“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Leonardo DaVinci – (maybe)
In The Expanding Universe: Why the Maker Movement Matters, on the education blog, Maelstrom (“Spinning in the Vortex of Educational Change), which cites the quote above, the blog author contends, “The Maker Movement offers an opportunity to integrate the disciplines, to apply learning in authentic ways, to create a culture of sharing, of openly learning from mistakes, and of promoting a joy in unlimited possibilities that cannot be neglected. It is a natural focus for what are often referred to as the STEAM subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Add to this the need to be able to think creatively and communicate with passion and we have one of the most compelling cases for integrated, personalised learning that education has ever encountered.”
When homeschooling began to steamroll across the country, advocates described it in almost exactly the same way – as an opportunity for authentic, joyful, hands-on learning that integrated all the disciplines in a contextual way. And that’s exactly what homeschooling did for our family years ago, and still does for millions of families today.
“A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others. People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative…” and “Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being “with it,…” wrote Ivan Illich in the 1970s and earlier, who believed not so much in “homeschooling”, per se, as “Deschooling.”
In the 1960s, school reform advocate John Holt wrote, “We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”
Even earlier, in the late 19th century, Maria Montessori was advocating for experiential, hands-on learning by doing, and in her 1947 book, Education for a New World, observed. “Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”
The list goes on and on, suggesting that while the “Maker Movement” does indeed make a very compelling case for integrated, personalized learning, it is only the most recent such case. The “Maker Movement” in education is hands on learning repackaged in a way that seems to make sense to more people than perhaps homeschooling did (or does), just the way homeschooling was the small one room schoolhouse experience repackaged for 20th century rebellion against factory schooling. On the heels of homeschooling came charter schools, and blended learning, and now the “Maker Education” movement, which is not to diminish its value, but rather to put it in the context of history and within the framework of the future. It’s wonderfully encouraging that the language of making galvanizes so many communities, from libraries to the White House, in a way that few other educational “movements” have, but we must do everything in our power to keep the maker momentum alive.
The blog author concedes that the “Maker Movement” may well be a fad, observing, “As soon as a new development is described as a “movement”, this is perhaps inevitable.” So let us go back to the common ground on which all of these individualized, meaningful project based learning and living ideas stand, on that urgency of doing, and describe this not as a movement, but as yet another very good opportunity to apply what we know by now to be true: that hands on, contextual learning is the best and most enduring kind of learning.
“Making is a central part of the key to problem-solving and the more elusive skill of problem-finding,” says Maelstrom. “These skills are essential if we want to teach young people to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet. It seems we should all have a manifesto that includes making as part of the learning process.”
I don’t know about yet another manifesto.. There are already volumes written about what a good education should provide to students and to society, including a few maker education manifestos already:
- MakerEd Manifesto
- An Education Manifesto for Craft & Making
- A Manifesto for Art, Craft & Design Education
- Blended Learning Manifesto
- Learning Manifesto for the Maker Movement
But in our zeal for a maker driven world, I would add the importance of well informed makers, too, who don’t accept every quote in a persuasive meme they read as automatically authentic, or every movement as necessarily new. We need self-reliant, capable people who also have a sense of their shared history, who understand the contextual complexities of the present, and who are able to identify the common factors that truly make ideas “great” in order to make them realities.
In the end, the urgency lies not in saying, yet again, what works and what needs to be done, but as DaVinci (or someone else) and legions of homeschoolers, Montessori and school reform advocates contend, in simply doing it.