"Why I am not a Maker" by Debbie Chachra: Toward problematizing what it means to be a "Maker"


by Susan Klimczak -

I really liked this article "Why I am not a Maker" by Debbie Chachra from our own Olin College outside Boston, which is doing the most difficult and amazing work of transforming engineering education. 


I added some comments to the article that I paraphrase here:

I have been the education organizer for Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn which was begun out of care for our Boston youth of color who learn STEM best by building things, by seeing and making their school education become relevant. 12 years later, people call what we do "maker education."

However, we continue to struggle to get support because of the focus of our program on "technologies of the heart," those technologies that deepen our relationship with ourselves and others. We find our youth need those as much or more than they need technology skills. Mel King says, "If we want a society and culture that work for everyone, we need innovation in our relationships along with innovation in the STEM fields and STEM education.

In the FabLearn Fellows program at Stanford University, we have been talking about the problems with how people are defining "making" and how to redefine it in ways that promote a more equitable and loving world.

I like what Vincent Harding says, paraphrasing it to apply to makers:  We do not want equal opportunity in a dehumanized world (the old and some of the new definitions of maker, included) but want full participation in a new and informed humanity (that includes new definitions for the words "maker" and "maker education.")

I think that is what Dr. Debbie Chachra is asking for here.  I think that the work of Dr. Nettrice Gaskins is moving us towards (https://netarthud.wordpress.com/).  I think that this is building on ideas from the 2013 Keynote at the FabLearn Conference by Leah Buechley (http://edstream.stanford.edu/Video/Play/883b61dd951d4d3f90abeec65eead2911d --- you need to wait for a while for it to load!). 


Christa Flores's picture

Susan, I look forward to our continued conversation around this subject. I hope we are able to schedule a time to have Debbie speak to the Fellows about how to take back the term "making" so it doesn't have such strong connotations with a western or male heritage. I invite the other fellows to open the google doc and add questions we have around this subject.  The idea of a makers manifest has been one I have tossed around for years and I think that we should work on this together.  

Susanna Tesconi's picture

Very inspiring Susan!

I think a lot about this topic since I heard the epic Leah Buechley's talk.  I agree that the keypoint is what Mel King said  "If we want a society and culture that work for everyone, we need innovation in our relationships along with innovation in the STEM fields and STEM education" . As an educator my worry is to build caring (educational or not) relationships with my students in order to improve their curiosity and research skills. There are ideas, concepts and practices in the maker movement that help me to improve the participation of my students in the creation of shared knowledge. I mean the idea  of remix, share designs, open tools, the constructionism, the community,   the philosophy of DWO etc. But there are several attitudes that are not helping me at all for example  the need for the latest super powerful technology gadget as main concern,  the vision of technology like exclusively functional (not poetic)  and the focus on the product forgetting that in learning the thing that really matters is the process.

Looking forward to continue this conversation