The 3D printing market is projected to be worth $8 billion by 2020.
—Paul Hill, “Ten statistics that reveal the size and scope of the Maker Movement.” November 3, 2015
Why be skeptical of the Maker Movement and its effect on public schools?
The speed to which the Maker Movement is being pushed into schools with little research about its effectiveness is worrisome. Over 1,400 schools representing one million students in all 50 states are involved.
School districts must take an oath for their students to be Makers. Here is the list of schools that have signed the promise to implement the Maker Movement.
We are told it will make children into tinkerers, craftsmen, and inventors—bringing out a future Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford or other person of fame and fortune.
Some call it a technological “revolution.” But others describe it as “squishy.” It lacks clarity. Is it craft-making, science, art? All subjects rolled together?
Here I try to make sense of the Maker Movement and why it is a concern.
Where does the Maker Movement come from?
The Maker Movement comes from the DIY (Do It Yourself) community. Dale Dougherty started the Maker Movement with MAKE Magazine, the blog Maker Ed and Maker Faire (get-togethers defined as part science/part county fair).
The phenomenon is tied to everything digital and making and selling things. One of the so-called selling points is that instead of using manufactured goods and services, individuals (students too) can make their own stuff and share it globally.
Almost everyone dislikes the high pressured atmosphere foisted upon today’s students in public schools. So it seems logical that schools embrace the Maker Movement.
It looks like children and teens will, at last, have the freedom to use their hands and make something useful—maybe even become entrepreneurs.
But there is more to it.
What’s involved in the Maker Movement?
In “How the Maker Movement is Transforming Education” Sylvia Libow Martinez, who has a degree in computer education, and Gary S. Stager, who once taught public school, say of the Maker Movement that, New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace.
We also hear about making small gadgets and autonomous drones. Sewing and ceramics are included. The Maker-Movement is called “hard fun.”
Afterschool Maker programs are frowned upon. Maker enthusiasts want this to become the school curriculum. It is all-encompassing.
But if schools incorporate just making projects, when will students formally study biology, chemistry, physics and other sciences and subjects? What about social studies, civics and P.E?
Like digital schooling, there is no proof working totally on projects is the best way to learn. These changes are happening fast without real research to see if they are worthwhile.
In the Maker Movement anyone can teach.
The teaching profession has been demonized by politicians and corporations for years.
With the Maker Movement, anyone with a craft or skill can be considered a teacher. The Internet is rampant with people excited to share their novel Maker Movement ideas. Credentialing falls by the wayside. Even students can teach other students.
Or, one teacher can teach millions of students through computer instruction.
And, like digital or competency-based instruction, a lot of the responsibility with learning is placed on the student. “Student ownership” is spoken about often.
But, also, like digital or competency-based instruction, most students have difficulty with self-direction.
Is the Maker Movement fair to students?
The Maker Movement is supported by the school reformers who brought us Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. They are the very individuals who originally got rid of the real “making” in our public schools!
Since the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind, many schools said good-bye to home economics, shop, and the arts. The primary focus has been reading, math and punishing tests. Many public schools closed due to unfair test results. Teachers lost their jobs when those schools were converted to unproven charter schools.
The Obama administration highlights the Maker Movement here. Both parties are on board. Little discussion is provided about what happens to traditional schooling.
After years of standards used to damn public schools, isn’t it strange that with privatization and the Maker Movement standards suddenly don’t matter?
Now, we must ask, how will we know if students are really making progress?
Recreating a privatized digital version of vocational-technical education is deceiving.
It’s also a problem because many school administrators can’t figure out how to get their students making when they’re still responsible for taking so many standardized tests.
The outside community replaces the public school.
The Maker Movement relies on outside partnerships. This is privatization in action.
For example, science museums, good places in their own right, figure prominently in the Maker Movement. Their aggressive relationship to science instruction, however, is concerning. They are linked to Common Core and Next Generation Science.
This is heavily hyped by outside corporations which have supported privatization of public schools for many years.
Here is a discussion of “Maker Corps” with a picture of children at the Houston Science Museum. This picture is brought to you by Chevron. Digital Promise, by the way, is connected to Verizon and supported by other corporations.
