Author Archives: Andrea Sator

Do you think about the materiality you ascribe to objects in the world around you? For example, do you work with objects in the ways that they were designed, or do you feel that you can shape your use of objects in different ways that they were intended to be used? The materiality you attribute to objects implies that you have a philosophical assumption about the way the world works.  Your philosophical position influences how you learn, how you teach, your conceptions of knowledge, and how you study the world around you.

Four major philosophical assumptions about how people see the world (reality) can give us some insight into how people view the materiality of making.  As you read the short oversimplified snippets below, think about where you situate yourself and where making may be positioned.

  1. Objectivist and realist views of the world are constituted by a reality that exists independently of human conception and understanding. The assumption is that reality exists through properties and relations between objects. For education, this means that learning is the recreation of correct behaviors expected in the world and the focal point is on the mastery of knowledge.
  2. Idealists and rationalists define reality as shaped by the mind. Kant would suggest that ideas are the only certainty. There is an emphasis on reasoning over sensing things when aiming to understand the world, and intellect and deduction are important criteria. For education, this means that changes in thinking, not changes in behavior, are the focal points of learning.
  3. Relativists disapprove of absolute reality and subscribes to the belief of socially and culturally constructed truths. For education, this means that learners’ opinions and experiences support the development of their reality and meaning is dependent on experiential contexts.
  4. Pragmatists discard dualist thought and reject notions of rationalism over empiricism or objectivity over subjectivity. Pragmatists operate in the middle ground and are interested in how philosophical orientations can support a situation of interest. Reality is viewed as dynamic and dependent, and knowledge has practical significance in the place and moment of use. For education, this means that knowledge serves as an action plan for the types of practical uses it aims to achieve.

The materiality of making is a worthwhile consideration when embracing a maker pedagogy approach in teaching and learning. The materiality of making, essentially its distinct principles as described by Bullock (2016) are:

  1. Ethical hacking: Deconstructing existing technology for the purpose of creating knowledge (e.g., taking an old computer apart to learn about hardware, and applying that knowledge to work with small hobby computer kids such as Raspberry Pi).
  2. Adapting: Using technology for purposes other than what it was originally intended for (e.g., using an old smartphone to learn elements of computer programming).
  3. Designing: Selecting and using technological artefacts and ideas to solve problems (e.g., using conductive tape, batteries, and LEDs to design decorative circuits that can be integrated into clothing).
  4. Creating: Archiving contextual knowledge obtained through engaging in the process of making (e.g., creating a wiki that documents how particular projects were accomplished) and, of course, enjoying the actual tangible products that come from making (e.g., playing a video game that was designed within a maker space) (p. 12).

I would suggest that the philosophical perspectives of relativism and pragmatism are useful ways to think about the materiality of making. This suggests a belief in having a deep understanding of the objects in the world through knowing how they work so that you can change and shape them for future uses.

What does this mean for education? From a teaching and learning perspective this translates to giving students agency, wherein their capacity to act on objects and technologies rests in the belief that the relationship between learning and the objects are malleable. In this way, the design of objects is not deterministic, but shaped by the environment, which offers potential for different uses of objects and diverse learning opportunities.


Bullock, S. M. (2016). Digital technologies in teacher education: From mythologies to making. In C. Kosnik, S. White, C. Beck, B. Marshall, A. L. Goodwin, & J. Murray (Eds.), Building bridges: Rethinking literacy teacher education in a digital era (pp. 3–16). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.


What drives knowledge and learning?

I was so fortunate to attend Vancouver’s Maker Faire on June 6, 2015 and what an inspiration it was! Walking into this well-organized event I was instantly enthused by the vibe. People were happy, conversation was abundant, and making connections came naturally. I certainly wasn’t a networking event! I witnessed in a short time the sharing of knowledge, gained quick access to information, and resources were plenty. Little energy was spent at the Maker Faire on selling, rather the showcase of innovation rose to the forefront and everyone was willing to share their knowledge, all you had to do was ask a question to spark the Maker ethos.

This experience got me thinking about knowledge and how it is created, developed, and disseminated. Let me narrow this blog by talking about the development piece. Knowledge appears to fall into some readily identifiable categories such as 1. wanting knowledge, 2. needing knowledge, and 3. having knowledge.

Testing myself on these categories and watching them play out at the Maker Fair, it appeared that my “need of knowledge” (due to a lack of knowing something specific) drove my “want to know,” and lucky for me,  in this Maker Space, there was an abundance of those who “had the knowledge” I wanted. Does the “want for knowledge” appear to be the most significant factor? And what might this say for educators?

The typical type of knowledge disseminated in the classroom comes in a declarative form, which is largely facts and the theoretical background. If learners are lucky, we can get some hands on experience with the declarative knowledge through procedural knowing via experiences and hands-on-activity. It could be suggested that the experience with something much drive the “need to know” and as such, is integral to learning.

But what’s different about experiencing something through learning-by-doing as described above and experiencing something through Making? I think it’s the “want to know” piece. In traditional classrooms, the “need to know” experience is created by the educator, but may not be as authentic as the “want to know” I experienced in the Maker Space. Would you agree?

