Building, making, creating, inventing, re-imagining, exploring, discovering, re-purposing.
These are all words that come to my mind when I think about the “Maker Movement”. To begin exploring what the “Maker Movement” is and what it means for teaching and learning in the 21st century, each person shared a resource/reading related to the the “Maker Movement”. This was done in the ‘slam’ style, meaning each person had 1 minute and 30 second to give the audience a overview of the main ideas and highlight any important information they located with that resource.
Through examining a wide variety of resources to gain a ‘big picture’ of what the maker movement is we were exposed to a variety of sources – from magazines, to YouTube videos, to websites created about kids. To me, the big idea is moving from a ‘consumer based’ society – where you have to go and purchase everything you need, to a ‘maker-based’ society where you can create and design everything you need – based on other improving other peoples ideas or inventing something new. It is encouraging a movement of DIY’ers (Do-It Yourself’ers) to utilize technologies that have previously been too expensive for personal use, such as C and C machines or 3-D printers, to challenge the traditional economic patterns. The movement is highly collaborative – with physical and online ‘spaces’ to encourage the sharing of ideas, specialties and resources and the partnering of people with similar interests in building and creating that may not have known prior.
One misconception that I had regarding the maker movement was that the people who were involved were traditionally trained designers and creator such as architects, artists, and engineers and it was a more structured process. In actual practice, the members of this maker movement come from all spectrums of society in a very free flowing, interest based involvement.
Then the fun began! We were able to explore four different “maker kits”. Each maker kit contains a various assortment of hardware (circuit boards, wires, components), that allow you to remix the pieces to create new uses for the materials. Each kit is slightly different in its components, which provide the parameters for what you can create.
LittleBits – This kit contains various electronic modules which clip together. The different modules are color coded to assist with the creation process. Each module seems well constructed and would pass the “kid test” of not breaking too easily. The system is powered by a USB which can either connect to a charger or a computer. With the 10 minutes that we had to explore, we were able to create 2 different systems using a light, motion sensor, and fan! The entry point on this maker kit is fairly low, as it is very graphical and the instruction set included in the box was very helpful to get started. The extended kit cost $149 + shipping/taxes, but would provide endless hours of creative energy.
Makey Makey – This kit contained a MaKey MaKey (computer board), alligator clips, and USB cable. It allows you to create touch buttons using house hold items to control items on your computer. The entry point for this maker kit was low – the instructions included in the box were straight forward, and we were easily able to construct a controller to play a computer game using the contents of the kit and some coins. The kit sells for $49.95 + taxes/shipping, but could provide hours of enjoyment and re-purpose some household items!
Raspberry Pi – This kit was the most intimidating to open as there were no instructions and the box was jam packed with electronic components that weren’t labelled! With a little exploring, we managed to put a few pieces together and navigate to the homepage and watch a few YouTube videos. As we were tight on time, and did not have a USB mouse and keyboard, and hdmi video screen what we could physically explore was somewhat limited. The kit will cost you about $35 + tax/shipping, plus the cost of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor if you do not have access to one already.
Squishy Circuits – This kit contained a motor, a couple of different buzzers, and LED lights of various colors. Users have to make the conductive (salt based) and insulating dough in order to complete the kit. The entry point is fairly low – some basic knowledge about circuits and you are good to start creating. We did find the kit a little finicky to get the electricity flowing through the circuit from the battery pack. The kit costs $25 + tax/shipping, plus the cost of materials to make the dough.
After lunch we went downtown to visit Galway’s Maker Space 091 Labs. This space has been around for a couple of years, with the mission of providing a shared working space for ‘makers’ working on any creative project. Through this, members are able to share, collaborate, and learn from each other in a very friendly and supportive environment. Members pay a small monthly fee to utilize the space and participate in the monthly events that the space organizes. The space has a variety of resources including 3D printers and electronics equipment that are a shared resource. Although the members where mostly assisting us, it was easy to see how this type of open space could help people create, invent, innovate, and make new stuff as the energy and excitement in the space was palpable.
At the maker space, I was working on getting the Raspberry Pi module up and running and there was one member who was somewhat knowledgeable about this process. We worked on installing the operating system to the mini-SD card. One challenge we ran into was locating a monitor that would hook up to the Raspberry Pi. Quickly, we learned that there are many YouTube clips available to assist with learning the basics of the Raspberry Pi that will be helpful as soon as we are able to see what the operating system looks like.
One area that I am interested in exploring is the relationship between the ‘maker movement’ and ‘design thinking‘, specifically the prototyping phase. I feel like this would give some context to creating something, and might be a good way to develop initial understanding of what the kit contains. It would also help students to understand that there is a process that goes into inventing something, and help visualize their thinking.
In my class, each unit of inquiry (there are 6 per year), contains a summative task where students are assess on their ability to explain their understanding of the central idea. Many of these assessment tasks involve students creating or making something. I am wondering which of the maker kits might make sense to use in one of my summative tasks for a unit of inquiry.