Making the future of education

Many would agree that a lot needs to be done to bring education up to date. The methods we use to try to align school and university teaching with the demands of contemporary society will shape the extent to which we succeed. Some advocate the flipped learning approach and to a certain extent, the transfer of content delivery from the classroom to the home (or elsewhere) makes a lot of sense. Time in the classroom with the experts should be used for assimilation of that content, and the critical thinking and application of it, which is a great deal more difficult. A lot of institutions are adopting versions of this method, and are employing technology, particularly video and online content to achieve it.

But this is just the start, and more can be done to ensure that the present day education system adequately prepares young people to take up their roles in a rapidly changing world. One of the most significant movements in recent years, and one that I believe will have a profound impact on current educational provision, is the makerspace. Alternatively referred to as hackerspaces or hacklabs, makerspaces are based on the principles of peer learning and knowledge sharing. You have probably noticed at this point just how similar this approach to learning is to work based learning practices. People teach each other by passing on their knowledge, and learn within their community of practice, focusing on their specialisms.

In makerspaces, people come together to fix things, modify existing materials and design structures, and generally explore alternatives as they learn together. They are zones of self directed learning where there are few limits to the imagination. There is usually a lot of experimentation, exploration and prototyping and testing of new ideas. This can be a very powerful means of learning not only about the things you are fixing or modding, but also about the processes that underline them such as risk taking, discovery and problem solving. A specific theory of learning, Seymour Papert's constuctionist learning theory, could be applied to explain this. Papert suggests that when we involve ourselves in making things, we become a part of that process, by constructing mental models to represent it. Furthermore, the power of sharing what one has made with an audience reinforces the achievement and motivates learners to achieve even more.

It's not that difficult to see how this approach might be used in schools to promote better learning, and encourage students to engage more.  Makerspace learning can enable students to acquire and practice skills they will later need in the world of work. Some thinking has already gone into the pedagogy of makerspaces, and later posts on this blog will attempt to describe how these can be established in schools and universities. In the meantime, if you wish to explore this idea further, check out 7 things you should know about Makerspaces by Educause.

Photo by Mitch Altman on Flickr

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Making the future of education by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Anonymous said…
One difference between traditional schools and makerspaces is that with a makerspaces you are more likely to be doing something that interests you, but with school your following a curriculum set by some one else
Steve Wheeler said…
I hear what you're saying An (if that is your real name), but wouldn't you consider it a missed opportunity if we failed to bring the excitement, creativity and freedom of makerspaces into the school environment?
Anonymous said…
Yes I would. I agree with your blog but would be sceptical of schools capability to embrace that freedom. I think class size is one barrier, resistance to change another, the focus on testing a third. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried. However with another hat on I might argue that it does not have to take place in a school,
Anonymous said…
Sounds great if used properly, but it should never replace individual learning. You cannot contribute productively to the group unless you're confident in your own knowledge and skills.
Martin King said…
Tim O'Reilly coined the phrase "Web 2.0" .. he uses the phrase "Web Squared" to described the current era .. an era he explains as "when web meets world" - its all about how IT and the web affect the real world ("from bits to atoms") a new era of personal manufacturing and economies of scale.

The new technologies of consumer manufacturing with 3D printing, consumer electronics and robotics indicate new economies of scope where imagination and creativity can be unleashed - these are very important factors in adapting to a future where AI and robotics look set to play an increasing part in disinter-mediating people in the economies of scale and standardisation.
Shiny Elena said…
I agree, the whole education should be reformed and we need new education system, perhaps, a new vision of teaching. Students of all academic levels are asked to compose essays and almost all of them are afraid of this inevitable assignment. Writing an essay is a daunting task for many students, but it is a useful skill to have handy throughout their academic careers. Some learners prefer to create papers on their own and some open this resource. It is not a secret that students resort to essay writing companies, they are regularly punished, but why the Department of Education doesn’t try to change root and branch of the issue.

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