A few days ago I was waiting for a mechanic to call back to let me know if he could attend to some scary-looking warning lights on my car dash, when I ran across this beautifully made interview short by Andrew David Watson entitled Handmade Portraits: Liberty Vintage Motorcycles.
In the film, narrator Adam Cramer lements:
The largest problem facing us is the deindustrialization of America. Our ‘can-do’ American spirit is being lost.
As a lover of the Maker movement and former TinkerLab founder, I had the need to push back against this perception. I began Googling around until I had identified the error message, removed my dashboard, and swapped out the part.
Even as most car manufacturers and gadget producers give us less ability to maintain and modify the products we produce, there are movements underfoot that resemble the world of “New Work” in Doctorow’s Makers. I hope we are moving back towards a culture of do-it-yourself and personally work to cultivate curiosity with my students. Here are some encouraging stories to support this claim:
- The San Mateo Maker Faire currently hosts over 65,000 attendees annually.
- Over $200 million have been pledged to approximately 50,000 Kickstarter campaigns.
- Professor Lee Cronin is working to modify a 3-D “chemputer” printer that can manufacture pharmaceuticals just as one might print a piece of paper.
- Collaborative incubator groups like the nReduce are springing up around the globe – where developers and designers push each other to create something out of nothing.
- Scratch, the amazingly free intro-to-programming application, is finally making its way beyond tech & computer classes into general curriculum.
- Crawford‘s book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, was previously on the New York Times bestsellers list.
- Nonprofit technology design firm D-Rev is focusing their efforts on creating products that serve people living less than $4/day.
- Science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) programs are getting recognition within public and private schools.
- Companies like Sparkfun are selling the excitement and gratification of assembling your own electronics.
- After-school programs, like ReelGrrls & TAF, are providing instruction and materials to help youth create and communicate.
As a middle school teacher, my job is often to seed a set of boundaries in the hopes that students will encounter and then hack their way up/over/around them. Sometimes this is a student who, frustrated by iMovie’s single-title limitation, discovers that exporting and then reimporting projects allows her to create layers of words over a clip. On another occasion, a student misses a self-imposed project deadline and uploads an impassioned YouTube apology complete with live puppy (with really sad puppy eyes) requesting an extension.
What do you believe? Is Cramer right that “our children don’t know the difference between a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips” or do you align with Muren’s philosophies?