A Makerspace is not a one-size-fits-all kind of space.
What are teachers already doing? What is already there, and how can we add to and augment it?
Makerspaces in schools should connect to student’s authentic interests, or the experiences children have had.
When students have to spend all their time fulfilling an external agenda, they don’t have a chance to learn how to create their own agenda. Teaching kids only what adults think they need to know can take up all the time kids need to explore what it is that they care about.
But in the process of following their own interests, they’re going to develop a lot of other skills.
School does some things well, but what I love about the library is that when I enter, I set the agenda.
I am excited about Making in schools — it can be really great. But if the agenda for what needs to be Made is coming from outside the Maker, then that could be problematic.
Educators, Perkins says, need to embrace these same insights. They need to start asking themselves what he considers to be one of the most important questions in education: What's worth learning in school?
These days, he says we teach a lot that isn’t going to matter, in a significant way, in students’ lives. There’s also much we aren’t teaching that would be a better return on investment. As a result, as educators, “we have a somewhat quiet crisis of content,” Perkins writes, “quiet not for utter lack of voices but because other concerns in education tend to muffle them.” These other concerns are what he calls rival learning agendas: information, achievement, and expertise.
The information in textbooks is not necessarily what you need or would like to have at your fingertips.” Instead, even though most people would say that education should prepare you for life, much of what is offered in schools doesn’t work in that direction, Perkins says. Educators are “fixated” on building up students’ reservoirs of knowledge, often because we default to what has always been done.
“Conventional curriculum is chained to the bicycle rack,” he says. “It sits solidly in the minds of parents: ‘I learned that. Why aren’t my children learning it?’
Curriculum suffers from something of a crowded garage effect: It generally seems safer and easier to keep the old bicycle around than to throw it out.”
Just as educators are pushing students to build a huge reservoir of knowledge, they are also focused on having students master material, sometimes at the expense of relevance.
Unfortunately, if someone questions whether this expertise serves students well and instead suggests more life-relevant topics, Perkins says the common reaction is: “We’re sacrificing rigor!”
Instead of building during the first 12 years of schooling toward expertise in an advanced topic like calculus that hardly ever comes up in our lives, Perkins says students can instead become “expert amateurs” in something like statistics — a rigorous topic that is also used in daily life. In fact, expert amateurism works great, he says, in most of what we do in our lives
There’s no list of 1,000 things we must know or teach. Perkins says there would be no way to create a definitive list because there are lots of things worth learning at any given time or for a specialized career or even simply because we enjoy learning.
“The fixation on the heap of information in the textbooks is itself part of the problem because the world we are educating learners for is something of a moving target,” he says.
With high-stakes testing, he says, there’s a fixation on “summative” versus “formative” assessment — evaluating students’ mastery of material with exams and final projects (achievements) versus providing ongoing feedback that can improve learning.
Perkins says he’s not surprised that so many people have trouble naming things they learned early on that still have meaning today or that disengaged students are raising their hands, asking why they need to know something.