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Professional Education

Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom

Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom online course page

Course Outline

Drawing on research from Project Zero’s Agency by Design project, this course offers classroom teachers, maker educators, administrators, and parents an opportunity to explore firsthand maker-centered learning practices and the opportunities they afford. Discover what kinds of strategies might best support teaching and learning in the maker-centered classroom, and examine the benefits (to both young people and facilitators) of engaging in this work. Through hands-on, collaborative activities, consider how maker-centered experiences might fit into your own teaching and learning contexts.

Course Goals

  • Develop an understanding of the concept of maker-centered learning, its contemporary origins, and its implications for education.
  • Become familiar with an instructional framework designed to support maker-centered learning.
  • Be able to thoughtfully develop maker-centered learning experiences to meet the goals of your home teaching and learning environments.
Session 1

This week, we will orient you to the Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Center Classroom online course, acquaint you with our teaching team, program staff, and one another, and set your expectations for the next several weeks of learning together. The information in this orientation module will introduce to you some essential traits of a successful online learner and also introduce the program objectives, faculty, and schedule.

Session Objectives:

  1. Understand how the instructor, coaches, and fellow learners will support your learning.
  2. Understand the overarching goals for the course, participant responsibilities, and the course online environment.
  3. Identify your own learning goals for the course and become acquainted with your instructor and fellow learners.
Session 2

Over the past decade there has been a lot of buzz about the maker movement and maker-centered activities. Whether in community centers, makerspaces, or neighborhood garages, mixed generations have been gathering together to design, make, and hack. Yet what began as a grassroots, community-based movement has increasingly made its way into the K-12 environment. Now, makerspaces, innovation labs, and creativity zones are appearing in schools and other learning environments, and maker-centered teaching and learning are being incorporated into school curricula. In this session, you will be introduced to the concept of thinking and learning in the maker-centered classroom. You will begin by reflecting on a past making experience you have had, to make sense of your own beliefs and values related to maker-centered learning. You will then explore the complexity of, and big ideas behind, makercentered learning and teaching. You will be asked to consider the purported outcomes of maker education. In light of your own beliefs and values around making, you will examine—and perhaps challenge—some current assumptions in the field. Finally, you will begin to explore the real outcomes and benefits of maker-centered learning.

Session Objectives

  1. Recognize and assess what you already know and value about making
  2. Understand the conceptual landscape associated with maker-centered learning and teaching
  3. Become familiar with the Agency by Design project
  4. Consider the core outcomes and benefits of maker-centered learning
     
Session 3

Reading popular media, one might think the virtues of maker-centered learning revolve around science, math, engineering, and technology skills. Or that maker-centered learning is about fancy tools, gadgets, and new materials. However, research conducted by the Agency by Design team suggests that a central promise of maker-centered learning is the concept of maker empowerment. This claim is supported by findings from maker educators and thought leaders from across the United States. In this session, you will be introduced to maker empowerment as a dispositional goal—a way for individuals to see and make meaning of their own experiences, in part, by developing a sensitivity to design. You will learn about the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning and its three interrelated capacities: looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity.

Session Objectives:

  1. Understand the dispositional nature of maker empowerment and the key role that having a sensitivity to design plays in understanding one’s world.
  2. Become familiar with Project Zero’s triadic theory of dispositions and the role that thinking routines play in supporting the development of habits of mind.
  3. Become familiar with the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning, including the interrelated capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity.
     
Session 4

During this session you will begin to consider how looking closely and exploring complexity can build and deepen an awareness and understanding of design by observing videos of classroom practice and by looking closely and exploring complexity in your own context with students, using the Parts, Purposes, Complexities thinking routine you tried in Session 3. In addition, you will begin to explore the role of systems thinking in maker-centered learning, in particular, considering how every designed object is actually made up of complex and inter-connected parts, people, and interactions which can be situated within many other systems.

Session Objectives:

  1. Understand the ways in which the capacities of looking closely and exploring complexity can enhance makercentered teaching and learning
  2. Try out the Parts, Purposes, Complexities thinking routine with your students
  3. Understand that objects have designed dimensions and are part of larger, more complex systems
     
Session 5

During this session you will consider why systems thinking matters in the maker-centered classroom and how being alert to the design of systems might influence your students’ understanding of their designed worlds. You will learn about your students’ understanding of systems and their design. You will continue to develop your students’ capacities of looking closely and exploring complexity by introducing them to the Parts, People, Interactions thinking routine. Finally, you will begin to explore the role of empathy and perspective-taking in maker-centered learning and teaching by trying out the Think, Feel, Care thinking routine during your team meeting.

Session Objectives:

  1. In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:
  2. Further understand the role that systems literacy plays in the maker-centered classroom.
  3. Gain a sense of young people's sensitivity to the design of systems.
  4. Further recognize that objects themselves are often systems, made of subsystems, that can be situated within greater super systems.
  5. Understand the importance of considering the various stakeholders who engage with designed systems.
     
Session 6

In Session 5 your students were encouraged to think about the various parts and people who engage in a system, and how they interact with one another. This is an important first step towards perspective-taking and building empathy. In this session, you will introduce students to the Think, Feel, Care thinking routine. This routine emphasizes trying to understand the multiple perspectives and priorities of each person who interacts with a designed object or system. You will also consider the ways in which designing and making are participatory activities. Finally, you will begin to consider the third maker capacity, Finding Opportunity—seeing the potential for building, tinkering, re/designing, or hacking, and “finding opportunity” for change.

Session Objectives:

  1. Understand the participatory nature of making and design.
  2. Recognize the importance of empathy and perspective-taking in the maker-centered classroom.
  3. Understand the risks of stereotyping when attempting to empathize with or consider the perspectives of others.
Session 7

In this final session, you will introduce your students to the maker capacity of finding opportunity. You will reflect on your course project and your overall experience introducing the course concepts into your classroom. You will also consider how you might take this work forward and incorporate the maker capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity into your practice.

Session Objectives:

  1. Understand how other educators have incorporated the concepts addressed in this course into their home teaching and learning environments.
  2. Consider what questions, ideas, and actions you might integrate into your maker-centered practice.