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Using our Hands and our Heads

February 1, 2011

from iStock.com, child playing inside a computer

Dale Dougherty, co-founder of O’Reilly Media and the editor of MAKE, as well as the founder of MAKER FAIRE, gave a recent TEDMotorCity talk on, We are Makers.  You can watch his 11 minutes TED talk below.  Here are a few of my takeaways from his clever and engaging talk.  

 Makers are enthusiasts.

There were a few really interesting and clever makers of things: swinging in the rain; the Sashi Tabernacle Choir (really funny); and a motor bike powered by an drill.

Are you a maker.

Mr. Dougherty points out that we are all makers; makers of food, makers of  shelter, makers of beer (microbrewing) and wine, makers of bread, and makers of our own world.

Makers are in control.

Use it (the things we make) to their own purpose.

Humans have a sense of pride in the things we make.

 

 Maker Faire, one of Dale Dougherty’s creations,  takes place around the country and is an opportunity for people to MAKE, create, learn, invent, and play.  It is a time for kids, adults and families to come together and MAKE things.  What a wonderful setting in which participants can enjoy the creative process!

In his talk, Mr. Dougherty talks about how robotic competitions have inspired kids to be makers.   School clubs, activities or courses devoted to participating in robotics competitions are lively places within school communities.  The energy one sees in these spaces is akin to the energy and enthusiasm one sees on schools’ athletic fields.

As kids are grow up, they have an innate tendency to make things–castles, dollhouses, forts, and favorite foods.  As kids, we often encourage them to tinker in their rooms, whether with toys or paints.  Mr. Dougherty makes reference to the importance of tinkering.  People like to tinker.  The Westminster Schools hosted Gever Tulley, the founder of the Tinkering School this year.  Bo Adams, the principal, teachers, and students heard from Mr. Tulley how the Tinkering School encourages exploration and promotes students making things.  (See Bo’s post on It’s About Learning about tinkering and robots)  What an interesting concept on which to build a learning environment.  Maker Faire in a school setting!  Some might ask but what about the core content.  Making things can be the vehicle through which students learn about “core content.”  Mr. Tulley explores some of his philosophy in the TED talk, Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.
  


 

So here is the question, what would it take to transform schools into places in which students could MAKE things?  What opportunities do students have to really MAKE (create) things in schools outside of art classes or in early elementary grades?  Every so often a teacher will assign a project that might require making something, tinkering with ideas or objects to construct something new and original.  But really, how often in a typical week is a student making things. 
 
I would argue that in school educators need to find creative ways for students to balance the use of HAND and HEAD.  Too much of a student’s day is spent exercising their mind (that’s a good thing) and not enough time exercising their hands.  They exercise their mind around highly-structured, teacher-created activities.  Let’s give space for tinkering in the classroom, and time for them to explore.
What are your thoughts?  How does your school promote tinkering or allowing students to be MAKERS? 
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