Why is this important? I think it’s because the learner’s desire and want for knowledge creates an enthusiasm for deep learning. This then determines what they need to know subsequently allowing the learner to seek the knowledge from those (perhaps experts) who have it.  We can deduce that the Maker Space supports the type of learning environment that educators might aspire to create for the acquisition of knowledge.


Joining the Maker Movement

People engage with the Maker Movement in many ways. Some read about it, some attend events, others watch it happen. Yet, gaining real access is simple once the premise of doing-it-yourself is implemented. You can easily join the Maker Movement just by making or modifying something, and even better as Mark Hatch would suggest, is to make something and give it to someone. The process of giving a personally crafted artifact to someone is significantly different from purchasing a gift as it’s tied to emotion and personal transformation (Mark Hatch).

You might be wondering how you can gain access to and/or join the Maker Movement. This list below gives you some options and resources for getting involved and sustaining the Maker Movement.

Have you thought about how your existing skills, knowledge, and talents can be used to ‘design, adapt, hack, and create’ (Bullock, 2014)’?


What do we call the ‘results’ of Making?

I’ve come across many way in which the end results of Making is referenced. Different fields have their own terms, for example, educators make reference to learning outcomes, designers use the term portfolios, artists create physical objects, STEM complete projects and in some cases produce products, and so forth the terminology proceeds. Is there a way we can reference the results of Making that embody all these notions of what happens at the end while embracing the process of learning that happen during Making?

In recent conversations with the Principal Investigator, Shawn, on this SSRCH project (which is embedded in the context of education), we had such conversations. During some initial discussion, I used the word “product” to describe the outcomes of Making; this caused a strong reaction in Shawn for which I was grateful as it fueled a rich dialogue. In discussing this further, we surmised that “product” as a term to describe the result of Making takes away from the very ethos of the Maker Movement. This description is deficit in the processes that exemplify Making such as sharing, giving, learning about something, variability of perspectives, tinkering, and supporting a community – essentially — everything the Maker mindset encompasses.

As the conversation proceeded, we turned to the term “artifact” to describe the resulting creations of Making. Does this term work? I looked at the etymology of the word “artifact” and found some historical themes derived from computing, archaeology, and biology that align well with the Maker Movement.  Underpinning the term artifact (as spelled in the Oxford English Dictionary) are subtexts of [reference]:

  • Objects that are shaped through human touch
  • Creation for specific interests groups through community endeavours
  • Results of human collective conception and supported by capacity to make free and independent choices
  • Products and outcomes of processes (e.g. experiment or digital processing) that are shaped by actions (not necessarily human) and may not be innate to the object

Now I move to test the term “artifact” in education. The artifact symbolizes the (collaborative) learning process including the design, creation, tinkering and hacking [Bullock, 2014] innate in Making for a specific community, which may also extend to the teaching of that process to others in the affinity group. The tacit knowledge and conceptions that result from  Making is then sharable with and future artifacts (even learning artifacts) may look very distinct as they are shaped by collective processes of the community of practice.

How does the term “artifact” to describe the results of Making in education sit with you?


How is the Maker Ethos relevant to pedagogy?

Populations, communities, and practices typically share an “ethos” which characterizes their guiding beliefs around activities of interest. In Maker communities the ethos is grounded in attitudes, skills, knowledge, commitment, and competencies that allow people with similar interests to “hackadaptdesign, [and] create” (Bullock, 2014) artifacts (stay tuned to read more about “What we mean by artifacts”).  Maker communities involve collaboration amongst members within the do-it-yourself culture and are driven by affinity-to and curiosity-towards the activity at hand.  The spaces that Makers create are often micro-communities with self-guiding standards, such as being creative,  sharing knowledge and skills, problem-solving, togetherness, mentoring others, and making excellent mistakes while feeling safe to do so. These Maker Spaces can been seen in coordinated ventures such as Tech Shops, in labs, or can pop-up in someone’s garage. Making can happen anywhere, but the really interesting part is watching it unfold. What can we learn from the Maker Ethos that might be relevant to pedagogy?

Having the privilege of witnessing Maker Spaces, a couple of guiding beliefs appear to be at the core of the Maker Ethos. These drivers seem to be sharing, learning, exchanging, and gusto! Maker community interactions are a powerful thing and what’s evident in this ethos which I feel makes it distinct from, for example a collaborative group or team, is the inherent tendency to focus on the process of Making. This focal point of process in my opinion circumvents the innate drive towards a focus solely on finished projects and outcomes, which often seem to drive most team-based work. In Maker Spaces, competition appears to be deflected and the Maker Ethos shines through.  Then the innovation can happen.

The Maker Ethos opens some new doors for pedagogy. The guiding beliefs can play out in profound way such as:

  • Allowing learners to gather around a task/ challenge/ problem of interests to create gusto. This is associated with motivation and happiness towards the completion of projects/ outcomes.
  • Fostering  commitment to the solving of difficult problems by leveraging the Maker Community as a resource for the exchange of knowledge and skills.
  • Focusing on the creative and inspiring aspects of the learning and sharing process throughout the completion of projects/ outcomes to advance collective knowledge.

Educators can create opportunities in the classroom for students to learn by doing through working on authentic projects that are personally meaningful and globally valuable. The creation and design that learners bring to real problem can foster innovation in a relevant and momentous manner.