Will science museums replace public school science programs—many which have been drastically defunded in recent years?
The Maker Movement sends a negative message about public schools.
When Education Week writes about the Maker Movement, they question whether schools will be able to transform themselves. They place doubt in the minds of Americans concerning public schools.
This strategy is often used to rally privatization and trendy money-making ventures when no one knows if they are going to work. Pro reformers still claim the reason Common Core failed is because of the way teachers implemented it!
Claiming public schools will not be able to keep up with innovation creates a contrived black mark on public schooling and teachers.
And it is worth repeating that school districts must take an oath. From Education Week:
… hundreds of districts have signed a Maker Promise promoted by nonprofit Digital Promise and the Maker Education Initiative, one of a number of signs that point to the potentially rapid growth of making in K-12.
Money for public schools is diverted to tech and Maker Movement products.
The Maker-Movement has one thing in common—money-making devices and software to fill “Maker Spaces.” New classrooms are supposed to be found anywhere—even in garages. Technology, like 3D printers are highly promoted.
Also from Education Week:
The sudden affordability of technologies such as 3-D printers, sensors, microprocessors, and laser cutters have exponentially expanded access to the tools for making.
How is this possible when public school funding is cut in other areas?
Here is a list of just a few of the programs: Drawdio, Minty Boost, MaKeyMakey, Raspberry Pi, Invent to Learn, and the Lily Pond. There are many resources created for the Making Movement.
Before high-stakes testing and the corporatization of public schools, class projects, vocational-technical instruction, and the arts were a part of the public school curriculum. In middle and high school students received general instruction in classes like shop and home economics.
Technology rightly changes the face of those subjects, but only as a tool, and not completely.
Like digital learning, there is a place for creating and project-based work. But instruction should still focus on separate classes and avoid online all the time.
Teachers should still have accredited university credentials in their subject areas to teach.
School administrators, school boards, and parents who are thinking about subscribing to the Maker Movement, should ask what is missing and whether they are badly shortchanging students with such a movement.
Students will never get back the time they had to learn, and their futures and ours could be in jeopardy.
Herold, Benjamin. “The ‘Maker’ Movement Is Coming to K-12: Can Schools Get It Right?” Education Week. June 6, 2016.
ciedie aech says
“The phenomenon is tied to everything digital….” Sadly THAT explains a lot.
Sheila Resseger says
Not to be crude, but I can’t resist. In my family growing up, the term “make” was a euphemism for having a bowel movement/taking a crap.
Arjan van der Meij says
Hoi Nancy, I wrote an piece that tries to answer your questions. It is in Dutch and it is about our Dutch Maker Education situation. Maybe you are interested. I think Google Translate will do a fair job translating it. http://makered.nl/kritiek-op-maker-education/
Anyway, thanks for the criticism; as I say in the first line, feedback makes you stronger/
Betty Peters says
Academics first. Way too many games and gimmicks already. We keep going down rabbit holes trying to avoid TEACHING BASIC FACTS AND SKILLS, the old 3Rs, first, to mastery and automaticity. Just like being an artist or musician, you must learn the basics for a strong foundation and then the students can innovate and create.
One exception, pre-k children do need to play and build and imagine. American schools are being led into doing the opposite of what we should do.
I agree with almost everything you said, but I’m irked that you would imply it’s bad for students to teach other students. Multiple research studies show that reciprocal teaching by students increases their participation, rate of on-task behaviors, and academic achievement. Projects that require students to interact with each other and use inductive reasoning are good for kids, and there’s a massive amount of research to back that up.
But they can’t replace direct instruction in all areas. I am a little weary of schools where ALL instruction is student-led and project-based. There is a place for teacher-centered instructional techniques in a robust curriculum that appeals to multiple learning styles.
I do worry about the capitalist nature of these partnerships. I’m very much against privatizing so many aspects of public education.
Nancy Bailey says
I don’t see where I implied that. I said most students have difficulty with self-direction. I said this because there is a movement to have students on digital devices teaching themselves. I am not opposed to students working with each other on projects. But I think they need real teachers.
Also, I would appreciate if you would cite a legitimate study or two instead of referring to “massive” amounts of research.
I too am very concerned about privatizing and pushing teachers out of the equation.