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Social educators helping dropouts with maker based activities

In this blog we have talked about maker culture, about activities and maker projects, about the suitability of installing a maker space in an educational space, and also about how technology motivates young people.

Now, with this article we want to delve a little deeper into how educators with maker skills can help to give support to young people with educational difficulties.

As the introduction of the European Commission report “Youth work and non-formal learning in Europe’s education landscape” said in 2015:

The blurring of borders between formal, non-formal and informal will require new teaching skills and constant evolution of the profiles of youth workers or school teachers. A holistic approach to education, individualised methods, professional coaching and experience-based learning would also prompt individuals to take a step back from routine and promote change”.

And, more and more, informal learning will be a way of learning increasingly considered by employers and will be a motivating source of Learning.

While instruments of assessment and recognition of informal learning are being designed, it is time to explore ways to complement this informal learning with the educational system. And this role is developed in a very professional way by social educators.

Social educators know quite well what motivate young people. Besides, different sociological studies indicate that adolescents feel motivated when they are able to:

  • discover their talents through practice,
  • learn new things that have practical application in their personal or work environment,
  • solve real life problems,
  • use new technologies beyond the mobile phone,
  • build things for themselves,
  • feel that their initiatives and creativity are valued,
  • collaborate in the care of the planet,
  • help to others.

These motivating aspects can be achieved developing projects, (Why not?) in a “maker space” where young people can produce things.

We talked with Ana Moreno, a social educator and director of SED VIES, Social & Educational Piarist Association, in Valencia.This spanish association works with children, adolescents and families of vulnerable groups. They offer support to these students, with additional learning difficulties, when school hours are over.

SED VIES, stakeholder of Make In Class Project, is going to launch a project to set up a maker space to develop maker activities complementing the educational programs that will be scheduled after school.

Ana Moreno explains that working in a maker space will awaken the motivation of teenagers getting an informal learning: knowledge, skills and soft skills, without being in a traditional educational environment.

How to plan maker activities to motivate these young people from vulnerable groups?

She tells us their idea:  integrating the “manufacture” of objects or services into young people entrepreneurial projects to serve the community. The aim is being useful in their closest environment, improving their self-esteem and helping to achieve their social integration.

SED VIES bets on learning-service to the community, a methodological proposal that implies the realization of a solidarity action where the students are the protagonists, destined to attend real needs of a community and planned in an integrated way with the curricular contents of learning.

It is not only make nice and funny things, but useful and motivating things.

With this methodology we want to increase the interest in learning from young people, designing maker activities associated with projects that end by manufacturing something useful for young people, for people around them, for people in their community” – Ana Moreno explains.

We are convinced that this will be the starting point to achieve their social and labor insertion.


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Maker-based activities at Gymnasium Neubiberg

At our secondary school we established an open digital workshop in which the students can develop creative ideas to implement and present them in various projects. They use techniques such as 3D modeling and 3D printing, plotting and laser cutting, programming drones or robots and single-board computers as well as various forms of audiovisual media production and classic forms of DIY like soldering, sewing or knitting.

Since three years approaches of the outlined idea of implementing making activities in schools have been successively established. Immediately after acquiring the first 3D printer in 2016, a first group of students tested 3D modeling programs and printed their own products. Since then, every year an elective course takes places in our Makerspace. The interest was so immense that the one-hour elective lesson was extended to three hours and flexible additional weekdays are offered. Further equipment could be purchased to offer a broader range of maker-based activities, e.g. virtual reality glasses and a VR-ready computer.

Teachers who want to establish a maker space in schools need equipment which is easy to handle, has a long lifetime and forgives mistakes. The first difficulty we had was the selection of printers. We made very good experiences with Ultimaker 3D printers which could be even operated by younger students. In a next step we printed a lot to get know to the technology. Fortunately, Ultimaker 3D printers work with freeware like Ultimaker Cura as slicing software and we found with tinkerCAD ( a powerful online tool to create own designs. This tool is also easy to use, even for younger students, and for free.

As we proceeded, we introduced our new equipment to our younger students in additional courses. After a short period of habituation this students are able to be 3D experts in class if teachers want to implement maker-based activities in their lessons. With increasing experience we could start to implement these activities more and more into school lessons. For example, we are able to print models for science lessons that are able to be manipulated by our students. Furthermore, we let our students do their own 3D models, e.g. within arts lessons. In one project advanced level students created designer hooks which are quite funny. But also lower grade students are able to create 3D models as we could see in geography lessons and our elective course.

