Maker Movement in the Media

Agency by Design researchers have undertaken a review of scholarly literature to further our understandings of the various concepts connected to our study.

As we’ve written elsewhere on our blog, in addition to our ongoing collaborations with educators in the Bay Area, Agency by Design researchers have undertaken a review of scholarly literature to further our understandings of the various concepts connected to our study. While we’ve had little trouble identifying bodies of scholarship on innovation, digital media, design thinking, and the concept of student agency, we’ve found that a similarly robust corpus of work on the maker movement and maker-related initiatives in education does not (yet!) exist. However, as crystallized by an abundance of articles recently published in newspapers, blogs, and magazines, the maker movement is a lively topic of interest in the media.

Within the past five years, over two hundred articles on the maker movement have found outlet in seemingly disparate contexts; from popular press articles celebrating vibrant DIY projects at local Maker Faires, to publications with a focus on science, technology, and innovation, to a growing number of articles appearing in business-related publications. It’s clear that the maker movement speaks to a multitude of interests— and perhaps uniquely so.

While scholars have been increasingly turning their attention towards the maker movement, advocacy and interest in the movement have emerged in the popular press. Thus, as we’ve watched the proliferation of maker-related articles appear at an astonishing rate, we’ve become increasingly interested in how this body of literature documents growth and trends in the movement, shapes public opinion on the matter, as well as the ways in which the press has generated excitement in the prospect of connecting making to learning within various formal and informal educational contexts.

Not surprisingly, it is this last point—the perceived value of making in the learning process—that we’ve been especially keen to understand. So far we’ve found that in broad strokes, major themes and variations on the benefits of making fall within the following three categories:

  • Personal agency
    Participation in maker culture is said to foster a “can-do” and DIY mindset. This mindset is connected favorably to a number of positive social behaviors, from being more mindful of everyday consumerist habits to promoting new leadership capabilities in a globalized world.
  • Student achievement and school reform
    Particularly as it relates to STEM learning, the maker movement is described as having uncommon educational promise and relevance, and maker-related educational initiatives are increasingly looked towards as a strategy in education reform.
  • Innovation and the economy
    Taking the long view, various publications assert that the maker movement is uniquely positioned to reinvigorate the American economy. Typically arguments of this nature postulate that investments in hands-on learning opportunities and a curriculum centered around making will equip future generations with the skills needed to thrive in a globally competitive workforce.

Over the next few weeks as we aim to unpack and synthesize these broad themes as part of our literature review process, we wonder: Have you observed or experienced the value of making in an educational context? and, What do you see as the long-term benefits to adopting hands-on learning and making experiences in schools?

This blog was published on August 13, 2013.
Authored by
Edward Clapp

Edward Clapp is a Principal Investigator on the Agency by Design project.