Maker education is emerging as a new way of engaging diverse learners in various contexts. Colleges and universities are launching makerspaces, public libraries are initiating maker programming, and K–12 schools are allocating resources to support maker-based activities for students. In addition, maker education has captured the attention of industry leaders interested in supporting the development of the next generation of innovative, creatively confident leaders and problem solvers.
The SMU Maker Education Project is dedicated to catalyzing transformational maker-based learning experiences for students in K–12 schools. Our mission is to support a robust and sustainable maker culture in K–12 schools, to create lasting change. We do this by training educators in our innovative approach to maker education, Maker-Based Instruction. Maker-Based Instruction introduces students to new tools and technologies while supporting educators who want to implement student-centered, maker-based activities. We also seek to help the broader maker education movement define itself – what it is, what it is not, and how it supports student learning outcomes, both for content-based skills and non-cognitive skills.
We believe Maker-Based Instruction can help educators develop self-actualized and resilient students who are excited to take on the toughest challenges of the 21st century.
For Maker-Based Instruction to attain its goals, teachers need training and support for how to manage the student-centered classroom environments in which Maker-Based Instruction happens. Professional development in Maker-Based Instruction focuses on developing technical proficiency and instructional strategies.
The SMU Maker Education Project is a partnership between the Lyle School of Engineering, the Simmons School of Education, and local districts and schools.
Our Core Beliefs
- Making is inherent to the human condition. Everyone is a maker.
- Making is content agnostic. You can use making to teach any subject.
- Making is a hands-on and engaging way to teach.
- Making is useful for attaining cognitive and affective learning objectives.
- Making can build students’ skills with both high- and low-tech tools.
- Making promotes students’ participation in open-ended explorations.
- Making promotes a student-centered learning environment.
- Access to a makerspace alone does not fully support students learning through making.
- Elements of maker culture (e.g., mindsets, dispositions, activities) must be considered when designing maker-based learning environments.
Key Questions That Guide Our Work
- What is a sustainable model of maker education?
- How might Maker-Based Instruction support teachers in meaningfully integrating making into their classrooms and curricula?
- How does Maker-Based Instruction support affective and cognitive learning objectives?
- How do we design learning environments to support a distinctive maker culture that empowers both educators and students to become makers?
Our Goals for Education
We believe Maker-Based Instruction supports a number of ambitious educational goals:
- Connections to prior knowledge: Students are rich sources of information and have knowledge and ideas they can contribute to making. Maker-Based Instruction depends on students accessing prior knowledge and making connections between prior knowledge and in-the-moment instruction.
- Motivation: When making, students are often intrinsically motivated because the process of learning, struggling, and growing are all in service of a larger goal. Making drives the learning. Students must learn to make; they have a purpose for their learning. Purposeful learning contributes to intrinsic motivation.
- Developing positive mindsets: Maker-Based Instruction develops the attitudes and mindsets in students that lead to them becoming self-actualized individuals who believe they can shape their world for the better.
- Creative confidence: When students make, they are building confidence in their ability to creatively tackle any problem. Fostering a maker mindset and creative confidence in students contributes to them becoming leaders. Through making, students feel empowered to make changes, fix problems, and positively influence the world around them.
- Self-actualized learners: When making, students are engaged and mindful of their learning and have to persevere to overcome challenges when they are stuck. Through making, students become self-reliant and resilient. Students have the confidence to tackle tough problems with curiosity and optimism.