Scientia potentia est – Knowledge is power. This saying is now more true than ever. Why? Because the industrial society we were inhabiting not too long ago has seamlessly turned into a knowledge society. Where instead of producing material goods and services, more and more people engage in generating, applying, and spreading new knowledge. With the emphasis on new!
The digital era has given individuals nearly unlimited access to information. It revolutionized technologies and it changed radically people’s everyday lives. And it made the concepts of the assembly line and mass production – key to the industrial era – obsolete. In keeping up with these changes, the society and economy are redesigning themselves around the newly emancipated individual. Personalization and customization are gradually taking central stage. People are increasingly free to explore and pursue their own unique needs and aspirations. Free to cultivate their talents and interests at their own pace. Free to find their peers.
But the new freedom brings with it new responsibilities. The more flexibility and independence we enjoy, the greater our obligation to ourselves and to our communities to fulfil our potential and to give back. Which demands that we stretch our limits and rethink our priorities and values. That we do not just utilize, consume and play, but also contribute, create and invent. In short, we must strive to produce new knowledge.
But how does one learn to produce new knowledge? How can one nourish creativity and innovative thinking? Is there a way to cultivate people’s natural curiosity and their intrinsic desire to make a difference?
Answers to these questions can be found in The Maker Movement. This movement promotes “learning by doing” and is powered by people’s inborn need for pursuing their own ideas and questions, for exploring and experimenting, and for helping the world. Based on experiential (hands-on) and collaborative learning, the maker community builds on the explosive growth in digital technologies and the increased democratization of information. Its aim is to make use of the existing information to generate something of value. Something meaningful to makers themselves and to the society. Something that matters.
The still young maker culture – also known as Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture – was born in hacker spaces and fab labs and grew alongside newly emerging technologies, primarily computing. Recently it diffused into many different areas of human endeavour, ranging from traditional arts and crafts to cutting-edge synthetic biology. More and more people of all ages and from all over the world adhere spontaneously to the movement because of the freedom it gives them. The freedom to work on their own projects, to build new things, to create. And to learn unconstrained by curricula and other extrinsically defined objectives. By joining The Maker Movement one seeks to become fulfilled as an individual and to contribute to society, which are intrinsic motivators for learning.
The philosophy driving the maker culture has already permeated the education environment. Its ideas and principles form the basis of education models such as project-based learning, competency-based learning, discovery learning or self-directed learning – all of which are gaining popularity fast all over the world. The practical and democratic approach to learning promoted by The Maker Movement matches our times better than any other. And it may be our only viable way to encourage the kind of life-long learning and innovative spirit that our knowledge society demands.