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What Exactly Is the Maker Movement?

By Liana Loewus — May 01, 2015 1 min read
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While born of an age-old concept, the “maker movement” officially turns 10 this year. But that doesn’t mean you should feel bad if you’re still not exactly sure what it entails.

Luckily, to commemorate this decade anniversary, Harry McCracken, the technology editor for Fast Company, has written a comprehensive primer on the movement, detailing it’s origin, founder, and what the heck it really is.

As McCracken explains, technology writer Dale Dougherty wrote the inaugural issue of Make magazine, which was “aimed at the sort of hands-on technologists who might hitch a disposable Kodak film camera to a kite,” in February 2005. Dougherty coined the term maker to describe the homegrown innovators using their hands to create, build, and tinker. (Interestingly, Dougherty also apparently coined the now ubiquitous term “Web 2.0.”)

Makers have been around forever, but “without Dougherty’s rallying cry,” McCracken writes, “there might not have been any obvious overarching notion linking topics as disparate as robotics, 3-D photography, and leathercraft. Make, [Dougherty] says, ‘took a lot of things that would otherwise be separate, and said they belong together.’”

It’s not so different from the educational “movement” of sorts to turn STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math, into STEAM, by adding arts.

In any case, the magazine spawned the first maker faire, dubbed “part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new,” held in the San Francisco Bay area in 2006. Now, there are 135 maker faires across the world, gathering more than 750,000 children and adults.

The White House even held its first maker faire in 2014 (not to be confused with the White House science fair, in its 5th year running).

Many educators have been pushing to get more students using their hands and inventing in both formal and informal learning settings. Public libraries have opened “maker spaces,” equipped with tools and art supplies, and 3-D printers have found a market in K-12 schools. And while some have said the maker movement is “incompatible” with the Common Core State Standards, it could also be argued that it’s a natural extension of the kind of deep, critical thinking both the common core and Next Generation Science Standards require of students.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.