Boing Boing Co-Founder Mark Frauenfelder on Maker Education

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I had a chance to sit down with Mark Frauenfelder, MAKE Magazine's Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of BoingBoing, in Los Angeles to talk about his piece in October's Atlantic, "School for Hackers." We cut our conversation down into a little five minute video, so you can get a taste of how Mark's life has changed by entering maker culture.

If you're unfamiliar with the term "maker," it's the label for an emergent group composed of people who like to build their own stuff. They learn technology by tearing it apart and rebuilding it, gutting it and remaking it. As their numbers have grown, they've gotten more self-conscious, and I actually think they could become a real social movement.

I love that makers *do* stuff. Their enthusiasm is creative. They aren't just painting signs and rallying; they are out there building new things and systems that change their lives. What's really important about that isn't just that these attempts find new solutions, but that you come to understand problems better when you try to solve them yourself.

In his magazine piece, Mark focused on the maker approach to education, which sorely needs new thinking.

So it makes sense that members of the DIY movement see education itself as a field that's ripe for hands-on improvement. Instead of taking on the dull job of petitioning schools to change their obstinate ways, DIYers are building their own versions of schools, in the form of summer camps, workshops, clubs, and Web sites. Tinkering School in Northern California helps kids build go-karts, watchtowers, and hang gliders (that the kids fly in). Competitions like FIRST Robotics (founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen) bring children and engineers together to design and build sophisticated robotics. "Unschooler" parents are letting their kids design their own curricula. Hacker spaces like NYC Resistor in Brooklyn and Crash Space in Los Angeles offer shop tools and workshops for making anything from iPad cases to jet packs. Kids in the Young Makers Program (just launched by Maker Media, Disney-Pixar, the Exploratorium, and TechShop) have built a seven-foot animatronic fire-breathing dragon, a stop-motion camera rig, a tool to lift roofing supplies, and new skateboard hardware.

So, check out his full story. He's a great thinker with a unique perspective.

[Aside: Mark's story was the first that I helped bring to The Atlantic print edition, so I will probably remember it forever.]

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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