Thinking about making in the era of COVID-19

man in red jacket wearing white mask

Originally published April 23, 2020

By Seth Avecilla, Maker Technical Specialist, MIT; Robyn Goodner, Maker Technical Specialist, MIT; Angelina Jay, Technical Instructor, MIT

While we wrap up our semester in these strange and difficult times, we find ourselves also just beginning to prepare for a Summer, and maybe even a Fall (or beyond) where things remain equally as strange and difficult. As makerspace managers and community members, there are so many questions about how we will be able to do our work effectively and purposefully when we cannot be in our spaces and with our students. The very beginnings of our attempts to answer to these questions led us to focus back on the bigger picture:

  • Why do we think making is so valuable? 
  • What are our educational values that make us spend our time this way? 
  • Why do we think our students would be well served to have access to makerspaces?
  • What are our underlying learning objectives?

Framing any remote educational efforts from these core values will hopefully lead to the best possible decisions over the coming months. Here are some of our answers to these questions:

We believe that making and kinesthetic learning provide our students with:

  • A sense of agency in the world – seeing it as made of malleable materials, rather than simply products off the shelf
  • Creation or discovery of common ground among disparate groups/people
  • An ability to fail in a (relatively) low-pressure environment/scenario
  • Opportunities for working in teams and collaborating on complex projects
  • Practice project planning and working through rough patches and difficulty
  • An ability to frame problems in such a way as to allow for creative solutions
  • An appreciation for the value of iteration
  • Improvisation skills and resilience when plans are disrupted
  • Opportunities to use our minds and skills to make things better for ourselves and others
  • Critical thinking about why machines and design objects exist the way they do
  • A strong foundation for design thinking
  • A deeper development of engineering proficiency
  • A more intuitive grasp of how materials work

We will all be facing similar challenges in the coming months and we hope this quick list helps inspire you to design solutions that work for your students, spaces and institutions. We’d also love to hear your feedback on our list – is there something important that we missed? If you do a similar activity with your team we’d also love to hear about your values and priorities for the next semester and beyond!

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