation of implementations of the same idea. One set of instructions of how to make a wind turbine, for example, yielded dozens of implementations, ranging from dual-mode powered turbines (wind and hand), to paper cup turbines, and paper and cardboard turbines (6). The possibilities are really endless!
Apart from instructional websites, there are also explainer websites. These are resources that help learners understand how something works, be it a machine or a natural process. For example, howstuffworks.com explains almost everything, from how Stonehenge worked to how batteries and dishwashers work. There are many topics in science, health and many more to explore through. From tapping into alternative sources of power to surviving in post-apocalyptic Earth, it is all explained in howstuffworks.com.
A more academic resource is Wikipedia, of course. Wikipedia is an online encyclopaedia, the largest of its kind on the Internet. It contains over five million articles in English, and many more in other languages. Its content, in true maker fashion, is contributed by volunteers who are experts in their area of knowledge. The articles available through Wikipedia are written, updated and corrected by volunteers, and are provided with full citation. This is rare for virtually any other source of information on the Internet outside of academic publications, which typically require paid subscriptions or access to a university library. Wikipedia articles include a list of citations which provide evidence for the validity of the information they provide, and also include links to additional reading materials. While the article on wind turbines in howstuffworks.com provides a high-level description of how they work, in Wikipedia you can find a lot of details, including formulas for calculating their maximum power output, classifications, alternative designs, and of course almost one hundred citations and suggestions for further reading.
A resource that emphasises the social aspect of Maker Education is Maker Camp. Maker Camp offers free resources to people or organisations who choose to set up a physical Maker Camp in their area. In this Maker Camp, which can be set up in a local library, school or other public facility, children from 7 to 12 years of age can meet regularly over the six weeks of their summer holiday and work on a series of projects. Camps like these promote interaction and group working. A mentor and facilitator is responsible for helping the children work through the projects that they have chosen. Maker Camp is sponsored by Make magazine and Google+. Google+ provides the online space on which camp attendees can post information about their projects and describe their experiences. Anyone can apply to Maker Media to become a Maker Camp host, and if approved they will receive support to assist them with the organisation of the camp.
Finally, an online resource worth spending time on for any educator is FabLearn, supported by Stanford University and its Graduate School of Education (7). FabLearn’s mission is to disseminate ideas, best practices and resources useful to educators, policy makers and researchers from around the world in order to help them with implementing constructionist learning (e.g. ‘making’) into formal and informal education. From the FabLearn website, people can download the Meaningful Making ebook at no cost, that contains project ideas, best practices and relevant articles from leading educators in the space of making and hands-on education (8). It is perhaps the best place to begin your journey in Maker Education.
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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1. An introduction
2. A brief history of modern education
An education in crisis, and an opportunity
3. An education system in crisis
4. Think different: learners in charge
5. Learning like an inventor
6. Inventors and their process of make, test, learn
7. Maker Education: A new education revolution
What is Maker Education?
8. The philosophy of Maker Education
9. The story of a learner in charge
10. Learners and mentors
11. Learn by Play
12. Deliberate practice
13. The importance of technology education
14. The role of the Arts in technology and education
15. Drive in Making
16. Mindset in Making
Maker Education DIY guide for teachers, parents and children
17. Learning at home: challenges and opportunities
18. Some of the things makers do
19. The learning corner
20. Learning tools
21. Online resources for Maker learners
22. Brick-and-mortar resources for Maker learners
23. Maker Movement Manifesto and the Learning Space
An epilogue: is Maker education a fad or an opportunity?
24. Can we afford to ignore Maker Education?
25.The new role of the school