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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013

School of Education faculty member, center heading up free Chicago 'Make-to-Learn' symposium

March 7, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University faculty member and her students from the Creativity Labs at IU Bloomington will lead a free symposium on Wednesday, March 13, in Chicago focused on learning through making.

The "Make-to-Learn Symposium 2013" is a one-day event dedicated to placing making, creating and designing at the core of educational practice. The symposium is at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. Educators, researchers and anyone simply interested in hands-on activities and learning through them are welcome to attend.

Kylie Peppler, assistant professor in the Learning Sciences Department at the IU School of Education, heads the committee that has put the symposium together. The Creativity Labs, Peppler's research team focusing on learning through creativity, as well as partners including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will lead the event. In 2011, MacArthur funded a project by Peppler focused on examining the development of systems thinking in middle-school students through making; the resulting curriculum series is soon to be published by MIT Press.

"The MacArthur Foundation wanted to start a new thematic (series of projects and events focused on a particular theme) this year around the larger Maker movement, so I stepped up to lead that effort," Peppler said. "That's the 'Make' thematic, which we called 'Make-to-Learn.' The symposium is one of several activities in the thematic."

The Make thematic also includes a youth contest, where anyone between 13 and 18 can submit a photo or video of an original project along with an explanation of how it was made and what the maker learned from doing the project.

Next week's event features a full day of activities and discussions about making and learning.

"The morning session is going to be all about hands-on making," Peppler said. Some of the sessions will feature facilitators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, the DreamYard Project arts education organization from New York City and Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. The activities range from 3-D printing projects to making audio speakers from paper and building mobile apps.

Make to Learn project

Two boys at the World Maker Faire in New York City test their homemade "Nerdy Derby" car.

Print-Quality Photo

"The afternoon is going to be more academically-oriented," Peppler said. "We have a series of panels including everyone from young makers talking about their reflections on the learning process, to academics studying this at Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere."

Peppler said the Make-to-Learn thematic seeks to connect to the larger Maker movement, which is increasingly impacting education, particularly in the re-envisioning of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) areas.

"Whether a teen is building a robot, designing a video game, knitting a sweater or crafting, there are a lot of complex STEM concepts undergirding each of these activities," she said. "You hear a lot of talk around tinkering and it gets us to not only think about how kids can learn STEM in the informal hours, but also how we can re-envision STEM education. Engineering schools are becoming reinvigorated by this Maker movement -- there are even some folks up at Purdue that are teaching toy design in their mechanical engineering classes."

More about the conference and about Make-to-Learn is available at Pre-registration for the conference is available until March 10, but is also available onsite. Feel free to join for part or all of the day's activities, which include a keynote from one of the leaders of the Maker movement, Dale Dougherty, as well as a hosted cocktail hour reception.