EAGER: MAKER: A Cultural Framework for Equity in Maker Practices

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Maker Movement has gained worldwide attention over the past decade, empowering those who identify as makers to use new tools to produce creative artifacts valued by their communities (Sheridan et al, 2014; Maker Media, 2016; White House, 2014). In education, the process of making has been viewed as a popularization of constructionist theories of learning (Papert, 1991), a potentially democratized way to encourage STEM learning (Blikstein, 2013). However, research suggests that the Maker Movement has failed to be democratic—it has been dominated by middle class white men and by high-tech gadgets, and thus has been criticized for serving a limited audience, one that is already empowered, educated, and wealthy (Buechley, 2013). The Maker Movement clearly resonates with many, but in order to forge a more equitable approach to making, we need to look beyond the existing movement. The current, branded Maker Movement overlooks some of the rich multitude of making activity already happening in underrepresented communities, because it prioritizes and validates certain practices, technologies, and products over others (Vossoughi et al, 2016). As part of this proposed project we plan to develop a cultural framework from which to make sense of making. We define culture as “the constellations of practices historically developed and dynamically shaped by communities in order to accomplish the purposes they value” (Nasir et al, 2006). Likewise there are constellations of making practices, countless cultures of making which exist in the wild. The branded Maker Movement is representative of only a subset. This proposal studies three different communities that engage in making that both resonate with and diverge from those associated with the Maker Movement. With respect to the six major points put forward in this EAGER call, our proposal focuses on two of them. (1) Elucidate the processes and potential benefits of learning in the Maker context. In Phase 1, we propose a comparative case study of three different makerspaces to understand making processes and products within heterogeneous maker contexts. Two of these spaces involve primarily low-income youth of color who attend urban public schools, and produce work for public display at an annual Maker Faire. However, members of these spaces may or may not identify as makers, and the practices and products of making in these communities are representative of different sets of cultural norms. (2) Explore new ideas and models of formal and informal STEM learning by leveraging existing knowledge in Making. We use a Participatory Design framework to leverage existing research and Phase 1 ethnographies to collaborate with young makers to create new guidelines for equitable making practices. Our core research questions are: What are the range of ways youth engage in making when embedded in different cultures of making? What lessons can we learn from this study that inform a better design for making learning opportunities for underrepresented youth? We seek to understand changes in both affect and knowledge, as it relates to making, schooling, and learning in general. Ethnographic research will be conducted throughout students’ progress on projects, and at their Maker Faire showcases. In Phase 2, we will use a cultures of making approach to conduct Participatory Design workshops to create guidelines for broadening participation in making. Our goal is to deepen equity efforts by positioning non-dominant students as creators of maker stories and designers of maker practices. These guidelines will serve to en
Effective start/end date8/1/173/31/21


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1723750)


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