Author Archives: Shawn Bullock

Definitions, slogans, and making

Some of the most common things I hear from people who are interested in my work on making and maker pedagogy:

“That’s great! I’m a maker too”

“I do crafts such as . . . ”

“I have an engineering background and I’ve always thought . . .,”

“I do [Insert name of thing or process here], does that count?”

My response: It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters how you want to identify, and what part(s) of maker, tinkerer, craft, and arts cultures you wish to identify with. I am of course happy when someone finds resonance with my work on maker pedagogy, but it is always important to remember that I am but one of many voices interested in these matters.

My response changes a little bit, however, when it comes to the academic literature on making (and its links to “STEM”, a term that I don’t particularly care for–but that’s for another post). When terms or phrases such as making, maker, makerpedagogy, maker spaces, or maker classrooms are used in a research paper, an opinion piece, or as a part of professional development, they often assume that the reader will understand what is meant by each term.

I urge you to define what you mean by terms that you use for writing about your work in making. My enthusiasm for definitions is not because I think that there is a “correct” definition, or because I think that my definitions are an all-encompassing way forward. There are any number of ways that terms commonly used in the maker literatures and cultures can be defined and understood, and so I think we ignore definitions at our collective peril–we risk talking across purposes and misunderstanding one another. 

An interesting case study comes from the idea of science literacy. Relatively few people are aware that the term had its origins in a 1958 issue of Educational Leadership; it was a call to action for science education in the United States after the perceived humiliation of the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik a year prior (see Hurd, 1958). The concept of science literacy started, in my view, as a slogan. Noted science education professor Doug Roberts, writing 25 years later, noted that science literacy had come to be nearly synonymous with just about every idea in science education; it meant everything and so it meant nothing (Roberts, 1983). Fast-forwarding slightly, we find similar confusion about science literacy and scientific literacy. STEM debates share similar features–if you don’t agree, I challenge you to do a quick search for the term STEM online and consider the conflicting concepts you encounter.

My point is not to suggest that there isn’t useful research within the domains of science literacy, scientific literacy, and STEM. Of course there is. My purpose is to call attention to the danger of what is known as shallow consensus around anything that has become reified as a slogan. Precise definitions, stated clearly, can help us steer these turbulent waters. At the very least, definitions help the reader to situate their understanding relative to what the author is trying to communicate.

The way I use the term maker is probably different from the way you use the term maker. In fact, I’m still trying to work out what I mean by the term. Some of my current thinking is being informed by both the history of hacking and the history of the Arts and Crafts movement. Again, you don’t have to agree–but hopefully you’ll know what my starting points are when you read my work. 



Hurd, P. D. (1958). Science literacy: Its meaning for American schools. Educational Leadership, 16(1), 13-52.

Roberts, D. A. (1983). Scientific literacy: Towards balance in setting goals for school science programs: A discussion paper. Ottawa, Ontario: Science Council of Canada.

Sharing some news

Dear all,

Effective  1 September, 2017, Dr. Shawn Bullock will be taking up an academic position at the University of Cambridge, U. K. Shawn is looking forward to this opportunity, and is grateful for the experiences he has had over the last five years at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Shawn will be largely unavailable over email for the month of August, 2017. The best way to reach me continues to be : shawn(at)shawnbullock(dot)ca.

“Making” as a catalyst for reflective practice

We are pleased to announce to publication of ‘Making’ as a catalyst for reflective practice, published in the journal Reflective Practice. The results present data from teacher candidates who participated in a several maker experiences in our Maker Pedagogy Lab (MPL).

The abstract:

Within the research and teaching program of maker pedagogy(TM), this study analyzes how teacher candidates construct knowledge about teaching and teaching with technology. The study applies an experiential-intuitive framework of reflective practice and takes cues from critical thinking to analyze the participants’ interactions in a maker pedagogy lab. Schön’s conception of reflection drove the data collection and analysis of participants who were asked to reflect on their experiences gained in the maker pedagogy lab. The researchers argue that the maker pedagogy lab provides participants with a way to understand their teaching practice. The results demonstrate that the maker projects enabled teacher candidates to engage in exploratory and hypothetical talk about how they are thinking about teaching and learning, particularly with technology. Furthermore, the researchers uncovered that teacher candidates’ prior knowledge and frames of reference affect their making experiences and their developing identities as science and technology teachers.

A special note and thank you to Andrea J. Sator, a current doctoral student in SFU’s Educational Technology and Learning Design program, who led the development of this article.

Citation information:

Sator, A. J., & Bullock, S. M. (2017). Making’ as a catalyst for reflective practice. Reflective Practice. Online first edition:

Digital technologies in teacher education: From mythologies to making

building-bridgesI am pleased to announce the publication of a new book edited by Clare Kosnik, Simone White, Clive Beck, Bethan Marshall, A. Lin Goodwin, and Jean Murray entitled Building bridges: Rethinking literacy teacher education in a digital era.

This book emerged from presentations made at a working conference in London in 2014. I was honoured to be a part of both the conference and this book. My own chapter provides a conceptual overview of some of the tensions and challenges of the concept of digital technologies in teacher education. It concludes with some ideas from my Maker Pedagogy project.

Sense Publishers always provides a free preview of the first chapter of books that it publishes, and that means anyone can download my chapter for free by clicking here.

