For all the excitement, though, there are also hurdles.
One of the biggest: "Maker education" itself is a highly squishy concept.
In general, the term refers to hands-on activities that support academic learning and promote experimentation, collaboration, and a can-do mindset. But in practice, educators use "making" to describe everything from formal STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curricula to project-based classroom lessons to bins of crafting materials on a shelf in the library.
Should making happen primarily in a dedicated space or inside every classroom? And is the purpose of maker education to help students better learn the established curriculum or to upend traditional notions of what counts as real learning?
The whole point of maker education, Turner said, is to find new ways to engage students, especially those who have struggled to find a comfortable place inside school.
It's a belief increasingly borne out by research.
Academics have consistently found that making "gives kids agency" over their learning in ways that traditional classes often don't, said Erica Halverson, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There's also mounting evidence that making is a good way to teach academic content. "The fear out there is that schools have to choose between making and academic work, but empirically that turns out not to be true," Halverson said.
New attention is being paid to designing spaces that are welcoming for girls, students of color, and immigrant and refugee students.
At its root, the trend is being fueled by widespread fatigue with high-stakes standardized testing. The administration of President Barack Obama has also provided a policy boost, giving strong backing to STEM and computer science education and the redesign of schools. The sudden affordability of technologies such as 3-D printers, sensors, microprocessors, and laser cutters have exponentially expanded access to the tools for making.
And, perhaps most importantly, the makermovement has also tapped into a deep desire among many educators to return to the type of instruction that drew them to teaching in the first place.
Meaningful change takes time, the superintendent said, and it can't be mandated from above.
Efforts to bring maker education into schools might be messy and uneven. But so far, at least, the process has often been characterized by enthusiasm and growth.
Ultimately, Moran said, isn't that the point?
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