Leveraging the Maker Movement to Build Tech-Savvy Students Ready for the Future Workforce

Leveraging the Maker Movement to Build Tech-Savvy Students Ready for the Future Workforce

Author: Dr. Christina Counts

The maker movement is a game changer reinventing the rules for innovation in the world of crafters, hackers, & tinkers! The current generation of students is glued to their phones, iPads, computers, gaming consoles and realistically, we adults are too! These tech-savvy learners are most likely to enter a future workforce that expects a resume and portfolio with a strong focus on technology, programming, and computational thinking. With this in mind, it’s important to find ways to prepare today’s students for the tasks they will face in their future careers. Colleges, K-12 schools, libraries, community centers, and children’s museums are stepping up and bringing coding, robotics, and foundational STEM skills into new makerspaces, their already established makerspaces, and/or classrooms to engage students with these critical future skill sets that fuel innovation. 

At the core, makerspaces are places for making, collaborating, learning, and sharing. They give users the opportunity to explore, create, learn by doing and try out ideas in a welcoming environment without fear of failing. The design, support, and tools of the space can drive the intent of any makerspace. The following 4 strategies provide steps to leverage the makerspace movement to focus on digital oriented skills of future ready employees.

Hackerspace, Geek Squad, Tech Squad…. You name it, but provide the space!

Providing a space intentionally dedicated where learners with common interests, such as computers, machining, technology, science, digital art, or electronic art, can meet, socialize, and collaborate offers a safe zone for exploration and builds innovators. Outfit the space with plenty of mobile whiteboards or whiteboard tables for visual thinking. Design a layout of flexible furniture that is inviting and allows for collaboration and active learning. Define the digitally oriented space and community of practice to build skill sets that the global workforce demands. 

Remove Barriers

Access to free or low-cost tools and software that individuals might not be able to obtain on their own is a key element to the success of makerspace. Laser cutters, 3D printers, large format color printers, and software licenses can all be very costly for an individual. To teach coding, for example, provide students with access to a coding program where they experience and begin to learn coding from the very basics. Easy-to-use kits such as Kano coding kits and Makey Makey give students tactile building blocks and tools with which they can explore coding. For makerspaces with less workspace, an online coding and robotics program like CoderZ can offer the same foundational coding skills in a virtual environment. Students will gather in a well-equipped makerspace to ideate, create, and the space will become a hub of activity. Removing the expense barrier makes the dream and innovation possible for many.  

Teach Classes

In addition to the open access to tools, the community of users need classes from faculty members or professionals who have more expertise in how to use the tools and technology outfitted in the space. Offering classes and lessons on the equipment builds confidence and expertise across educators and students. While we live in the age where we can learn anything with the click of a button on YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, there is no replacement for hands-on learning guided by an experienced mentor! Additionally, the classes should be focused and fast-paced to get to the core of learning the equipment, so the hands-on learning and experiential learning can thrive. There are trade schools, apprenticeships, and CTE pathways that lead to certifications and degrees, but the maker mindset is to get started innovating! The tools and resources are useless if you do not know how to use them effectively and efficiently, so teaching classes is a must to launch future tech gurus! 

Build an Entrepreneur Culture 

Makerspaces can become incubators and accelerators for business startups and empower learners to develop entrepreneurial skills and self-efficacy. Be intentional in the direction of the program to work through the process of ideation to prototype and pitching the project to potential interested commercial clients. The camaraderie of the collaborative space encourages feedback and access to a connected social network of facilitators and experts that can support the development of entrepreneurial skills. 

Want to see the glow on a learner’s face?!?!  Design a digital oriented makerspace that offers opportunities to build on students’ passions, ignite ingenuity, and prepare them for their future world of work! These innovative spaces will prepare students of all ages to become entrepreneurs and prepare them with skillsets for careers that have not even been identified yet. Makerspaces are changing the game through participation learning and opening the door to new tech skills and igniting a love for learning! 

Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Strategy and Development for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces to modern engaging learning environments.  Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space.  She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!