Paulo Blikstein, The Maker Movement: Revenge of Progressive Education or Just a Fad?

Blikstein's research is right on point re: norms & rituals and stands on the fault line between equity & discrimination. Recommended highly.

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The Maker movement and FabLabs in education are the talk of the town in academic environments. Attentive observers of the history of educational research and innovation would readily recognize that the motivations and claims of the "makers" are strikingly similar to Piaget, Dewey, Papert, Freire, and their disciples. Is this the final revenge of progressive education? I would argue, however, that this is at best a double-edge sword. The main promoters of the maker movement (publishing houses, start-up companies, hackers, after-school centers) have radically different theoretical and cultural commitments than Papert or Piaget, and these commitments are present in the types of ideas and models they are proposing to schools -- with a clear impact to issues of diversity and equity.

In this talk, I will address these issues by presenting several examples of research projects in my lab that are trying to study what students learn when then make, build, program, and do inquiry science. We use methods from design-based research together with learning analytics and educational data mining to inquire into the complex, multimodal activities that students engage in science labs, and makerspaces. For example, in some studies, we examine the impact of maker activities in students' STEM identity, career choice, and problem solving skills. In another set of studies, we evaluated a model which we termed the "flipped flipped classroom," in which students explored a problem *before* they watch a video. In other studies, we use computational techniques to examine 100,000+ snapshots of computer code generated by students in a programming course, or second-by-second actions when students are building engineering projects. Taken together, these studies are trying to determine the value of constructivist education in the context of STEM education and in the "maker" movement, in order to make them possible equalizers of educational opportunity, rather than an instrument to further increase the educational gap in our society.


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