Why Make to Learn?

Makers, educators, and educational researchers are collaborating to better understand the role of making in teaching and learning.

Teachers everywhere know the power of hands-on learning to bring what they’re teaching off the page and the screen and make it matter. The maker movement—with its DIY ethos—is a natural fit for progressive educators who believe in the value of project-based learning. Projects like circuits and play dough, making your own butter, or robotics are exciting to teachers of all kinds in formal and informal educational settings.

But what are the key learning outcomes of a DIY movement? What specific activities, tools, and environments can help realize and enhance the learning potential of making? How can we make it appeal to a broad array of learning styles and integrate it into all kinds of educational institutions?

These are some of the questions a new research initiative aims to tackle this upcoming school year. With support from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine and the MacArthur Foundation, researchers at Indiana University will look at the value of making and figure out what further research is needed.  The plan is to encourage collaboration between the maker community, educators, and educational researchers to develop this research agenda.

The group held an introductory Make-to-Learn Symposium before the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Chicago last month, where educators, researchers, and makers gathered to talk about the role of making in educational practice.

Representatives from Iridescent, Global Kids, Mozilla, and the Hive NYC Learning Network talked about using educational digital badges for learning on maker projects; and young makers from Chicago’s YOUmedia spaces shared their experiences on projects like spoken word poetry and game design. And Lisa Brahms and Adam Nye from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh talked about how maker experiences, particularly in museum maker spaces, can bring families together and promote learning.  They heard from maker guru Dale Dale Dougherty, founder of Make Magazine and creator of the Maker Faire.

And they spent some time on some really cool projects.

The group is hosting a challenge this month on Instructables.com, asking young makers between the ages of 13 and 18 to share a recent project and answer four questions about what they learned in the process.  They say the contest is for everyone “Whether you’re making a pinewood derby car, a short movie, a videogame, a painting, a garden, a sweater, a science fair project, a school assignment.” Young makers will need to document their project in the step-by-step, photo, or video Instructables format. Entries are due by April 15.

Each entry will be judged by a panel of maker educator experts, and are eligible to win a gift card or an iPad mini. Browsing through the entries they’ve got already is inspirational. Check out the Church cake, or medieval dress, or this digital art lesson: how to draw ballerinas using Photoshop CS5 Extended.

And, for grownups, if you’re an educator, advocate, or researcher interested in following the Make-to-Learn movement and connecting around making, learning, and education, you can sign up for this new public listserve. To join send an email to maketolearn-l-subscribe@indiana.edu. And we’ll continue to cover their findings here at RemakeLearning.org.

Published April 05, 2013