My sincere thanks to the editorial team for their hard work and particularly to Clare Kosnik for inviting me to be a part of her research into digital technologies several years ago, even before this project started. You should check out her blog at:

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.


Maker Pedagogy at CSSE 2016

We were pleased to present some early results regarding data from teacher candidates who participated in the Maker Pedagogy at CSSE 2016 in Calgary, AB.

We presented in a session sponsored by the the Canadian Association for Teacher Education (CATE) and are grateful to all who attended. Our abstract:

The study applies experiential-intuitive frameworks on reflective practice to analyze the participants’ interactions in a maker lab. Schön’s (1983, 1987) conception of reflection drove the data collection and analysis of participants who were asked to analyse their experiences gained in our maker lab. We argue that the maker lab provides participants with a way to understand their teaching practice by enabling teacher candidates to engage in exploratory and hypothetical talk about how they are thinking about teaching and learning, particularly with technology. Furthermore, we uncovered that teacher candidates’ prior knowledge and frames of reference affect their making experiences and their shifting identities as developing science and technology teachers.


Maker Pedagogy at AERA 2016

We were pleased to make our first public scholarly presentation about Maker Pedagogy at AERA 2016 in Washington, DC.

We presented in a session sponsored by the self-study of teacher education practices SIG and are grateful to all who attended. An excerpt from our paper:

Although the maker movement has become a part of the popular technological zeitgeist in recent years, it remains under-researched. A significant part of understanding pedagogies of making, in our view, will be to describe and interpret how our own pedagogies of teacher education are challenged by a focus on making things with future teachers. We see this paper as the beginning of an important conversation about not only the role of the maker movement in teacher education, but also the utility of self-study methodology to unpack its pedagogical features.


Maker pedagogy and science teacher education

We are pleased to announced the first publication from our research program, published in a special issue of the Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies. The piece is conceptual and considers some of the opportunities and challenges to adopting what we have defined as maker pedagogy in science education.

We are committed to publishing a portion of our work in open access format and are pleased to state that the article is freely available at:!v13-1-bullocksastor/cut

The abstract:

Making is a process that people engage in to design, create, and develop things that are of value and use to them personally or for their community. The recent popular (and sometimes commercial) Maker Movement is rooted in making and traces its lineage from a variety of historical precedents, including ancient traditions of arts and crafts fairs, tinkering and inventing using analog technologies, and hacking and programing with digital technologies. So-called “Maker Spaces” often function as co-ops that allow people to come together to build things, share expensive tools, and learn skills from one another. In this article, we will use the maker movement as a catalyst to reveal both some perennial challenges of and potential ways forward for curriculum studies of science and technology teacher education. In particular, we suggest that maker pedagogy, an approach to working with teacher candidates drawing from principles in the maker movement represents a potentially useful way forward in engaging teacher candidates in thinking about curriculum and working with students.

Citation Information:

Bullock, S. M., & Sator, A. J. (2015). Maker pedagogy and science teacher education. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 13(1), 61–87.

What is maker pedagogy? Some early thoughts…

So what do we mean by “Maker Pedagogy”? Well, in part that is just what our research project intends to explore. Recent popular interest in the Maker movement is largely the result of affordable yet powerful technologies such as small, modular electronics, the open-source software movement, 3D printers, and a host of online, collaboratively created instructions for fixing and re-purposing common technologies. There is little academic literature on the topic, particularly with respect to role that Maker sensibilities might play in teacher education. My starting definition for maker pedagogy is:

Maker Pedagogy is an approach that utilizes the principles of ethical hacking (i.e., deconstructing existing technology for the purpose of creating knowledge), adapting (i.e., the freedom to use a technology for new purposes), designing (i.e., selecting components and ideas to solve problems), and creating (i.e., archiving contextual knowledge obtained through engaging in the process of making, as well as the actual tangible products) as part of an overall way of working with those interested in learning about science and technology. (Bullock, 2014)

This research project hopes to bring these principles of Maker thinking to the foreground in science teacher education, both in a pre-service program and in the early years of a career. I believe Maker principles need to be introduced more explicitly in K-12 science education and that science teacher education is a promising venue for beginning this work. Typically, school is focused on acquiring propositional knowledge, mastering skills, and sometimes developing particular habits of mind. Except for the comparatively few visual arts and broad-based technology courses that continue to survive despite repeated budget cuts, schools are typically not places where children make things. This situation is particularly strange in the secondary science classroom, given that many students enroll in science courses with the ostensible goal of enrolling in engineering programs in university. It is possible, indeed likely, that many first-year engineering and science students have never had a formal opportunity to “make” something.

In this research project, I hope to provide participants with the opportunity to construct and extend professional knowledge about teaching science by building technological artifacts in a Maker Space created in their teacher education program. Among other things, I hope that participants learn more about fields such as robotics, engineering, applied physics, and computer programming and consider the ways in which these fields might play a role in their pedagogy. Our Maker Space will be an ad hoc place where participants come together, at pre-arranged times, in a classroom to work through technological projects designed to introduce them to the Maker ethos. Our team will focus on how new science teachers construct knowledge from experiences in a Maker Space. My hope is that this space, introduced in the relatively safe context of a teacher education program, will provide a touchstone for pedagogy and professional development in the often-tumultuous early experiences of teaching.