The Maker movement in eTwinning
Emotions have a crucial impact on our learning process. As students, we learn better when we have fun, when we feel capable of meeting a challenge, or when we collaborate with others. And imagine the feeling of creating a physical object with our own hands!
The feeling we mentioned before has its reflection in the past in what the ancient craftsmen, artisans, or inventors must have felt when their designs brought about genuine revolutions in the ways of organizing work, transport, or information exchange in the world. Nevertheless, their work had a key feature that allowed this to happen; it’s their generosity to share their findings so that other people could put them into practice and they could be used by as many people as possible. In this way, inventors played a huge role in encouraging other people around them to follow their example; this lead to Do It Yourself (DIY)-type of communities and movements.
Nowadays it’s necessary to have manipulative skills, competences in solving problems, working in teams, etc.; the need for these skills has become even more evident with the technological revolution in recent years. We have at our disposal digital tools to design and make things (CAD software, 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters, etc.) and ways to share our advances and benefit from other people’s progress (Open Source); all of this gives us opportunities that we as citizens cannot waste. Moreover, this affects our future generations’ education; that is why it’s advisable to integrate these competences into the teaching and learning processes. But how? There is only one answer to that question: the «maker movement».
The term maker was coined by Dale Dougherty (editor of O’Riley Media) who is the founder of the Make magazine and promoter of the Maker Faires, a series of exhibitions aimed at enhancing the movement. Thus, we can think of the «makers» as «members of a web generation who not only create pixels on a screen, but also physical objects using technology». In the education field, the Maker approach entails changing the traditional didactical approach with a practical-based approach. In this sense, implementing projects will allow a more active organization of the competences and contents in the curriculum as well as enhancing team work, which connects more to the students’ day-to-day life. Moreover, subject areas as diverse as arts and science are getting fully involved in this methodological proposal; that is why the Maker approach is a great opportunity to promote cross-curricular learning.
This movement makes us rethink traditional learning spaces organized in rows with fixed desks in favour of spaces where we can exchange information, develop prototypes, and present the results in different formats. The goal is that these new Maker Spaces facilitate solving various problems by following Design Thinking-type processes. In this sense, we can get some ideas from the European Schoolnet project “Future classroom”; one of its proposals is featured in the image below. But don’t get discouraged if you think your school doesn’t have the necessary funds for that! The EUN project’s sole intention is to be a source of ideas for teachers; in each particular case, the school spaces and materials can be adapted so that they can enhance students to learn in a more active way. Apart from plasma screens and 3D printers and scanners, other strategies that can be useful include: tables for working in a collaborative manner, white boards for idea generation, and above all a flexible distribution of working spaces. We could also combine spaces that already exist in the school, such as the laboratories and the art/technology studio (with coping saws, cables, motors, paints, easels, etc.). This is more a matter of creativity than resources!
But what elements could we consider as being representative or emblematic for the Maker movement? In terms of the possibilities they offer, the following stand out:
- Printing and scanning. Due to the fact that 3D software design is becoming increasingly more straightforward and versatile (for instance Tinkercad y SketchUp free software) and that the type of files resulted can be shared and edited, 3D printers are tools with enormous possibilities. Moreover, if we add the possibility of scanning 3D objects, our options multiply!!
- Arduino/Genuino. This is an open-source electronic platform based on very straightforward hardware and software. An Arduino board is able to read inputs such as light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or even a Twitter message, and turn it into an output, such as activating a motor, turning on a LED, or publishing something online. Thus, Arduino allows us to create spectacular “toys”. These boards were initially designed as a simple tool for students who didn’t know much about electronics or software and now the whole maker community is including them in their everyday practice.
- Boards to play with sound and digital elements. Circuit boards such as MakeyMakey enable us to convert almost anything into a joystick or a user interface by using alligator clips and USB cables. Watch the following video and you will see a banana space bar, a plasticine or pencil on paper gamepad, a piano stairway, etc. Unleash your imagination!
- Educational robotics. The latest school curricula include computational thinking (the ability to solve problems and design systems following processes similar to those IT professionals use). In order to enhance students’ motivation, various companies such as Lego are designing robots, mechatronics kits, sensors, and programming blocks software (like Scratch) in order to meet very different challenges that can be linked to various subjects of interest, for instance investigating ways of managing waste, or the obstacles faced by energy. Thus, we can design multidisciplinary projects and make learning more attractive.
We already have many ingredients in our recipe! There’s an inspiring strategy based on the excitement of making things, a mentality change towards being more proactive, a strong commitment to developing problem solving competences, creativity, and to designing cross-curricular projects… Could we make this even better? Is that possible? There is only one answer to this! eTwinning!
With the help of European students and teachers communicating and doing collaborative work, the Maker approach could be greatly improved. In fact, in the eTwinning community we are starting to take the first steps towards that direction. Here are a few examples:
- “Cyberdiscovery” (previous login to eTwinning Live necessary) is a project between Spain, Germany and Poland (2015) which was awarded National prizes in all three participating countries. IES Viera y Clavijo school (Tenerife) is one of the partners involved in this fantastic work; the project’s starting point is this following question: Could we live on Mars? In order to find out the answer to that question, the students (aged between 12 to 16 years old) interview scientists, examine the use of robots and sensors in order to investigate the surface of the planet, create 3D structures to travel through wormholes, design streets and buildings using SketchUp, solve mathematical problems, etc. And this is not it! In order to include other non scientific subject areas, the students draw up their own Constitution in a collaborative way, vote their President, compose an anthem (She’s electric), and create their own currency. If you are interested in finding out more about this project, go to this previous article.
- “Coding and Robotics – The future is now!” Group (previous login to eTwinning Live necessary). This is a group created after a Maker Professional development workshop in Braga (May 2016). It is a great way to exchange information on this topic and check the presentations on different tools (MakeyMakey, Ozobot, 3D printing, etc.), on software programming blocks (Scratch, Tynker, etc.), and to see the related eTwinning projects.
- “Let’s be friends of the Earth” (previous login to eTwinning Live necessary). This eTwinning project involves nine countries; the partner from Spain was the CEIP La Angostura de Santa Brígida school (Gran Canaria). It involved year 1 and 3 Primary students and it focused on analyzing the landscape and the climate of the areas where the schools were situated in as well as the human impact on them. And that’s not all! Students used recycled materials to create robot models, they took photos of them, and gave them voices using VoiceThread. The project is a good example on how to promote a better way to manage waste and how to start working with Maker with younger students. If you want to find out more, go to this previous article.
- “The hole puncher: A mechanical international project” is a collaboration between Spain, Italy, and Germany and the goal was to design, build, and document the building process of a hole puncher. It is a great example of how the Maker approach in Professional Training can be improved with eTwinning; it can lead to a better development of the digital competence as well as the linguistic competence. The partner from Spain was the CIP Virgen del Camino school (Navarra).
Do you dare to include Maker in your eTwinning projects? What ideas come to mind? We want you to participate and we encourage you to disseminate your work and proposals using our Twitter or Facebook. At the same time, you can count on us to make your progress known. We say goodbye for the time being and leave you with a few links that you might find useful. See you soon, makers!
Source: design adapted form a Photoroyalty image (licencia CC-by). http://www.freepik.com/