Teachers, school leaders, parents, and, most importantly, students have been rallying around hands-on, creative, and design-centered learning that we have come to call “maker learning.”

Maker learning is important to diverse stakeholders in education, as it can help to: increase access, interest, and skills in STEM, particularly for diverse communities; promote social and emotional learning by building empathy and perspective taking abilities through design thinking practice; lead to a more personalized and engaging school experience by facilitating student voice and choice; and catalyze interdisciplinary project-based experiences that makes curriculum more relevant to the learner.

Unfortunately, too many students still do not have access to high-quality maker learning experiences. Some schools are hesitant to integrate maker learning into their curriculum because they believe they need expensive or complicated tools to get started, but this is far from true. Making does not require high-tech tools, so schools everywhere can start integrating maker learning right now with cardboard, duct tape, and scissors.

Much more important than the tools and materials involved in maker learning, though, is the philosophy behind maker learning experiences, which share three important values: Agency, Authenticity, and Audience. While the specific terminology may change, I have seen them identified over and over again by students, teachers, parents, administrators, advocates, researchers, and policy makers as the most important elements in ensuring quality maker learning experiences.

Digital Promise is focused and committed on closing the Digital Learning Gap, and an important part of that is making high-quality maker education available to all students. Here are a few examples of the work we are doing in this area:

  • Maker Promise: By signing the Maker Promise, more than 1,500 schools have committed to identifying a champion for maker learning in their school or district, dedicating a space for making, and creating an opportunity to showcase student work. In collaboration with the Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed), we will continue to deliver resources and opportunities to this growing network of maker schools. Sign the Maker Promise here.
  • Maker Micro-credentials: We are excited to announce a stack of six micro-credentials so that teachers can be recognized for integrating maker learning into their practice. These micro-credentials are developed and issued by Maker Ed and made possible by Chevron and California State University. Additionally, the first teachers to earn the “Makerspace Safety” micro-credential will be eligible to receive a gift of free student safety gear from Google’s Making and Science team.
  • Learning Studios: In partnership with HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom initiative, Digital Promise Global has developed the Learning Studios program, currently being piloted in 60 schools around the world. This program helps teachers leverage powerful technology for digital fabrication and media production to help students develop skills in design thinking and social entrepreneurship. We plan to publish the project guides and learning resources being developed and piloted as part of this project in winter 2017.
  • 360 Filmmakers Challenge: Digital Promise Global is also currently piloting a challenge for students where they are given the tools for creating 360 degree video and empowered to tell their stories using a new media that even many adults have not yet experienced. This project is part of Oculus’s VR for Good initiative and will be made available to schools around the world in the coming months.

You can do your part to promote maker learning by not only incorporating the values of agency, authenticity, and audience into your teaching, but also by sharing with us the great stories of learning that come from it.

Digital Promise is excited to discover and help schools share the amazing and diverse ways they are building maker learning into the experiences they offer their students. In the coming months, we will unveil more resources and opportunities to help schools incorporate and expand high quality maker learning programs for their students. Join the Maker Promise mailing list to find out about these opportunities as soon as they are announced.

About Josh Weisgrau

Josh is the Director of Maker Learning with Digital Promise Global.

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