Over the past forty or so years, educational institutions have been keen to incorporate the latest digital technologies into teaching and learning in efforts to increase student engagement, innovation, and prepare future workers. Presently, Maker Spaces are hyped as holding potential for K-12 schooling with the capacity to enhance opportunities for students to engage with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and art/design. This burgeoning interest is evident in popular press coverage, significant investments in maker initiatives in educational environments, and partnerships with libraries, museums and various community centres, offering individuals of all ages access to programs and digital fabrication tools, including laser cutters, microcontrollers, 3D printers, and design applications.
A primary feature of the Maker Movement is the rhetoric around using new and affordable digital tools. As some argue, these tools offer imaginative approaches to interacting with physical materials as well as new dimensions to learning and thinking. Furthermore, the Maker community – with its culture of helping, sharing, and collaborative work – has been conceived as a democratic knowledge building community comprised of transformative tools that can lead to transformative thinking and an education for social justice.
However, while there is increasing discourse on the promises and democratic potential that Maker Spaces and processes hold for K-12 education, there is a lack of empirical research to illustrate the realities involved in Making as a school-based activity. Our research seeks to develop a critical understanding of how Making is enacting in school contexts, how it is lived by students, how it shapes learning processes, and the kinds of knowledges it privileges.