Maker culture and its potential for STEM education

Raúl Tabarés; Alejandra Boni
International Journal of Technology and Design Education

During the last decade, different values, tools and practices promoted by maker culture have been adopted in formal educational settings with the aim of reinvigorating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. Higher education institutions (HEIs) have also engaged with maker culture to explore its potentialities regarding education, entrepreneurship and innovation. However, these collaborations with various stakeholders are not always smooth and educators need to deal with significant challenges that arise in these engagements, despite the problem-solving learning opportunities that they can offer their students. This paper presents the results of a case study that dealt with these issues through the establishment of an open and collaborative learning ecosystem (OCLE) between different educators, students and external stakeholders. The empirical work was based on thirty-three semi-structured interviews across four countries, eight focus groups and a final participatory workshop. The study argues that maker culture can offer several potentialities for pushing forward an integrative vision of STEM education as well as other disciplines from social sciences and humanities. An emphasis is placed on how tertiary education can benefit greatly from the adoption of OCLEs and how these communities of practices can encourage an education oriented to meeting societal challenges. The paper also warns that these kinds of interventions face significant organisational challenges in HEIs that demand significant institutional recognition and support to overcome this organisational resistance.