Through the Education Lens

Why "Making" Matters: Kids want it. We learn when we create. . . and relate.

CJ Westerberg, September 29, 2013 3:19 PM


photo credit: Gizmag - "laser harps recently gained a boost in popularity after being featured in Make Magazine" 

"A Maker Fair is really a conversation with an enthusiast"
- Dale Dougherty, Make Founder

4 Minute Video Below

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DSC_0163-1_2.jpgby C.J. Westerberg

Want one of the best (and succinct) insights as to WHY we should be allowing time in school and home to allow students the "luxury" to "make" things?  Check out the first video below because the rationale is so well articulated by Dale Dougherty, the person who should know.  As founder of Make magazine and who is also leading a pilot program for schools called Project Make, Dougherty's message is pure, authentic, simple yet powerful. 

The must-watch video below is from CNN's new series, The Next List.

Dougherty questions why is it that when we see so many students in school not being interested in math and science, at the same time students are "not making things." In other words, traditional schools mainly promote learning by consuming knowledge and not by
making things . . . and learning from that process.

Students not interested in math and science? 
Are they making things?

Educators call it project-based learning (PBL) and most recently Dr. Yong Zhao calls it product-based learning, with the premise of learning by doing, and NOT just making or doing things ONLY just for a teacher or a grade but instead for the desire to solve a problem or to help a community challenge or for an specific voice or  interest.

Harvard's Daniel Koretz calls it "a thorny issue" because 21st Century skills are hard to measure, especially on a standardized test (of course!), so schools can't-won't do it.

I see the disservice the U.S. has put upon our youth (as well in other countries)  by having invented this two-tiered track system for elementary students: one either is placed on a vocational track OR a academic track in high school.  The vocational track explicitly translates to a curriculum centered around working with your hands as opposed to an academic track geared for college prep.  This stereotyping and oversimplification involved in tracking implicitly sends a message that working with one's hands does not involve brainwork or academic skills.

Headlines suggest that a college degree or multiple degrees are not a guarantee to future success in the job market although the next headline proves that you are doomed by either scenario but less doomed by more degrees.  Okay, we get that no one really quite knows.

For now, let's just use MIT's hand-and-mind philosophy - why would this not apply at the high school level?  What is interesting to note that in Finland - the education model to watch and emulate, and the darling in education circles - due to the outstanding PISA scores and high level of teacher status and professional development - high school students DO have a vocational track and an academic track in high school, BUT students from either track can go to college.  And they do.

Under 4 minutes, Make's Dale Dougherty nails the connection between making and innovation in this video below.  So aptly said, "We're all inventors."

What do you think?

(Larry Rosenstock, a previous TDR Person of the Year and CEO of High Tech High in California(see amazing video below), and Dennis Littky, co-founder of Big Picture Learning, are two of our heroes in this department.)

Related The Daily Riff:

3 Women Wow Crowd at TEDx

A 13-year-old Shows how the Fibonacci Sequence Relates to Trees - Museum of Natural History Award

Beware the Misconceptions about Learning and Teaching by Howard Gardner

It's Disengagement, Stupid  by C.J. Westerberg

Is This the Best High School in America?  High Tech High

Are We Creating Innovators?  by Tony Wagner



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