Editor’s note: Since last September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
The maker movement is built on an emphasis of learning through doing.
It is a culture of learning through exploration, self-fulfillment and discovering personal learning styles. It is a movement that caters to all students and increases their interests by allowing them autonomy to be creative. Through 2016, it seems the maker movement has expanded even further and become a new trend unto itself, despite its theories being supported as far back as the 1970s.
Tutoring centers like Sylvan Learning and Kumon are jumping aboard the movement and hosting maker classes as part of their curriculum — but not because of the decades of studies that have concluded this method is the most effective for teaching a large population of students. Instead these classes are integrated because they’re trendy.
While trends allow businesses to enjoy their slice of the market and “get in while it’s hot,” trends don’t always translate to the best quality of services or products for consumers. The maker movement is no different. While there are several maker classes held across the nation, many do not hold true to the original form of maker learning.
A maker class allows for different students from various backgrounds and academic experiences, even various ages and learning styles, to come together and use those differences during their exploration. Students are not to adhere to step-by-step instruction on how to create, but instead should be given the tools for creation with little instruction.
Catch up with Giselle’s most recent chapter, The girls are all right, or scroll down to begin from earlier in her inspiring journey
Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert professor of Learning Research and director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, also believes that the maker movement shouldn’t just be about making.
In an interview with EdSurge News earlier this year, Resnick explained, “If you give a child a set of step-by-step instructions to build something, yes, they’ve made something — but that’s not the spirit of the maker movement. The maker movement is about making things that you care about, things that are meaningful to you and others around you. Sometimes, it gets misapplied if we just get people creating something. That’s a part of it, but to support rich, creative learning experiences, we need to provide people with opportunities to make things in collaboration with others — and to make things they care about.”
I believe Resnick is right. The maker movement isn’t about a trendy template of instruction; instead it is about full exploration of inner creativity. This is why many school systems are a bit behind, because teaching with step-by-step, standardized instruction can’t reach all the students who learn differently or come from different backgrounds.
In recent months at The Learning Hub, we have been working with Samantha Butera — our amazing Harvard University graduate student intern — and her classmate, Karittha Liewchanpatana, to ensure we’re staying true to the intended form of the maker movement. Both are part of the Master’s Programs in Education at Harvard and have shown an immense level of dedication to the future of The Learning Hub and our students.
We will document our progress, increase our level of performance, integrate statistics for study, and stand up a framework of learning proven to work since the 1980s.
Our current maker classes are solely about exploring the unknown, but we want to take this approach a step further. We are implementing the framework of the Universal Design for Learning theory in hopes of opening the doors for further student collaboration opportunities and enhanced learning. Universal Design for Learning is a framework developed in the 1990s to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
Our inspiration to make our classes purposeful beyond the average maker class is based on our mission to increase the learning tools and opportunities for students in the low-income bracket and for students faced with the challenges of a learning disability. UDL is our path to closing the achievement gap. It is our way of differentiating ourselves as a nonprofit in the education industry and our way of combating decades of onslaughts against creativity in our public schools.
By January 2017, we anticipate launching a fully revised curriculum to add to The Learning Hub. Our dedication to this project is personal and with that much invested, this can only lead us to the creation of a highly functional learning system catering to all students.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: