Community and Camaraderie at the Maker Educator Convening 2015

IMG_5471_editedOn May 13, Maker Ed held the first Maker Educator Convening, a day long event that brought together a diverse set of facilitators and advocates of maker education. 

Traveling from across the country, and leaving behind their schools, museums, libraries, universities, and community organizations, these maker educators came together to take advantage of an opportunity that isn’t always available to them — the opportunity to gather under one roof and connect with one another, across geographic borders and educational settings. In other words, this diverse group of maker educators had the chance to come together as a community.

Community, in fact, was an underlying theme of the Maker Educator Convening, with many of the day’s presentations and workshops touching on the concept in some way, shape, or form. 

Some, for instance, focused on creating a broader, more inclusive community. In his introductory remarks, our Executive Director, Trey Lathe, touched on this when he acknowledged that we are all makers (even if we don’t use the term “maker”) because we all crave opportunities to explore and learn through creating. In laying out Maker Ed’s vision for the future (“Every Child a Maker”), he noted that achieving that vision requires creating more opportunities for all youth to learn through making — with a particular emphasis on reaching those in underserved communities.

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The ideas of access and inclusivity were also central to another one of the day’s sessions: a panel discussion on broadening participation in making. Panelists shared inspiring stories about reaching the youth that they serve (including Latina girls in the L.A. area and distressed communities in rural Redbluff, California). They also offered tips on designing making experiences that are accessible to all youth, and asked several thought-provoking questions about what it means to be inclusive. Many Convening attendees remarked that this panel was a highlight of the event for them, and tweeted out some of their takeaways from this session:

Other sessions focused on community by sharing best practices for and common challenges in creating, strengthening, and sustaining meaningful maker education experiences for youth. Stephanie Santoso shared how the White House will be celebrating a Week of Making this summer. Edward Clapp, a senior researcher on the Agency by Design initiative, led a workshop that encouraged participants to “see, think, and wonder” about student work. We heard short presentations from a wide variety of speakers on topics as varied as maker education philosophy, scaling and sustaining maker programming, defining and measuring making experiences, the role of micro-credentials in maker education, and building maker ecosystems and cities. Dale Dougherty even dropped by, providing us all with some inspiring words of wisdom and sharing Maker Media’s School Maker Faire program. 

So many fruitful discussions, salient points, useful tips and experiences, interesting questions came out of these presentations and workshops, that it’s impossible to share them all in a short blog post. (One participant let us know they took 21 pages of notes throughout the day!) Luckily, attendees tweeted throughout the day, summarizing key takeaways from the day’s sessions in 140-characters-or-less:

Lastly, we had a session that examined community in a more explicit way. Maker Ed led a workshop that encouraged participants to consider how to create more opportunities to connect with one another, to share the support they already get from existing maker educator communities, and to brainstorm what we could collectively do to strengthen our communities.

Beyond attending the day’s sessions, participants in our Maker Educator Convening embodied community through the informal connections they made throughout the day — greeting old friends and meeting new ones. One attendee told a member of our staff how invigorating it was for them to connect with others who just “get it” — who understand the value of maker education.

The Maker Educator Convening also made our team realize a few things about community. Community is what allows maker educators to share and learn from one another. It’s what leads to meaningful conversations and tough questions about our goals and approaches as a movement. It provides inspirational fuel, new ideas, and fresh perspectives, and is a tremendous and powerful asset to maker education as a whole. In the end, community is what allows us to amplify the impact that we are each making individually, helping us to not only transform the lives of children, but also to transform our educational system, our culture, and our future.

Let’s give our participants the last word on the Convening:

Learn more about the day’s events by checking out bios of our speakers and descriptions of the sessions.

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