To implement maker-based activities in lessons, you need furthermore pc rooms with class sets and a sufficient network. TinkerCAD works also on tablets, but handling 3D models without a mouse is quite challenging. To monitor and evaluate the students’ work, it is practicable to offer one account to the students which could be used by all of them at the same time. Note that the students have to rename their work and label them with their names. After a short introduction about the general functions in tinkerCAD, even younger students are able to create complex models within few units. To print them, you have to count in more time if you have only one or two 3D printers. This could be done by the 3D experts for example. Including students into important tasks has a huge potential to create an open and creative working attitude which gives the possibility to increase motivation and also grades. Working together trains equally students and teachers and leads to an enjoyable classroom or even school climate.

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The aim of DRONE@SCHOOL project is twofold, on the one side, for teachers in order to accumulate experience about teaching robotics at High School adopting innovative methodologies in education and training based on FabLab and maker-based activities; on the other side, to motivate those students at the risk of drop-out. This school project initiative has been created by researchers and teachers, expert in technologies and in education, and has been supported by Public and Private bodies: High Schools, the FABLAB of Fano, the sportive club Drone Racing Fano, a company in the sector of robotics named TTP Technology, the bank Intesa San Paolo of Urbania and the public-private company ASET of Fano.

Let’s go into a lesson of the course step by step, in order to better understand the vocational, educational and training approach used…

I Phase – the expert illustrates the project-work: How to build a canopy for our personal drone

In this first phase the teacher expert describes the main activities in which the student should be focused on to achieve the ultimate objective. In this specific course fragment, the teacher explains that he will use a 3D printer with PLA filament to create the specific canopy.

II PhaseTake the measures and sketch out a draft on the paper

This phase is important to give to the student the reference with another technique to sketch out a drawing, not digital but using traditional instruments. Learning from the old approach to cope with the drawing, it helps the student to better understand the limits of it against the advantages of the CAD tools.

III PhaseLearn how to do it with a CAD system

Once the principal measures have been identified on the paper sketch, then the student start with the use of a Computer Aid Design system to deal with the 3D representation of the drone canopy.

IV PhaseLearn how to transform digital atoms in physical ones

At this point the expert teaches to the students how to use a 3D printer and how to generate an stl file compatible with the most used 3D printer software.

V PhaseTest the materialised object

Once the object has been created the student should test it, e.g. mounting it on the drone, and eventually he/she should identify little improvements to apply at the previous drawing before printing it again.



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Does my school need a Makerspace?

Makerspaces are communities of practice constructed in a physical place set aside for a group of people to use it as a core part of their practice, a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering irons and even sewing machines.

Experts state that a maker class experience at school provides a wealth of opportunities for students, but how can you determine if a makerspace is needed at your school? How eventually can be integrated in your school?

Mentioned below are some tips which might help you.

Step number one: let’s determine if a makerspace is needed at your school

Here below some simple questions to answer, elaborated by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the organisation leader in the promotion of creativity and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of education.

  1. Does failure slow or stop creativity in students?
  2. Could students expand their perspectives by learning about expression and unique learning styles?
  3. Can we improve real-world applications of classroom lessons to strengthen comprehension?
  4. How would more hands-on learning benefit curiosity and innovation?
  5. Can we increase exposure to the 21st century skills needed for success?

If you answered yes to all the questions, a makerspace can provide the opportunities you are looking for to enhance learning at your school[1].

Step number two: let’s figure out which strategy can be used to implement makerspace at your school

Two types of strategy are suggested.

  1. A makerspace can be integrated directly into a classroom setting or it can be established in a dedicated location. Regardless of where the space is located, the key is creating a space that provides opportunities for: collaboration, learning, sharing, testing, questioning, experimenting and innovating.
  2. If you don’t have funds for that, you can simply ask to a makerspace that is in near your area.

For insight on how a makerspace can be established at school, read the entire article “Does My School Need a Makerspace?” on Invent official website.

[1] National Inventorts Hall of Fame, Article: “Does My School Need a Makerspace?”,

Furthermore Concordia University in Portland (Oregon) suggests 5 steps to cerate a maker space for your school:

Step 1 – Get Started: Study Up + Network

You can start reviewing a few reading materials as a point of reference and connecting to the myriad of like-minded educators across your country and beyond. There are a lot of passionate teachers that share online suggestions, resources and free lessons for  maker based activities. sharing their ideas and advice. You can use social media as Telegram, facebook or Youtube, to find relevant supporting materials.

