What is the Maker Movement?

What is the Maker Movement?
In its simplest explanation, the Maker Movement is a shift towards creativity, innovation and production and away from pure consumerism. Some participants in the movement, or “makers”, are finding that new tools, technology and materials have opened up opportunities that were previously attainable only through large capital outlays. Others are simply discovering the unique joy and pleasure of learning a new skill and creating something from scratch.
The idea of a “nation of makers” is by no means new. Just a couple of generations ago, individuals, families and communities found “making” to be an essential part of survival – from gardening to making clothing, repairing and building transportation and housing and as a general requirement for employability. Due to our good fortune, increased access to devices and love of convenience has diminished our need to make things ourselves or to even learn the basics of how certain tools and equipment are used. Along with it has gone the satisfaction that is found in making something useful or beautiful to keep, give or sell.
The Maker Movement taps into a combination of qualities that are distinctly American – creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, self-reliance and entrepreneurship. Over the past 5-10 years, makers have been finding ways to organize themselves in order to make better use of tools, share knowledge and build community. As a result, Maker Spaces, Hacker Spaces, Fab Labs and other community based workshops have popped up all over the country to serve this growing need. These spaces can contain a variety of resources including 3D printers, woodworking and metal-working tools, electronics workstations, sewing machines and a host of other specialized equipment that may be out of reach (financially or spatially) for most individuals. Not only do these spaces offer a physical location, but also a shared mission of teaching, learning and creating with others. Many public libraries are also finding that community maker spaces make sense as a new resource for their users and have invested in
tools as well.
In addition to maker spaces, the Maker Movement is also having a strong impact on education.
Teachers are finding that school Maker Spaces or lessons involving some type of hands-on making are a great way to engage learners. Not only does this type of learning environment engage, but it also acts as a conduit for other important skills such as problem solving, creativity and critical thinking. Teachers are also encouraged to teach through problem based or project based lessons that incorporate elements of making. This trend will continue to grow as jobs of the future become more reliant on resourcefulness, thinking skills and adaptability rather than rote memorization. Another important way that the Maker Movement has impact is through the building of an entrepreneurial mindset. Many makers are finding they can use their tools and creativity to build a business. Those who do not have their own business possess skills that are highly sought after by innovative companies. As the traditional workplace becomes more and more automated, employees are going to need to be savvy enough to troubleshoot and find areas for improvement as well as think of new ways of using equipment and materials. This requires a confidence and mechanical/technical knowledge that is difficult to nurture in a classroom setting but more easily accomplished in a Maker Space setting. It also requires that one be comfortable with taking risks, iterating and persevering through difficulties. The ability “fail” successfully is a crucial part of learning and growing as a maker.
The maker mindset can be applied to all types of careers and industries and these characteristics should be encouraged across all sectors of the economy. The Maker Movement has the potential to awaken a great new era of innovation and prosperity for the U.S. There are so many ways that “making” can give us a better quality of life, education and economic
future.