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Examining maker education? Ask a teacher.

When I think of maker education I think of constructionism and Seymour Papert with Logo. Personal and professional lived experiences are mostly with digital making and I adopted Papert's 'objects-to-think-with' (Mindstorms, 1980) to form my own mental imagery in the early days of the EdD research proposal.

If the phenomenon that I intended to explore was in my hand, how would I examine it and what would I say about my experiences with it? Let's imagine it was the socio-cultural context of making in schools, a curriculum design, a pedagogical approach, a piece of hardware integral to a project or a community of practice. What I have consciously experienced in the past becomes an object in my consciousness and as such my own research 'object-to-think-with'.

Illustration of my research created by Buttercrumble

If maker education to me is 'towards a sociology of making in education' (Perrotta, Bailey and Garside, 2018), how would another researcher, teacher, maker or industry stakeholder describe and reflect on an 'object' from their own experiences? That's where complexity from differences in the definition and motivations of maker education become apparent and have impacted on my research design, alongside philosophical underpinnings of the study.

'Making and tinkering' (Vossoughi and Bevan, 2014) as a review of the literature highlights many facets of the phenomenon and the body of educational research to date including engagement in STEM learning and instruction, inclusion, equity in making and entrepreneurship. My own positionality as a researcher with experiences of delivering programmes from KS1 to PhD has given me opportunities to observe and interact with maker education from different perspectives, and also prolonged the decision when it came to finally deciding on the most appropriate research methodology. The discourse around the purpose of education, employability skills from an employer's perspective and the place of maker education in the curriculum was a deciding factor for me.

Maker education can be positioned across many different frameworks and in the last few years I've written about the phenomenon as my 'object-to-think-with' across numerous paradigms below. What became apparent during this process was the importance of positioning teachers at the centre of the research, and in particular experienced teachers who have adopted a maker education approach for over two years. In essence, ask a teacher to learn from their own lived experiences in school.

Frameworks as 'objects-to-think-with'

Let's end with Heidegger's 'present-at-hand' hammer from 1927 and substitute it for a Raspberry Pi mini-computer that's often used in maker activities in schools. An experienced teacher's practical engagement with the 'ready-to-hand' Pi gives context and the hardware has significance, relevance and usability when embedded into a maker education programme. The Raspberry Pi in this context doesn't stand alone, it has become meaningful in relation to the curriculum delivered in school.

"The less we just stare at the thing called hammer Raspberry Pi, the more actively we use it, the more original our relation to it becomes and the more undisguisedly it is encountered as what it is, a useful thing. The act of hammering jamming itself discovers the specific 'handiness' of the hammer Raspberry Pi. Martin Heidegger, 1927

In order to examine maker education, I believe that teachers hold the key to revealing it's essence and phenomenology offers exciting educational research opportunities.


Heidegger, M., 1927. 1962) Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Perrotta, C., Bailey, C. and Garside, C., 2018. Culture, technology and local networks: towards a sociology of ‘making’ in education. Cambridge journal of education, 48(5), pp.553-569.

Papert, S., 1980. Mindstorms: Computers, children, and powerful ideas. NY: Basic Books, p.255.

Vossoughi, S. and Bevan, B., 2014. Making and tinkering: A review of the literature. National Research Council Committee on Out of School Time STEM, pp.1-55.



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