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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Top ed-tech stories to watch: Maker movement makes waves

"No. 5 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the proliferation of maker spaces in schools" continues eSchool News.

[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year. Our countdown continues tomorrow with No. 4.] 

 Rapid advances in technology, such as 3D printers, have allowed students to create much more complex projects. (Stefano Tinti /
Photo: eSchool News

During a special summer camp last month, the Economic Development Center at West Virginia State University was buzzing with activity.

High school students Drew Jett and Christian Rohr were sitting in front of a computer, designing a silencer for paintball guns. Fellow student Sully Steele sat nearby, working on a prototype for an arm brace that holds a smart phone on the user’s sleeve until it’s needed—flip your wrist, and the phone slides into your hand. Not just intended as a cool, spy-type gadget, the device was meant to protect users’ pelvic regions from the electromagnetic radiation emitted by their phones.

All three students were using the free, three-dimensional modeling software Sketchup Make to design their creations, and they planned on using a 3D printer to bring their creations to life.

Tools like Scratch, littleBits, and MaKey MaKey give students the ability to design and innovate without having to be experts in computer programming or electrical engineering, said Trevor Shaw, director of technology at the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey.
Scratch is a free programming language that lets students create their own interactive stories, games, and animations, simply by dragging and dropping blocks of commands. littleBits allow students to create electronic devices without having to wire or solder pieces together. MaKey MaKey is an “invention kit” that turns almost any object into an input device.
What’s more, 3D printers are becoming cheaper and more accessible for schools, opening up further possibilities for creation. This rapid technological shift “is a real game changer,” Shaw said. “It’s so far out of the realm of what we could have imagined five or six years ago”—and it has had a profound effect on the maker movement.
The rise in the maker movement also coincides with a national focus on bolstering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to prepare students for the jobs of the future, which will rely heavily on innovation. Schools are using hands-on projects to make STEM subjects more relevant and engaging for their students.

Source: eSchool News