Faculty Members Learn About Maker Movement at Mini-Retreat

The Maker Movement, which is based on an extension of do-it-yourself culture, is “not just on the side for the nerds and the people who like to make things by hand… The Maker Movement is shaping the future of our economy,” Dr. Yasmin Kafai, professor of Learning Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, told faculty members and administrators gathered for FIT’s Faculty of the Future Mini-Retreat, held at the college on October 31. Kafai’s keynote address on “The Maker Movement in Higher Education” spoke to the day’s theme: The Maker Movement Revolution in Education, Design, and Business.

Typical interests enjoyed by maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, and 3D printing, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and arts and crafts. The movement stresses new and unique applications of technologies, while encouraging invention and prototyping. With a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively, maker culture emphasizes learning through doing (constructivism) in a social environment and informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment.

“The landscape of making is really tech-focused,” Kafai explained, but later added, “I think the Maker Movement has brought back that pressing a button is not the only way to connect.” With respect to education, specifically, Kafai cited the acronym STEAM, for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, and stressed the intersection of the creative, the critical, the technical, and the ethical when teaching.

“I think you will all agree, FIT is the perfect place to make STEAM,” said Joanne Arbuckle, dean for the School of Art and Design. “I don’t think anyone can deny the impact the Maker Movement has had in industry, design, business, and education—in particular, higher education.”

A panel discussion included Dr. Leah Buechley, designer, engineer, artist, and educator; Vanessa Bertozzi, senior program manager, Etsy; Dr. Maria Zamora, associate professor of English, director of the MA in Writing Studies, and coordinator of the World Literature Program at Kean University; and Kafai.

“I think the movement has brought us lots of wonderful stuff,” Buechley said. “It’s reinvigorated our thinking about education. It’s been a tremendously powerful educational experience where we can blend the body, the mind, and the heart. That is a spectacularly wonderful place to be. But there are some problems.” Buechley noted the lack of diversity that exists in areas of the Maker Movement.

Bertozzi, who has been with Etsy since 2007, explained the site’s maker philosophy and the importance of transparency about how the goods it sells are being made.

Zamora, a digital humanist who writes about how digital technologies are transforming education in the 21st century and an educator who embraces connected learning, discussed how the classroom is no longer bound by four walls and how students are no longer only consumers of electronic literature (literary works that originate in a digital environment and require digital computation to read) but also producers of it.

“Learning, doing, making, in tandem with technology, are the critical components of the movement,” Arbuckle noted to the audience in her closing remarks. “We, as educators, have the privilege and the responsibility of integrating the continual forward-thinking movement of creation and invention through curriculum and academic programs.”

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