Learning by Making, Teaching by Doing

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The hacker/maker movement1 embodied in hacker/maker spaces is the best convergence of the new old form of learning by making and teaching by doing. Among other things, such a collaborative, peer production space requires:

  • a minimally prescribed but religiously nurtured code of ethics and behavior,
  • a participatory governance structure that resolves problems amicably,
  • a recognition system that rewards socially positive and nurturing behavior and activities,
  • a high regard for skills and understanding instead of degrees and certificates,
  • an inclusionary system that doesn’t place the burden of acquiring disciplinary prerequisites, and
  • a delimited space to experiment with social, cultural, scientific, artistic, educational and engineering norms.

While such an activity is not scalable in a web-scale sense, it is highly adaptable to almost any discipline, and is a replicable model with minimal investment. Of note, it is particularly conducive to nurturing those who otherwise would fall through the cracks, the creative ones who fail to find easy acceptance in readymade slots.

Since hacker/maker spaces are literally physical spaces, they exist in a system, be it a city or an institution. While virtual networks such as Hackteria can serve as a resource once a space gets going, at the very minimum, a governance structure and a code of ethics and practice are needed to both acquire as well as sustain a space. The easiest way to create one is to house it in an existing structure typically provided by a university or a research institution but such spaces can also be freestanding.2

I will be involved in a new co-working and collaboration space opening in San Francisco in Spring 2015 to bring together scientists and educators, hackers and makers, anyone working on science projects and long-lived tools such as software and hardware.3 The space will provide desks, gathering areas, workshop areas for electronics and biotech, and a public exhibition space for showcasing science projects developed in-house. The intent is to support open science, open data, citizen science, education, documentation, reproducibility and accessibility at the intersection of science and making.

  1. There are almost 2000 hackerspaces from around the world listed on the Hackerspaces wiki, an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to set up a hackerspace.
  2. The Collaborative Undergraduate Biology Education (CUBE) at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education and the Center for Experimental Media Arts (CEMA) at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology are two such spaces housed in existing institutions. Noisebridge in San Francisco and La Paillase in Paris are two of the many independent hacker spaces around the world.
  3. The Manylabs science hacker space will opened in San Francisco in Spring 2015.