The Platform Maker Education project aimed to stimulate the bottom-up maker education movement in the Netherlands by introducing students and teachers to the practices of maker education through workshops, conferences, and events, as well as by connecting schools already engaged in the movement to each other.
This case study is part of a report we published in April 2018, exploring how “super nodes” support DSI initiatives to grow and scale. You can read the full report here.
Super node: Waag
Issue to be resolved
The maker education movement in the Netherlands had predominantly been initiated through bottom-up practices, causing relevant activity to take place relatively dispersedly and separately. Due to the lack of concerted action regarding maker education, the movement had thus far not been able to make a desirably large impact and difference for Dutch education practices.
As part of Platform Maker Education, a range of different solutions were implemented:
- Research projects were conducted in order to better understand maker education in the Dutch context.
- Through working conferences and events, pioneers and people and organizations interested in the field of maker education were inspired and brought into contact with each other.
- Knowledge, information, and experiences about maker education were disseminated through presentations and workshops by the project partners.
- An online platform was developed and launched, on which information, activity locations and schedules, teaching materials, and blogs or publications about maker education are presented.
- A voucher system was created with which schools could request a presentation or workshop at their own school or at a nearby FabLab/Makerspace.
- A learning community was formed by bringing together teachers (and students) from schools that were already busy with the implementation of maker education.
- Educational material about maker education has been mapped, structured, developed, and translated.
In implementing these solutions, Waag worked together with FabKlas and Frysklab and was financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science of the Netherlands. In organizing the project’s workshops and activities, Waag also collaborated with a multitude of Dutch schools from different levels of education - primary and secondary schools, universities of applied sciences, vocational colleges - and their respective students and teachers, as well as with experts and activists within the field of maker education.
Role of the super node
In the Platform Maker Education project, the topic of maker education was addressed from three angles (schools, libraries, and makerspaces), with each of the partners more or less focused on one of these ‘perspectives’. FabKlas worked primarily on schools, developing the voucher system and educational material; FryskLab contributed a lot to the establishment of the learning community surrounding maker education; and Waag worked primarily from its experience with using makerspaces.
Throughout the project, Waag took on a leading and coordinating role in terms of applying for funding and locating valuable partners to work together with. Waag for example played a key role in lobbying on the level of the Dutch parliament in order to ‘free’ funding for financing the project’s activities and applying for it through Platform Bèta Techniek. Moreover, Waag used its networking expertise to sustain the ‘push’ of the maker education movement and to contribute to the formation of a collaborative partnership between a number of organizations involved in the maker education movement so as to organize a Maker Education Festival in September 2018.
The Platform Maker Education has achieved the following:
- Between September 2015 and September 2016, 2 working conferences and 3 large events were organized, and over 40 presentations and workshops were given, reaching about 6,500 people. Online activity was generated through the launch of website makereducation.nl, maker education bloggers, and social media coverage.
- Between September 2015 and September 2016, 51 vouchers were given out for 49 workshops and 2 presentations to over 1,000 teachers (40%) and students (60%) about maker education at primary schools (55%), secondary schools (40%), and vocational colleges (5%) - either in collaboration with FabLabs and Makerspaces (85%) or with independent maker experts (15%).
- Several theme-based learning community evening programmes were organized, each of them bringing together about 30 teachers and a number of engaged students from schools across the Netherlands.
- Over 20 educational maker projects have been presented online and shared on the GitHub-based Open Things platform.
- Campaign ABCMaken.nl was issued in which students were invited to make their own projects.
- The FabLab and Makerspaces networks in the Netherlands started collaborating more intensively through the project’s activities.
- Foundation FabLab Benelux has issued an educational license to establish Fablabs in schools, Fablab Edu.
- Pilots with makerspaces in public libraries have been started and rolled out in, e.g. Amsterdam (Maakplaats 021).
- A range of individual initiatives to introduce or scale up maker education within schools have been kickstarted as inspired by the project’s activities.
After the first stage of the project (September 2015-July 2016), the project ran for another year, during which the collection and dissemination of educational material continued and more Learning Community meetings were organized in collaboration with local maker education ‘hubs’. A Maker Education Festival will be organized by the t 60 online MakerEducation.nl platform and its partners on 28-30 September 2018, including a Fablearn education conference (28 September) and the Maker Faire Eindhoven (29-30 September). Building up to this festival, a Maker Challenge will be launched on primary and secondary schools and vouchers will be awarded for visits to local Fablabs.
Additionally, Platform Maker Education has a lot of ambitions that it would like to realize if financial support can be found. These ambitions are amongst others to:
- Conduct further research into maker education and its effects on learning;
- Professionalize existing and develop new teaching material;
- Continue the ‘learning communities’, particularly on a regional scale;
- Further develop the voucher system for maker education workshops and presentations;
- Strengthen existing and establish new partnerships that contribute to the more widespread roll out of the maker education movement
- Reaching out to a large and diverse audience in order to stimulate bottom-up education innovation is possible with relatively limited means.
- It is difficult to obtain structural funding that is sufficient to realize all of the Platform’s ambitions and sustain the project over a longer period of time.
- In the roll out of the project, policies regarding the implementation of maker education in the Netherlands had not been put in place yet even though funding structures had already been made available on the political level. As a consequence, the project and its activities were put in place with more difficulty. Therefore, a lesson from the project is that, when obtaining support and funding for the maker education movement in the Netherlands, it is key to ensure that available funding can be spent in accordance with existing policy frameworks for education. The movement, its activities, and its results should thus be put on the agenda of both relevant politicians and policymakers.
Image: Astrid Poot/ Waag