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What/who is a maker?

June 17, 2013

Wired maker issue coverA maker is a tinkerer, a hobbyist, a do-it-yourselfer, a hands-on enthusiast. A maker might be interested in anything from metalworking to electronics, robotics, woodworking, or traditional arts and crafts. I first became aware of the movement when I read about how to build a Rocket-Launched Camcorder in an early issue of Make magazine. I didn’t build one – it was way over my head.

In a nod to the influence of maker culture, the weekly projects are called “makes” in the Connected Learning MOOC (clmooc) I’ve just started taking. One of the design principles of connected learning is that it should be production-centered; connected learners should actively create, produce, experiment, remix, decode, and design.

There were makers before the internet (my brother Steve tinkered with Heathkit electronics kits in the 60s) but maker culture is thriving right now. Why? For one thing, it’s easy to find out how to make things through online videos and tutorials. For another, there is lots of support available from maker communities, both face-to-face and online.

Some makers are excited by sophisticated fabricating machines like those made by MakerBot, which have become relatively cheap. These computer numerical controlled (CNC) tools can fashion plastic or metal into a design supplied by a computer. They allow a  one-person shop to quickly and easily manufacture a three dimensional object.

Hmmm…. Those sound like developments that ought to have an impact on teaching and learning. I agree with Dale Dougherty in the video below. We need makers. Let’s try to design more opportunities for college students in every discipline to make all sorts of things.

Sources and resources

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