Production-Centered: Agency, Voice, and the “Maker Movement”

“The educational makerspace is based on student ownership of their learning.” @LFlemingEDU


In a week of amazing youth leadership, let’s make something inspired by young people. Check out Youth Radio and then also check out the resources also at Teach Youth Radio.

Then let’s try this fun experiment — What if we could use our devices and design a mobile App that allowed you to create more of these kinds of connections for the youth we work with … What would it do? … How is it awesome?!

Youth Radio provides this DIY Toolkit: How to Come Up with Your Own Mobile App. The example here is about making public art more visible. What if our apps here at ED677 were instead designed to support youth in being college, career and community-ready? And also designed to create socially and culturally meaningful contexts of youths’ lives within academic spaces? What if they provided supportive mentors and mentorship and took into account youth interests, both personal and political? And also connect to their peers? What roles would all these people and relationships play in your app’s awesomeness?

In other words: With our shared ED677 goal to create equitable connected learning opportunities for youth … what would kind of App would you design and why?

Do some imagining and playing this week with this idea and share on your blog — you can be as practical or fantastical as you like. Share your App ideas and tell us about it while also reflecting on the implications for equity in connected learning and teaching.


Let’s start by hearing from the youth themselves at Youth Radio. Pick out something here to focus on. What are they saying? How are they saying it? What are they making in order to say it? … Notice that Youth Radio’s mission is to launch young people on career and education pathways by engaging them in work-based learning opportunities, creative expression, professional development, and health and academic support services.

This week our focus is on production-centered teaching and connected learning with a return to Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Read Chapter 4: Production-Centered Classrooms by Clifford Lee alongside Jason Sellers, Christian McKay and Danielle Filipiak.

Let’s also look at the “Maker Movement.” Some of you have studied making in a previous class — what do you recognize in this overview with Erica Halverson and Kimberly Sheridan via The Maker Movement in Education?

I served on a working group with Erica for Maker Ed related to a research about portfolio assessment and making. In our conversation on March 22nd we started to talk about assessment and making, and, as Erica and Kimberly write:

… perhaps the greatest challenge to embracing the maker movement in K–12 schools, especially in our current accountability environment, is the need to standardize, to define “what works” for learning through making. … 

Given the importance of this topic for us to consider, here is a link to the resources that have emerged from this research project: Maker Education Open Portfolio Project. Take a look at what’s here; what can we learn from making practice both in and outside of schools that support us in thinking about connected learning and youth agency?

… democratization may only be accomplished if we move beyond conceptualizing making exclusively as a series of activities that can help improve K–12 students’ formal schooling knowledge. If we believe that making activities and maker identities are crucial for empowerment, then it is, in part, our job to set up situations whereby all learners have the opportunity to engage. (Halverson and Sheridan)

Next I encourage you to watch Leah Buechley, mentioned in the Halverson and Sheridan article. Here she  is considering all learners and in doing so brings a more critical eye to the popularized and branded “Maker” movement and talks through its key promises and equity challenges: Thinking about Making. What stands out to you here as you think about equity in your own context?

Eyeo 2014 – Leah Buechley from Eyeo Festival // INSTINT on Vimeo.

Kim Jaxon, a writing project colleague and composition scholars, also offers a “cautionary tale” in Connected Making Designing Composing. What can you offer from your disciplinary perspective to add to this conversation?

As we move to a focus on design and making in education, we should consider how design or making is woven throughout the disciplines and consider how making and design emerge from disciplinary problems. We could learn a lot from the years of research in writing across the disciplines that could inform more thoughtful infusion of design thinking and making across our curriculum.

As Halverson and Sheridan also tell us, this “movement” is not new and has its roots as far back to Dewey (as you might remember from our reading of a chapter from School and Society). So let’s tap into a bit of the history of making and learning: start with Seymour Papert — a mathematician, scientist and educator from MIT — who is known as the father of “constructionism.” Papert and Harel’s introduction Situating Constructionism from the 1991 book Constructionism gives a good overview. And then, here are some collected resources from a recent book titled Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom.

Finally, check out these stories about making in two Philadelphia schools:


This PDF is provided by Youth Radio to support the process of making an App — and it suggests that designers put together three questions and then interview three other users as part of a user research process on the way to creating the App:

User Research allows you to understand your users’ wants and needs. Figure out the users’ problem, and how they might like it to be addressed. Or figure out the opportunity your users have, and how the app can help them achieve it. This is also the best time to get ideas.

Instead of finding 5 this week, interview 3-5 people to support your own “user research” for your App idea. You can pick others in this class or others, including youth, colleagues, neighbors, friends, mentors, etc.


If you missed the gathering on March 22, here is a recording. We had two presenters and started some good conversations; food for thought when working on your reading/reflecting above. Here is our shared document with some interesting reflections too.

Next gathering? April 5 at 7pm ET. Hope to see you there!

In learning and connecting solidarity,


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