9.23.2012

Be a Maker

By Josh

UNBORED is, among other things, a celebration of making and makers (of all ages, but particularly kids). At various places in the book, we mention peacemakers, troublemakers, and mischief makers; videogame makers and soap makers. But what we mean by “making” and “makers” is a thriving subculture and fast-spreading movement of do-it-yourselfers interested in practical arts like metalworking, woodworking, knitting, and also high-tech stuff like electronics and robotics.

Makers believe that ordinary people — men and women, grownups and kids — can do extraordinary things in their backyards, basements, garages, and kitchens. So do we. And thanks in part to the inspiration provided by the maker movement, we’ve become makers too.

Makers aren’t just practical and handy; they are extremely imaginative and creative. Most importantly, they believe that the results of a project or experiment are less important than the process. Learning how to do things that you never, ever imagined you might try doing is its own reward.

Mark Frauenfelder‘s introduction to UNBORED expresses an important aspect of maker culture that is particularly relevant to kids: “The greatest makers I know agree that their secret skill is not how knowledgeable they are about tools or materials or fabrication methods — it’s their willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Mark is editor-in-chief of Make magazine, and author, most recently, of the book Made By Hand: My Adventures in the World of Do-It-Yourself. So he knows what he’s talking about!

Make magazine is published by O’Reilly Media, one of the founders of which is Dale Dougherty — publisher of Make (and coiner of the term “Web 2.0″ too). We really liked what Dale wrote for Slate, recently, about how maker culture could and should influence schooling. “I see the power of engaging kids in science and technology through the practices of making and hands-on experiences, through tinkering and taking things apart. Schools seem to have forgotten that students learn best when they are engaged; in fact, the biggest problem in schools is boredom. Students sit passively, expected to absorb all the content that is thrown at them without much context. The context that’s missing is the real world.”

Dale also wrote: “The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs.”

Right on, Dale! I wrote a list of “Best Ever Puzzler & Maker Fiction” for UNBORED, the introduction to which says: “Puzzlers and makers build stuff without following instructions, investigate mysteries and crack codes, and use their wits (and materials at hand) to solve problems. Here are some terrific novels about kids who experiment, fail… and try again. Failure, they know, isn’t anything to be ashamed of — in fact, it’s a great way to learn faster.” But that’s just a single example from an entire book infused with the maker spirit. Our contributors are makers — and some of them, including Jean Railla, Bre Pettis (shown below), and John Edgar Park, are really well-known makers!

Making isn’t just a culture, it’s a movement — one made up of regular folks who enjoy using their hands and brains, researching information and applying what they’ve learned to real-world problems and projects, and (best of all), sharing their enthusiasm and know-how with each other. You don’t have to be good at electronics or knitting or anything else to join. Just jump in.