It’s Called Education

By July 30, 2017 No Comments

written by

Matt Dillon



Under the umbrella of education, you can find numerous theories, pedagogies, practices, etc. Today we hear these terms: “growth mindset”, “project-based learning”, and “design thinking”. What about the basics? Of course, there is still the need to teach the 3 Rs…reading, writing and arithmetic…but education today demands more. What are we getting our students ready for? What lays ahead of them when they leave our classrooms and our campuses? Over the years, education reformers, theorists, psychologist, scientists, and educators have offered their perspective:

John Dewey: Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”

Seymour Papert: The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.”

Jean Piaget: Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?”

Ken Robinson: “Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.”  

This is “Education”: The belief that learning is best achieved when the student is actively involved in the process. The belief that what is learned, is learned for a purpose. The belief that learning isn’t the collection of knowledge but rather being able to fine tune the ability/tools needed to find knowledge. The belief that learning to solve a problem is a process not a product. The belief in oneself that “I can do it”. The belief that you have a “license” to learn and effect change in yourself, your community and your world.


This can be done best by having education incorporate the ideas found in what is today being called, “Maker Education”. Although it may seem like a new concept, educators in elementary grades, have been doing this type of thing for years. There has been learning centers, projects made out of recyclable materials, imaginative play, and lots of manipulatives.

Admittedly, over the last 10-15 years a lot of this “hands on” learning has taken a backseat to standardized tests and lists of “must dos”. These have forced teachers to give time to “teaching to the test”. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With maker education students are actively involved: They are doing math; looking at the world and solving problems; reading for research; creating records and doing reflective writing; working in cooperative groups; imagining, planning, creating and improving. They are using cardboard, recycled material and tape to make a creature of their design, that would live in a certain habitat. They design and make with digital fabrication tools like 3D printers and laser cutters. They program and code on computers to move robots. They creating video with green screen technology and virtual and augmented reality. With these skills, tools and materials, students are taking control of their learning.

With maker education, teachers are integrating curriculum, finding teachable moments, and providing students the freedom to learn. Teachers are becoming facilitators, project managers, advisors. Instead of standing at the front of the class lecturing about how a catapult works, students are challenged to research and build a catapult and then use it to collect data, which they analyse using math and science concepts. Teachers are able to create units that cover an array of subjects, units that teachers care about, and in turn, the students can feed off that passion and realise the love of learning. Not just learning content, but things like problem solving, and perseverance.

Is the corner of a classroom dedicated to “Making”? Are there cardboard, scissors, tape, glue, various recyclables, as well as collections of buttons, strings, and material pieces. Is there a “Teched-Out” room, totally committed to digital fabrication and all forms of making. Are there  3D printers, laser cutters, CNC mills, various electronic components, computers, tools and anything you need to create whatever is imagined. Or could it be something in between? Incorporated in the library, or set up in an area of the computer lab? The place or space or tools are not the most important thing…it’s your philosophy.


Our Lower School makerspace operates on a few basic principles:

  1. To provide students and teachers with materials, tools and a place to imagine, create and improve on a goal…for school work (project-based and inquiry-based learning) and for fun;
  2. To teach the design process and “Design Thinking” methodology;
  3. To encourage risk-taking and creativity.

I like to say, “At its very essence, making in school is an attitude, a mindset, a culture. It’s a process, a journey: where learning is personal and unique. Where work is real and meaningful; where there is an audience and reason for what is made.”  See what we have done and what we are doing with this philosophy at the ‘Iolani Lower School FabLab/Makerspace.

This “maker mindset” shouldn’t stop when the students leave the lower school, and at ‘Iolani it doesn’t. Once in seventh grade, students take a life skills class, that among other topics, brings them into the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership iLab where they learn to use the laser cutter. They have the opportunity to take elective courses in Robotics, Design & Fabrication, App Design, as well as computer science course all offered to continue the student’s educational journey. Check out the Sullivan Center, and watch this video about educating the next innovators. You’ll see how this hands-on learning methodology is put into practice.

Education. By definition it’s, The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.” It is that…but it is so much more.



  1. “John Dewey Quote.” A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2017.
  2. “Seymour Papert Quote.” A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2017.
  3. “TOP 25 QUOTES BY JEAN PIAGET (of 74).” A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2017.
  4. “A quote from The Element.” Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2017.

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