Unschooling and the Maker Culture

Winding platinum wire

Unschoolers are radical mavericks who approach learning 180 degrees in the opposite direction from traditional education.  Unschoolers learn in an unstructured environment almost completely devoid of teachers, separate subjects, grades, tests, or quizzes. Instead, unschoolers hack together their learning palette from many sources to create a truly personal learning experience. Unschoolers are active learners who create their own learning experiences instead of passively receiving generic education in a one-size-fits-all environment.

Makers are the epitome of the DIY (do-it-yourself) culture. Makers are hobbyists and professionals who create electronic and mechanical gadgets, open source software and hardware, clothing, and more. The Maker culture represents a departure from low-quality, mass-produced consumer products from foreign markets.

If you think the Maker culture is a fringe culture, consider that Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media popularized the Maker culture. In 2005, O’Reilly Media launched Make magazine to support the growing community.

Like Makers, unschoolers create their learning environment from existing resources, experiences, and opportunities.  In essence, unschoolers are making their own custom learning universe just as Makers are creating their own custom products. As with the growing popularity of the Maker culture, unschooling is leading the way as an open alternative to traditional, mass-produced, low-quality education.

For example, consider Dale J. Stephens, founder of UnCollege. UnCollege supports creative learning alternatives to college. With advisors from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ThinkGlobal Schools, UnCollege is serious about shaking up the educational status quo.

As the economy sputters along, Makers and unschoolers are reasserting human creativity to create a culture centered on quality, value, and empowerment.  The Maker and unschooling cultures, one in the same, represent a backlash against low-quality mass production. These movements just might be the paradigm-shifting spark the world needs toward an economically prosperous, sustainable, and rewarding future. Bring it on!


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