Step 2 – Getting Stuff for Your Makerspace: Bring the Outside World In

Start filling in a supply material list. In order to cover the expenses for supply materials you can ask companies, organisations and any other potential stakeholder (including parents) to provide it for free. Makerspaces can use almost everything from metal scraps to waste material.  Ask your community for help through face to face meetings or posts on social media.  Invite local professionals to help kids create their project (i.e. an electrician to build a light-up circuit, or bring in a construction expert to help design the perfect tiny house).

Step 3 – Find Space + Time: Turn Any Space into a Makerspace and Give Kids Time to Explore

Any space can be used for basic steam-based projects (i.e. libraries, school classrooms and cafes). You could adapt the activities to the available spaces and let the students explore it.

Step 4 – Make it Work: Start a Design Challenge Practice

To organise regular maker-based design challenges is a good practice to improve interest and involvement. They can be schoolwide, grade-wide, or classroom-based, and work well when both competitive or merely for learning. The goal is to get students engaged in design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. To keep the maker culture alive with regular participation, use the element of surprise by announcing “Drop Everything & Make” challenges or create a design challenge schedule for the year.

Step 5 – Make It Last: Get Creative with the Curriculum

Maker education should connect to classroom learning. Consider ways to incorporate maker projects into your everyday unit and lesson plans, as well as long-term projects. This makes the school subjects more relevant and connected to the real world. However, embedding maker culture into curriculum learning creates a long-term practice with measurable outcomes. To make it work, guide students toward identifying and understanding learning targets and then engage them in self-reflection and revision—just like real innovators.

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The project based approach has become, in recent years, one of the most creative and innovative ways to raise secondary education classes.

Following the pioneering studies of Kilpatrick or Dewey, several authors have shown how to work in a classroom through didactic sequences. Project-based learning included several approaches such as Kilpatrick’s “project method”, which argues that a project is articulated in a work plan conceived as a complex unit of personal experience, or the Freinet’s approach, in which the different teaching subjects should be integrated around a concrete motivating plan.

This methodology is also closed, therefore, to the methods of “learning by doing”, to authors such as Dewey, or to Decroly’s “syncretism”, based on the global and undifferentiated apprehension of reality, not segmented into parts.

In our opinion, as shown in Terrádez (2016), the implementation of the project based approach in secondary and bachelor education should be based on the following pillars:

-It must aim to finally make something new, related to the reality of the student. The final project should not only be related to the acquisition of academic or school content, but must be related to learning skills that exceed the academic field, and must also be aimed at creating a new product (a book, an audio or video recording, a short film, etc.).

-It must be divided into “micro-projects”. For a project to be developed in its entirety, a minimum number of class sessions is needed to its implementation by the students, which may impair the necessary motivation in carrying out the actvity successfully. Therefore, we consider that the division of a project into “micro-projects”, all with their own objectives and methodologies, serves so that student does not lose the motivation for the final product.

– The work must be balanced in four basic skills. One of the most interesting aspects of project development is the ease with which the work of the four basic skills can be integrated. Students, throughout the project sessions, will necessarily have to write and read texts, each one with different functions, to talk and to present their work in class, and to listen the auditions related to the project, such as the peers’ own productions. The challenge for a teacher will be to design activities so that the work of these four skills never falls into improvisation.

-It must be interdisciplinary. Another highlight of a project approach is that we can easily achieve the interrelationship (often suggested and rarely implemented) of different subjects. A language and literature project can insert content related to history, philosophy, natural sciences, etc.

There is no doubt that maker activities are an ideal example for project-based learning.

We will take as an example one of the activities proposed in our European project “Make in Class” and included in the first Intellectual Output produced: the Competence Map.

Specifically, we will use the activity “Manufacturing a car model”, proposed by the MCAST, partner of Make In Class, in which students have to create an automobile model from the production of a technical drawing of mechanical components using CAD software, with the intention that, once the parts of the car have been assembled, the automobile can be linked and addressed with the student’s mobile.

