Bringing a ‘maker mindset’ to the future of work

This article was originally published in luminary lab reports, and can be found in full here

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The modern maker movement — a technology-based DIY community spurred in part by the launch of MAKE magazine in 2005 and Maker Faire in 2006 — is growing up.

Stephanie Santoso, director of maker initiatives at Citizen Schools and its new Make For All initiative, is one of the advocates who has helped bring maker culture to schools and communities. (Make For All recently launched a national call for commitments to engage K-12 schools, colleges, foundations, nonprofits, makerspaces, libraries, museums, and agencies in supporting maker-centered learning.) We got to know Stephanie when she was senior advisor for making at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she planned the first-ever White House Maker Faire and the National Week of Making. At that time, we were designing and producing the CTE Makeover Challenge for the U.S. Department of Education, in which 640 schools designed makerspaces to strengthen next-generation skills.

Stephanie Santoso

Stephanie Santoso

The future of work will require a “maker mindset” — and today’s increasingly collaborative workplaces can also gain from adopting elements of maker culture. We spoke with Stephanie about how students benefit from maker-centered learning and how organizations benefit from collaboration with maker communities.

Where is the maker movement now? What’s changed over the past few years?

“The general maker movement has become more mainstream. Five to 10 years ago, it was still a very grassroots movement. We’re starting to see that certain elements of the maker movement are becoming embedded in more formal institutions and organizations. That’s a really good thing because access to makerspaces and opportunities to engage in making are important for everyone.

Institutionalizing some of the elements of the maker movement in places like libraries, K-12 schools, and community colleges will help bring maker-centered learning to more communities, more students, and more families. We’ve evolved to think about what broadening access to these experiences means across communities. There’s also more of a focus around inclusion and equity within the maker movement and the maker community.”

Make For All is working to expand access to maker-centered learning. How does making help prepare students for the jobs of today and the jobs of the future?

“A lot of research shows that in order for students to be prepared for jobs of the 21st century, they’re going to need a combination of hard skills and soft skills. Social-emotional learning is going to become that much more important. We don’t exactly know what those jobs will be, but we do know the nature of jobs will change because advancements in science and technology are changing the way whole industries operate. The value of maker-centered learning is that it teaches students both hard skills and soft skills.

The idea of the maker mindset is that students develop creative confidence and a sense of agency — that they have the ability to creatively solve problems on their own and with their peers. Maker-centered learning teaches life skills — critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Other aspects of education encourage and cultivate these skills in students, but one of the unique things about maker-centered learning is that it teaches students these particular skills in an interdisciplinary way.

With traditional schooling, students go from class to class — they’re in science class, art class, math class — but maker-centered learning actually teaches across and between subjects. Through the experience of taking an idea and designing it, developing it, and prototyping it, students are actually learning about science and math and art and design in an interdisciplinary way that tears down the artificial boundaries between subject matter.”