26 Ways to Foster a Transformative Maker Culture

Take a moment to contemplate what it would be like if every school had a Maker Culture and it was part of the school curriculum. You may wish to dream of the possibilities for essential 21st-century skill development and significant content skill alignment. Think about the aura of engagement, flow, grit, perseverance, problem solving, revision, reflection, and satisfaction in that amazing learning environment. Contemplate parents asking the question, “What did you make in school today?” Now sit back and imagine the answer, and further conversations it would bring!

The idea behind the Maker movement includes allowing students to imagine, envision, create, innovate, play, learn in a formative manner, experiment, collaborate, share, and most of all dream of possibilities. The idea of making is really not a new concept. In fact,the art of making is at the root and mixed into to the very fabric of our culture. I believe that the amazing innovation we have seen in this country is due to a Maker mentality. We have long been a culture set on dreaming up possibilities, and then taking the action to make it happen. The initial growth of technology has somewhat taken some of our creativity and produced  consumption based thinking. We are now past the initial way of thinking, and the Makers movement allows people to finally use the technology to create and make. As you set up or evaluate the Maker movement in your school or district I ask you to think about the ten ideas I have below. Use them as a vetting procedure or a filter. I also invite you to discover some amazing resources that might fit into your Maker culture. Enjoy the journey as you Make possibilities for your students!

Ten Ideas to Build and Support a Maker’s Culture

1. Keep in mind that Maker’s is a way of thinking and not a space. – With this in mind, the Maker Concept can occur anywhere and anytime. It can be in a dedicated space, or room, or in the library. It can be in the classroom, or possibly be a set of materials that can be brought out to students anytime.  The real idea is to promote a Maker thought process that facilitates innovation, creative thinking, and self-learning throughout the school day.

2. Make it part of the curriculum – It does not have to be a separate time, but instead can be integrated into the curriculum. While an after school program is wonderful, why not bring it into the classroom by carefully connecting the idea of Making with curricular material. Keep in mind that the final product should demonstrate learning.

3. Promote significant content and standards – Provide students with important learning targets that are connected to the content being learned. Allowing students to make, while also emphasizing important standards can be powerful and effective. The act of making allows students to do and sets the foundation for understanding. In fact, a collaborative effort with groups of students can allow for discussions that lead to deeper understanding and retention.

4. Reinforce authenticity and relevance – Genuine learning is connected to the real world. Don’t let final projects be landfill material. How can the products be useful in the real world? How can these products bring real meaning and promote student rigor and grit as they work?

5. Promote those important success skills – Often referred to as 21st-century skills, it is important to use the Maker’s culture to both facilitate these skills and assess them. Go beyond the 4 C’s of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. What are the subsets of the skills and how can you provide time for students to not only practice the skills but also process them?

6. Encourage the iterative process of learning – In this day of instant gratification and solutions, students need to learn that solutions and design do not happen in a short time period. It is important to allow for multiple drafts as students work toward a successful outcome. We must allow students to face a setback, attempt a hurdle, and practice persistence until satisfying and quality work is the final outcome.

7.  Allow for important metacognition -John Dewey stated that doing leads to important thinking, that in turn promotes genuine learning. Students must not only think about the process, but also journal, assess, and have conversations with others throughout the project. This will allow for a learning and understanding that is owned by the individual. This ownership transfers to genuine learning!

8. Provide opportunities for student voice and choice – As you might know, the concept of a genius hour is quite popular. Based on the concept of the Google 20% program, students should be provided time to learn and make in regards to their interest. This can still be standards based as students write and use research skills. Of course, important 21st-century skills can also be assessed. Allowing for this could pave the way for important career pathways.

9. Facilitate self-direction and regulation – A Maker’s culture allows students to set goals and provide both a timeline and method to make it happen. It allows students opportunities to learn on their own, or in small groups, often exploring ways that can make this happen. It is a wonderful way to promote lifelong learning.

10. Align it to existing initiatives – How can the Maker’s culture work with other important programs and initiatives in the school. Perhaps it fits into PBL, STEM, 1 to 1, or particular school goals. It can provide an avenue to reach those 21st-century skills and can be used to reinforce important power standards.

16 Resources to Build and Support a Maker’s Culture

In a recent panel presentation at ISTE. I had the opportunity to share these important Maker resources under the categories of play, games, media, and Makers. I thought this would be a wonderful place to list these resources so that you can explore some amazing possibilities as you keep within the filter of theTen Ideas to Build and Support a Maker’s Culture. I know there are more but thought I would point out some that provide some rich opportunities or emphasize a different way to view the Maker’s culture. Please take some time to browse these resources. I am certain you will find a way to incorporate them into your own Maker’s culture.

Play – You may remember an activity called “going out to play”. In fact, this is where I learned many of my 21st-century skills. How many times did you make something when you were playing?  Play provides a wonderful learning opportunity which also include self-regulation and socialization possibilities. How can we emphasize play in the Maker’s culture? After all, Making provides a wonderful opportunity to play and learn.