This activity, as well as the most of  maker activities:

It aims to build something new, motivating and related to the student’s reality. Without a doubt, designing a remote control car is something tangible and motivating for the student.
It is divided into “microprojects”: 1. Configuration of the main communication tools. 2. Use cad software packages in preparation for manufacturing. 3. Calculate sizes of the item to be manufactured. 4. Production and design. 5. Build the electronic circuit.
Students apply both the four basic skills and key competencies or “soft skills”. In fact, in the project students should look for information on how to build a car, and finally think about promoting their project.
It has a clearly interdisciplinary character, as it relates to subjects as different as English, technology, computer science, mathematics, physics. Virtually all subjects in the curriculum are somehow linked to the project.

In short, we have shown how maker activities are a privileged example of the project-based learning methodology, a method that seeks students to learn in an active and motivating way in order to help prevent the early school drop-out.

Dewey, J. (1971), “L’école et les méthodes actives”, Revue des Sciences de l’Education (Pour l’ére nouvelle), no 2, pp. 49-57.

Freinet, C. (1976), Los planes de trabajo. Barcelona. Laia. B.

Novak, J. Y Gowin, D. (2002), Aprendiendo a aprender, Martínez Roca.

Pozuelos, F. J. (2004), “Las carpetas de trabajo: una herramienta para compartir la evaluación en el aula”, Cooperación Educativa Kikirikí, 71/72, pp. 37-45.

Terrádez, M. (2016): “Lo que La Celestina enseñaría a Meetic”, Textos.

Zayas, F. (2006), “Hacia una gramática pedagógica”, en Camps, A. y Zayas, F. (coords.), Secuencias didácticas para aprender gramática. Barcelona: Graó, pp. 17-30.

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Using technology to motivate young people

The phenomenon of early school leaving is a complex problem that involves several dimensions of social life, very often strictly linked to social contest marked by poverty and exclusion.

But there are also reasons that arise from personal factors, family matters, learning difficulties and more generally, how the school education system is organised and the role that the individual plays in it.

For all these reasons, the answers to the phenomenon of dispersion should be in order to counteract and reduce the seriousness of the problem and the initiatives must be several and addressed to educational ,social, labour and health policies.

Digital education is a fundamental element to increase the motivation of young people in general, and to counteract inequalities in learning even if technology itself is not enough, but must be accompanied by a technological and digital renewal of teaching methods and approaches.

For some years, the social policies of the Municipality of Fano have been aimed to promoting technologies in favour of adolescents and young people not only during school but above all in their free time, offering a FabLab service with spaces for the construction of three-dimensional products and devices and spaces for playing  instruments.

Agreements were made with local high schools to accompany students during class hours, offering a  technological  laboratory where they could learn how to build and use 3Dproducts and drones.

So much curiosity was aroused that in the afternoon many of them began to attend the FabLab deepening their knowledge, often abandoning the unqualified attendance of leisure time without interest but mostly marked by boredom and sometimes forms of aggression towards peers.

Counteract the use of drugs and alcohol abuse in young people is the mission of the municipal social services that strongly believes in offering opportunities for healthy interests by keeping adolescents and young people away from degraded spaces and often prone to violence.

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Do we know what “maker” means?

Credits | ByLinedu

The Make in Class project is developing different tools for secundary teachers  to use maker-based activities with students to develop teaching-learning processes, and especially to reduce school failure. Perhaps it would be interesting to start by defining what are exactly maker based activities.

The maker movement

Credits | ByLinedu

In 2005, Dale Dougherty launched the magazine “Make” where the concerns of many people who liked to “make” things were collected. In 2006 he launched the Maker Faire event where the “makers” show their projects year after year. From there, the movement grew until our days in which people of all ages with more or less knowledge about technology has joined this movement that even has its own Manifesto.

The maker movement promotes the idea that all people are capable of developing any object, “do it yourself” (DIY), instead of ordering it or buying it.
The maker movement is a social movement that began with craft manufacturing and where digital interaction and manufacturing methods have been quickly integrated mainly due to 3 factors:
1. The integration of electrical and electronic components.
2. The emergence of digital tools for design and manufacturing with affordable sizes and prices: 3D modeling programs, 3-D printers, laser cutters, 3-D scanners.
2. Social and collaborative digital media, which have fostered collaborative innovation on the web and where innumerable open source digital practices are shared.

What are “maker based activities”?
They are activities, challenges, personal fabrication projects with the “do it yourself” philosophy where creativity, autonomy and collaboration are essential factors.

