Since the fall 2016 meeting of the League of Innovative Schools, superintendents from around the country have connected with leading researchers in the field of maker learning. In their first meeting, superintendents met with Dr. Kylie Peppler, Associate Professor of Learning Sciences and Director of the Creativity Labs at Indiana University Bloomington, to discuss opportunities and outcomes of maker learning environments. Their second meeting featured Dr. Edward Clapp, director of Harvard University’s Agency by Design initiative, on the topic of maker empowerment.

To round out the series, the maker learning research group hosted a webinar with researchers Shirin Vossoughi and Paula Hooper from Northwestern University, and Meg Escudé from San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

Vossoughi, Hooper, and Escudé’s research, published in the recent article “Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity,” points out an important issue: maker learning is integrating into schools even as “maker learning” itself is loosely defined. The team builds on a growing body of literature that points to potential dangers of adopting maker learning programs with an uncritical perspective. For example, if schools integrate maker learning programs that conform only to the dominant narrative about what “making” is — typically one that emphasizes robotics and entrepreneurship — those programs may leave many students and entire communities out of participation.

And so Vossoughi, Hooper, and Escudé outline four elements of an equity-oriented approach to maker learning:

  • Analyzing educational injustice;
  • Considering historical and cultural traditions of making;
  • Dedicating explicit attention to pedagogy; and
  • Investigating the social values and purposes that maker learning programs promote.

With the help of this four-part framework, the researchers identify issues of equity and suggest clear steps educators can take to address potential problems. For example, their research encourages practitioners to think reflectively about how they implement their program: rather than trying to “bring making into the school community,” try to identify the cultures of making that already exist and hold them up as legitimate ways that your school can approach maker learning more broadly. The webinar features a presentation from the researchers followed by a Q&A with district leaders who are members of the working group. Watch the webinar below:

Can your maker learning program benefit from this framework? Use our one-page worksheet to help you envision a culturally relevant maker learning program in your district or read the researchers’ article. Do you have feedback or need additional help implementing equitable maker learning in your district? Contact Colin Angevine, Digital Promise’s Maker Learning Coach, for more.


About Colin Angevine

Colin Angevine is a Maker Learning Coach at Digital Promise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *