Maker Movement Taps Into Deep and Rich Tradition
The maker movement in schools now has a bible. There is a new book aimed at educators wanting to inspire students to become makers called Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom, by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.
Part philosophical treatise, part hands-on recipes and part inspirational, the book helps teachers and parents come up with projects to engage kids. They range from creating customized projects to programming computers and mobile devices to creating your own wearable computers such as a sweatshirt with turn signals that flash while you peddle your bike. There is advice on how to use Legos to make your own robots or how to incorporate Arduino, an open source single-board microcontroller that’s being used increasingly to create or control objects or environments that can interact with sensors.
The book’s page on “The eight elements of a good project” is worth the price of admission because it helps the reader understand what can work in a classroom. Martinez and Stager don’t want teachers to dumb down projects but encourage ones that “prompt intrigue in the learner enough to have him or her invest time, effort and creativity in the development of the project.” There is also advice on how to plan a project and how to find the necessary materials.
I was also glad to see the authors put the maker movement into an historical context with a chapter devoted to the history of how educators, artists and inventors — beginning with Leonard da Vinci — have been encouraging DYI projects. I was pleased to see them pay homage to John Dewey, who, they write, “advocated for students to be actively engaged in authentic interdisciplinary projects connected to the real word.” And I was personally gratified that they mentioned the resurgence in “open education, classroom centers, and project-based learning” during the ’60s and ’70s, because I was deeply involved in that during my UC Berkeley days, when I helped run the Center for Participant Education. Later, I ran the Center for Educational Reform, in Washington DC.