As technology advances and the costs of production and skill attainment decrease, makerspaces are seeing a recent surge of support in classrooms worldwide. The term “makerspace” is an extension of tech culture’s “hackerspace,” a DIY creative and technology-focused space where like-minded peers can accomplish goals and share methods.
Makerspaces, while still focused on using technology, have the more general goal of creating, testing, and presenting anything of value, including code.
Coding in schools
Mitch Resnick, a professor at the MIT Media Lab, has spent over 30 years immersed in education technology and researches how students learn. According to Resnick, teaching students to code for the sake of becoming professional programmers isn’t a good enough goal.
“I think the reasons for learning to code are the same as the reasons for learning to write,” he says. “When we learn to code, we are learning how to organize, express, and share ideas in new ways, in a new medium.” In his view, makerspaces are at their best when students experiment with programming and work to address real problems with technology-based solutions.
Resnick believes focusing lessons with four concepts is key: project, passion, peers, and play. Essentially, students should work on projects they have passions for, collaboratively with peers and in playful spirits.
Makerspaces give students the opportunity to see how their creative and collaborative efforts can affect the world in real time while gaining skills they can use later in life. Providing such opportunities, especially for young students, is critical for the future of creators and innovators everywhere.
The maker mindset abroad
Makerspaces aren’t just a Western phenomenon. They are quickly being adopted in China, a country that requires government approval for any changes to education standards. In 2010, China passed an education reform proposal with the goal to better support education-seeking citizens as a whole instead of prioritizing “cold scores” on tests.
When Chinese premier Li Keqiang stated that every citizen should strive to become an entrepreneur and innovator, Dr. Weixun Cao, founder and CEO of BitLab, was inspired to show what makerspaces can offer. Dr. Cao established over 200 makerspace classrooms in 20 Chinese provinces. Each makerspace classroom is modular and comes with the equipment to create and experiment with technology.