“Maker kids,” Mozilla and the future of school

Hackasaurus Crew at TEDxKids
The Hackasaurus team at TEDx Kids

What would school look like if it was all about actively doing stuff — making, tinkering, building, exploring — instead of just passively learning about stuff? That’s the question the “Maker Kids” edition of TEDx Kids took up in Brussels last week. And the Mozilla Hackasaurus crew were there to bring web-making and hacking into the mix.

Sixty fired-up 10-year-olds got their hands dirty in a day of workshops and mini-maker jams, spanning everything from building their own chairs to soddering to tinkering with Arduino to remixing their own hip hop singles. All carved into 45-minute blocks, approximating a crazy utopian school day from the future.

The Hackasaurus hopThe Hackasaurus hopThe Hackasaurus HopMark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla FoundationMark Surman Mozilla FoundationRemixing with Mysto & Pizzi
TEDx Kids@BrusselsGever Tulley chair workshopMark Frauenfelder Technology Will Save Us labIMG_0028Gever Tulley on stage
soldering labkids and audience at the end of the dayTechnology Will Save Us labEd Baafi ModKIDS3D printed glasses!soldering lab

TEDx Kids Brussels — June 2011, a gallery on Flickr.

Web-making with Mozilla’s Hackasaurus

The Hackasaurus "hack dance" introduces the concepts of remixing & creative sharing...
...which carries over into remixing web pages with Mozilla's Hackasaurus tools...
...like adding cupcakes to your gmail! Why didn't Google think of that?

Learning as making, tinkering and hacking

The event offered a taste of how the DIY maker spirit is revitalizing learning. There’s a growing sense that traditional education contains too much passive “book learning,” making it out of touch and dull. And that “hands-on learning” or “engaged learning” — learning by doing — works better. It’s what kids want, what parents want for their kids, and what innovative educators like Gever Tulley — who outlined the active learning philosophy behind his “Tinkering School” backstage at the TEDx event — are already providing.

“The re-enchantment of education”

That’s how one of TEDx speaker referred to the impact these collective ideas are having on learning. There’s a renaissance stirring. Talking about educational reform once seemed dry as dust — now it’s a topic full of life and magic. Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia project, with its Pirate and Superhero Supply Stores. Quest to Learn and its “video game school.” DIY U. The Tinkering School and “50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.” HASTAC’s Future Class. MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning community and its vision for Connected Learning.

Something’s up. It’s a diverse movement of youth, educators and edu-preneurs attacking the idea that learning has to be boring, difficult, or confined to school. And it represents a huge opportunity for the open web and Mozilla mission.


  • The Ministry of Stories in East London, inspired by Eggers’ 826 Valencia, is another neat project. http://www.ministryofstories.org/

    I also love the idea, that started taking shape during the Mozilla Festival in Barcelona, around how to reinvigorate institutions like libraries and museums and turn them into digital maker labs. How can these centers open up and revive their civic educational functions and be relevant and interesting today? There are a lot of allies in this space; the “cybrarians” who know that search is their business and who wrangling exploding amounts of information and formats, and who see the potential of new tools, but are also the guardians of tradition http://chronicle.com/article/Marian-the-Cybrarian/65570/

    Also, although I dig the “maker kids” meme, I see so much potential in applying this DIY mindset and the magical curiosity for learning and discovery to all ages. It’s probably also worthwhile diving into what earlier projects have accomplished and analyzed. For example, the Lifelong Kindergarten project at MIT has been tracking “Computer Clubhouses” for over 10 years:http://llk.media.mit.edu/projects.php?id=203

    Is there something we’re doing today that takes these clubhouses to the next level?

    • Hugely helpful Michelle. Thanks for this! Would love to keep pushing these ideas forward with you.

      * Love the Ministry of Stories — going to add that to the list of inspiring examples.
      * “reinvigorate institutions like libraries and museums and turn them into digital maker labs.” going to use that as grist for future post. It totally dovetails with MacArthur’s “Connected Learning” vision. The idea is that learning now happens everywhere — online, and in new spaces like the “maker labs” / youth media centers / learning networks / after-school programs / libraries. And that we need a “Connected Learning” paradigm that recognizes and unifies *all* of these spaces and contexts. Bringing them into a more leaner-centered whole.
      * “cybrarians” wrangling exploding information and formats, and as guardians of quality and accuracy against the onrushing tides of data-crap. I like that.
      * you’re right applying the “making / doing” theme to all ages, not just kids, is very much in line with what we’re thinking. Interestingly, some of the recent research MacArthur commissioned found that most adults do NOT strongly correlate the web with learning. They think of it first, in relation to kids, in terms of a) safety and b) entertainment and a place to play. BUT there’s huge tacit support for “hands-on” learning, driven by the common-sense notion that people “learn best by doing” and that there’s too much out of touch “book learning” in school. That represents a big opportunity for the maker / doer / active learning meme.
      * the Lifelong Kindergarten and “Computer Clubhouses” reference is hugely helpful. Especially for Hackasaurus. Thanks for that.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *