A couple of weeks ago, Wendy and Tucker and I went to Maker Faire in New York City and it was, in a word, incredible. I’m not much of a maker myself, and I’ll admit being a bit late to the whole concept that seems to be exploding right now, but I was just amazed at how much cool stuff people were building and sharing. Brain. Melt. (On a side note, we’re going to be visiting this weekend with a local professor who has been using Arduino in his classrooms and promises to get us up to speed.)
Right after that, I had the chance to stop by TechShop Detroit where I got a tour of what I can only describe as a builder’s paradise…3D printers and CAD computers and wood fabricators and water saws and…you get the idea. Stuff that used to be fringy in high school now going mainstream.
And then, this morning, I ran across this: WikiSeat. And I’m thinking, “every child a maker.” Here’s someone who has created a “catalyst” or a basic starter piece for seat design, an easy entry into the maker idea, and an English teacher who has run with it. Not high tech, but high thinking. And the learning payoff is amazing. And I love the kids:
"I’ve never really done anything that’s like construction. I’ve always done worksheets and tests. It was probably the best test I’ve ever done in my life…It really just made me feel like I can complete any assignment that I want to do. I used to like didn’t want to do assignments because they felt too difficult, and after that, nothing feels difficult anymore."
And the teacher, Sean Wheeler:
"We spend a lot of time putting kids in front of geniuses telling them to study genius in other people. But what you’re really doing in teaching this project is pulling genius out of kids. Instead of trying to force it into them."
All of which speaks to this idea that we may be at the precipice of a real explosion of creative entrepreneurism that will be built on self-direction and resilience and failure and innovation and collaboration…none of which we truly value in the current school system enough to significantly change our approach. Nothing that Race to the Top wants to pay us for. (Wired’s Chris Anderson has a new book that dives into this idea: Makers:The New Industrial Revolution.)
So here’s the deal. If you’re a classroom teacher, you have until October 18 at noon to let the folks at WikiSeat know that you want to participate in a huge seat-making, problem solving, genius pulling project on a national scale. Provided their Kickstarter funding comes through, they’ll provide you all the “catalysts” you need by spring break 2013 to get your kids imagining and innovating and making.
Oh, and you can do it too.