Bridging makers and Maker Movements
MAKER Bridge was a series of webinars which brought together "initiatives, experiences, academic understanding and practitioner expertise in the field of digital making."
Conceived and hosted by Dr Julian Sefton-Green (research fellow at the London School of Economics) and Professor Kylie Peppler (Assistant Professor at the University of Indiana), the series was also supported by our Make Things Do Stuff partners, the Nominet Trust. Perhaps most importantly, MAKER Bridge represents a first gathering of two distinct initiatives supporting making and learning - UK-based Make Things Do Stuff and US-focused Make-to-Learn.
It's been a pleasure to witness this forum come together to share their experiences and discuss some hot topics - namely physical computing and making, programming and coding, and new sites of learning.
I found the last session exploring new site of learning particularly inspiring, where Lisa Regalla (Maker Education Initiative) Iris Lapinski (Apps for Good) and Mimi Ito (UC Irvine and DMLcentral) compared different ways of engaging young people and considered how making can be integrated within formal education. Equally, these sessions were open to a wider audience, who could directly question and interact with the expert panels through social media. Miss the live sessions? You can watch their recordings here.
With the MAKER Bridge series now complete, I can't help but wonder how can we continue to expand and facilitate more cross-cutting discussion and bridging of efforts around digital making?
Bridging is fundamental to digital making (and making overall). Whether people, organisations, or initiatives at a local, national or international level, bridging can:
- combine our varied knowledge and skills to develop new types of making, projects or products
- enable us to learn from one another's experiences and share best practice
- stimulate discussion and debates which challenge our assumptions
Taking a moment to reflect, it is quickly obvious that a variety of spaces are already bridging digital makers and their activities. In the last decade we've seen phenomenal growth of online communities like GitHub, which hosts over three million people sharing and collaborating on code, as well as more kid-focused platforms like Scratch and DIY.org. Going offline, the last few years have also witnessed the international proliferation of maker spaces, groups and events, including Hackspaces, CoderDojos, Code Clubs, Mozilla's Maker Party and Apps for Good.
Amidst the ever increasing bustle of support for makers, I would argue that we also need to sustain the types of forum for discussion and exchange exemplified by MAKER Bridge - particularly to stimulate debate and challenge our assumptions around making.
Taking a note from Mozilla's Open Badges discussion community space (which also holds a weekly open call) and the Maker City Groups, perhaps it's time to establish a wider and more consistent public forum where discussions around digital making can take centre stage.
Personally, I think a useful exercise could be unpicking the assumption that digital making will lead to positive outcomes for young people. Digital skills, civic participation, improved learning outcomes - you hear these arguments mentioned almost continuously, but the evidence doesn't always follow (even when it does exist). I'm not saying it would be nice or easy, but tackling the criticism head on will help to refine our thinking and, hopefully, our efforts as well.
So would a monthly webchat or webinar broaden interest in and participation around supporting digital making, or simply bring together the converted? Then again, you might say that such a coordinated effort is the last thing a groundswell movement needs.
Have an idea on how this could be done or are you doing this already? Let us know. Drop me a line at: [email protected].