These activities can range from traditional manufacturing:

  • simple objects with traditional materials (paper, cardboard, plastic, light plywood, etc.),
  • objects with recycled materials (boxes, light containers, toys, etc.),

up to digital manufacturing:

  • physical objects to which are added electrical components (cables, switches, batteries, …)
  • electronics (resistors, transistors, sensors, motors, LEDs, displays, …)
  • modeling and 3D printing
Credits | Fablab München

For more than 10 years, communities of people and companies interested in programming and electronics have developed technology that makes it easy to connect, control and interact with physical objects directly or even through the Internet using mobile devices such as our mobile phone. For example: Arduino or Raspberry Pi circuit boards that can be “programmed” from the computer.
Thanks to the technology of “programming by blocks”, to start coding is as simple as assembling pieces of a puzzle.

It can be said that technology is becoming more “inclusive”. You can “manufacture” projects with simple technology and with little money thanks to electronic components are becoming cheaper and because there are many software applications with free or open source versions.

The computer and mobile devices, such as phones or tablets, have become a tool where hundreds of programs can be used to “create” and perhaps for this reason, the concept “maker” sometimes transcends the idea of ​​creating projects with only “tangible” elements. Makers creativity sometimes need to use software apps to complete their projects.
In other words, we can “manufacture” a virtual object with 3D modeling software to be printed and maybe we need also create with this object a digital film through video recording and editing.In short, we can say that a “maker” activity is always creative and it has a simple or complex project behind it.


The degree of integration of technology will depend on different factors: age, knowledge and skills on different techniques and technologies of people “maker”, type of workspace, equipment, budget, personal, professional or educational objective, etc.

Credits | Fablab München

Education and the maker culture

Active learning ( “learning by doing”), teamworking, solving problems in a collaborative way, autonomy or creativity are being key in the new methods of learning in schools, and these elements are adjusted to the DNA of the maker movement.
“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.”
At present, there is a great interest to develop in the students basic and professional competences that still cost to develop in the classrooms.

It is for these reasons that teachers are interested in everything that has the name “maker”, and begin to experience this type of activities, initially in the subjects related to STEAM areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.
But….if these activities are implemented beyond the scope of technology subjects?

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From small to big making projects

The last weeks our team spent a lot of time interviewing teachers and experts in the field of Making and we found out that the field we’re searching in is just about to start to work with maker based tools and activities, but making is hardly integrated in the standard curriculum yet. Up to now it rather seems to be an after school activity to enrich pupils that are very keen on learning technical things like robotics and drones, the courses are held by an expert teacher who likes making, or programming.

But walking through Make Munich Maker Fair beginning of march, we saw lots of different people doing very interesting making projects that can be adapted and implemented into school curricula. Our goal now is to widen the field, to motivate a lot more teacher on the one hand, no matter what subject, in order to reach more pupils by integrating Making into normal lessons.

In order to reach that goal, we work out different projects. Very small to long projects, easy to hard projects, cheap to expensive projects, projects that do not need a lot of equippment, that can be held within one or two hour lessons, up to others that take half a year and that need some equippment like 3D Printer, lasercutter, vinylcutter, electronics, drones…

Providing this range of activities including knowledge and the implementation into standard curricula of secondary schools we hope that soon a lot more pupils will get to know and get to love this sort of activities and without realizing will be motivated and keen on learning again. In the end the normal lessons are enriched with making acivities to better motivate the pupils and to make them want to invent, learn, construct and therefore need to be able to read, calculate and write…



An example: Stop Motion – subjects language and arts: starting the project with finding a topic, write a storyboard, paint and build background and choose figures, do the stop motion video, write dialogs, do the sounds. Present the film. You will see that pupils are very keen on working in a team, thinking of a story, writing a story board, getting all the equippment needed, painting and working on the backgrounds with different machines.. learning how to 3D model to get figures and houses, how to lasercut etc you can get all sorts of marks for your subject as a side effect.

So given the fact that all over Europe we deal with pupils that are more or less bored and unmotivated during „normal“ lessons, where they have to sit and listen and perceive intellectual input, that often is not related to anything they are interested in, our project aims to provide a lot of interesting little, medium or big projects for teachers, that they easily can implement into their lessons, to help those pupils to find a way back into learning and in the end everyone will be able to find a job after finishing school.