Co-Authored by John Rieffel, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Union College, NY
The empowering rise of the do-it-yourself Maker Movement has found fertile ground in higher education, cultivating a vibrant community who believe in the effectiveness of learning through doing, sharing and mentoring, playing, exploring, and risk-taking. As exemplified by Case Western Reserve University’s impressive Think Center for Innovation, academic Makerspaces provide participatory contexts for hands-on, fun and collaborative learning that are a refreshing alternative–albeit no substitute–to “sage on the stage” lectures.
Often, Maker Culture in academia is promoted as a valuable tool for increasing (diverse) enrollments in STEM-fields and in applied programs, such as Economics and Entrepreneurship, and most academic Makerspaces are tightly tied to STEM departments. Yet this focus on pathways to STEM, albeit valuable, tends to underestimate the contributions of the full spectrum of the Liberal Arts — particularly the Arts and Humanities. Missing also are accompanying efforts toward the self-reflection and articulation needed to learn not only how things are made, but also how they are embedded and can transform society and culture over time. We believe the ethos of the Maker Movement and that of the Liberal Arts go hand-in-hand.