The Maker Movement and Education

New UNC Course for Spring 2018

Course title: The Maker Movement and Education

Instructor: Professor Keith Sawyer

Education research shows that people learn better when they move, they work with their hands, they manipulate objects, and they design and make things. We’ve known this for years, but it’s been very hard to design activities for children where they can move and make, and at the same time learn the required course material. But today that’s changed, thanks to exciting new technologies that bring learning and making together. Today’s parents and teachers can choose from a big variety of research-based toys and software apps that engage children in playing, making, and creating. Libraries, schools, and museums are opening “maker spaces” where children can use tools to create and make their own ideas.

TInkering 3This semester, we’ll learn the research behind these new learning technologies. We’ll learn about the software designers and education experts that design and build them. We’ll learn how to design activities so that children learn while they create with these new technologies, and we’ll learn how teachers and parents can use them effectively. You’ll learn by designing with new technologies, and by engaging with learning sciences research on how and why these activities contribute to learning.

3D printerThis is an active, hands-on course. For most weeks, one of the two classes will be a design studio format, where you work with technology tools to create and design, with critique and feedback from the professor and your peers. In the second class, we’ll learn the research in the learning sciences, about what works best and why these designs work.

In this class, we will:

  • Learn the research on how children learn
  • Learn how to design research-based learning environments for children
  • Learn about the new toys, robots, and programmable objects that are designed to help children learn
  • Experiment, create, and make things with these same new technologies, to experience how children engage with and learn from these devices, tools, and apps
  • Learn how to design learning environments that incorporate these new technologies, in activities that are aligned with the science of learning, so that making and designing leads to the desired learning outcomes

Ozobot on pageHere are some examples of the learning technologies we may study in Spring 2018. These are current as of Fall 2017, but this is a fast-moving area, and new technologies and toys are released all the time. The course will change to keep up. Here are examples of what we might be studying and designing: Dot and Dash, Ozobot, Arduino, Hummingbird, Lilypad, Virtual Reality, 3D printing, the Scratch and Blockly visual programming tools, Sphero, the Looking Glass story animation tool, wire-framing user interface tools…

Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30 to 1:45

Undergrad: EDUC 390-002

Grad: EDUC 790-002

No programming experience is required. Anyone can take this course! As long as you’re open and ready to learn, and you’re comfortable experimenting with new apps and robot toys. (Keep in mind, these are all designed for kids in middle school and younger!)



snap circuits




3 thoughts on “The Maker Movement and Education

  1. HI Keith,

    Wondering why this post is password protected. Did you set up a password/account system I missed?



  2. I didn’t realize everyone would see this! I’m sorry. I created it for undergraduate students here, but I’m happy to let everyone read it, so I’ve taken off the password.

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