Institute of Play – Take a look at this wonderful site providing resources and ideas that will allow you to facilitate real learning and your students play. You are bound to get some awesome Maker’s ideas

Playworks – Discover this organization that embraces play as a necessary part of every child’s learning experience. You will find wonderful research and possibilities that support play in education.

New York Hall of Science – Have you thought about STEM, play and the support of important standards. Take some time and play around on this site!

Department of Education and Child Development – This website from Canada provide some rich and playful ideas that can become a part of your Maker’s culture.

Games – Simulations and games provide a wonderful opportunity to learn. Perhaps a web or computer adventure can be part of your students’ Maker time. There are a lot of games that allow students to make as they use their minds. Why not take another step and have your students create their own games? This could be done through using code, or just plain cardboard and markers. Students can even create a game that provides a learning experience for themselves or other students. Of course, they can then spend some time in the process of play with their games!

Edutopia –  This is a wonderful site with amazing education ideas to help you transform instruction. Follow this link and you will view articles, resources, and research that will give you a wonderful glimpse of gaming in education.

Utah Game Network – What a wonderful collection of interactive possibilities using technology. How might some of these be used in a Maker’s culture?

Games for Change – Take a moment to discover a gold mine of rich resources that allow your students to create digital games. A great portal for bringing the Making of games into your Maker’s culture.

Activity Village – Not everything in the 21st century has to be digital. How about allowing students to create games in the non-digital world, like using cardboard and markers? Think of the learning standards their games could connect to.

Media – We live in a dynamic multi-media culture, and our students have grown up in it. How can multimedia enhance and inform our Maker’s culture? Perhaps it provides avenues for our students to learn and even see examples. It might also provide us opportunities to see some Maker possibilities. Your students may even wish to make some of their own multimedia. I will try to provide an example of several resources in the ideas below.

PBS LearningMedia –This rich multimedia based education service provides some units that include Maker possibilities. It also has tools that students and teachers can use to build and create.  Don’t forget the wonder and answers a video can add to a Maker study on concepts and even careers.

YouTube – This well-known video service will provide you countless Maker ideas. It will also supply your students with important how-to videos along with others that provide explanations of important learning content. Just search the service and allow it to facilitate making!

How Stuff Works – As students make they may want to learn more and even have further questions, this is a great place to get information and explanations when Making. You are bound to find some curricular connections.

The Kids Should See This – Be sure to visit this amazing wonder-filled resource site. You will find ideas for making along with some great learning opportunities.

Makers – There are a lot of Maker sites on the internet and I share many of these in other posts. In this post, I thought I would share some of my very favorites. As described throughout this post, there are so many possibilities of supporting a Maker’s culture while integrating the curricular standards. A Makers culture is powerful and can really support genuine learning when the proper foundation has been set. Along with reading my included resources, be sure to review my Ten Ideas to Build and Support a Maker’s Culture. It really is the time that you and your students become part of a Maker’s culture!

Maker Camp – This was created as a summer-time learning opportunity by Google. The units that are part of this program are awesome and can be brought into the educational curriculum. Take your time browsing because you are going to find some engaging possibilities

Exploratorium – This entire website provides a treasure cove of Maker ideas. Take a look and you will have your standards covered with innovation and creation. You might even want to check out the book on this site, and don’t forget all the other educational possibilities.

How Toons – Discover the “how” of so many things and then get “doing” with that Maker mentality. You and your students will find countless ideas to begin your Maker journey.

Genius Hour – Teachers across the country are finding ways to put that Google 20% in their classroom while still supporting standards and 21st-century skills. This site might just help you get started in providing students the opportunity to learn how to learn, while practicing self-regulation. Best of all, it supports that important voice and choice along with spiraling inquiry!  It really encourages that important Maker’s Culture.

Other Shared Links – Please note that the below links were other links shared at the ISTE 2016 Session I hosted for PBS Learning Media entitled “Using Games, Play, and Digital Media to Build Your Own Maker Culture” . They were contributed by Amanda Haughs at the Campbell Union School District and  Jackson Westenskow at the Institute of Play.

Institute of Play   | PBS Learning Media | Newsela | NextLesson.org | TeachEngineering.org

Scratch | Khan Academy Computer Programming | Raspberry Pi | PythonRoom

The host of the was: PBS Learningmedia (Visit for some wonderful resource that can connect to  using games, play, and digital media to build your own Maker culture

Michael Gorman has overseen a one-to-one laptop program and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has also served as a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning; served on the National Faculty for BIE (BUCK Institute); and been an adviser for Tech & Learning magazine. His awards have included district Teacher of the Year, Indiana state Teacher of the Year semi-finalist, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year, Advocate for Johns Hopkins University, and Microsoft’s Global Education Hero award. Mike maintains his award winning 21centuryedtech Blog and also posts articles at T&L and November Learning. Twitter @mjgormans

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