Metaliteracy and Maker Literacy

We are delighted to share this guest post by Sarah Nagle, Creation and Innovation Services Librarian at Miami University, Oxford Ohio. Sarah explores the maker movement, its tenuous fit with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, and what she defines as a strong alignment with metaliteracy.

Metaliteracy as a Bridge Between Maker Literacy and the ACRL Framework

Sarah Nagle, Creation and Innovation Services Librarian

The popularity of makerspaces has soared across the world since the onset of the Maker Movement in the mid-2000s. Makerspaces are collaborative working and learning spaces that often include technology such as 3D printers, sewing machines, laser cutters, and other equipment. While community and public library makerspaces led the charge in the early years of the maker movement, maker-centered learning has blossomed in the realm of education, becoming a popular learning tool in K-12 schools, and more recently in higher education. Often, university makerspaces live in the campus library. University libraries can provide broad access to communal, collaborative spaces for the campus community, making them an ideal location for makerspaces. Maker-centered learning has a strong multidisciplinary, collaborative aspect, and makerspaces traditionally put value on the open sharing of things and ideas, something that is deeply embedded in the spirit of libraries.

As makerspaces have grown in popularity in education, some important projects have arisen to study the benefits and outcomes of maker-centered learning. Agency by Design (AbD) (Clapp et al., 2017) is a multi-year research project that has studied maker-centered learning. Although the project focused mainly on K-12 education, many of the findings can apply to maker-centered learning for any age level. AbD developed a Framework for Maker-Centered Learning, which focuses on maker empowerment and design sensitivity. A prominent framework for maker-centered learning in higher education is the Maker Literacies Project (Wallace, et al., 2018), an IMLS-funded initiative started at the University of Texas Arlington, has developed a list of maker competencies for higher education, in addition to providing a wide range of examples of makerspace course integrations. A common thread for maker-centered learning frameworks is the development of a maker mindset, which places emphasis on empowerment, failure positivity, and critical thinking. Often absent from maker-centered learning frameworks is a strong emphasis on the acquisition of specific skills. In other words, even though students are learning specific tools, technologies, and software, the enduring value that they receive from maker-centered learning experiences is primarily related to mindset development.

The question of how maker-centered learning connects to information literacy instruction remains largely unanswered. Since moving from public to academic library makerspaces in 2018, I have grappled with how to bridge maker-centered learning with my library’s information literacy instructional mission, which focuses heavily on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. Attempting to map maker literacies to the ACRL Framework can be a difficult task; there are many similarities, but there are also many outcomes of maker-centered learning that don’t fit perfectly within the six frames. Then I began reading about metaliteracy and discovered that the concept provides an excellent overarching model for connecting experiential learning competencies like maker literacy to the ACRL Framework.

Metaliteracy places emphasis on learners as active, collaborative, and introspective creators. This perspective on information literacy broadens the scope of library instruction and makes room for new and innovative literacies, such as maker literacy. Below are some of the important ways that metaliteracy encompasses the outcomes of maker-centered learning.

  • Shift from consumer to creator – Goal 3 of the 2018 Metaliteracy Goals and Learning Objectives includes students’ ability to view themselves as producers of information. An important outcome of maker-centered learning focuses on this shift as well. Rooted in the ideals of the maker movement, the shift from consumer to creator fundamentally changes students’ outlook and connects closely with the theme of empowerment. Students are no longer blindly consuming information and things, but rather looking critically at all aspects of the designed world around them, with a confidence in their ability to analyze, tinker with, and design new objects.
  • Empowerment – Learner empowerment is mentioned in the metaliteracy documentation as an outcome of metacognition and metaliterate learning. Empowerment is also a key component of maker-centered learning frameworks. The ultimate outcome of the AbD Framework for Maker-Centered Learning is Maker Empowerment. This is defined as “A sensitivity to the designed dimension of objects and systems, along with the inclination and capacity to shape one’s world through building, tinkering, re/designing, or hacking” (Agency by Design, n.d.). In other words, maker-centered learning helps students critically evaluate the world around them, understand how things work, and gain confidence in their own ability to fix, improve upon, and create things.
  • Civic mindedness – One characteristic of metaliterate learners is their tendency to be civic minded. Civic mindedness is also a byproduct of maker-centered learning. When students experience empowerment through maker-centered learning, this empowerment begins to extend beyond themselves, often resulting in students’ commitment to use their newfound agency to make a difference in the world at large. A hallmark of the maker movement is the propensity of makers to use their skills to give back to their communities. A recent example is the maker community’s response to shortages of PPE and medical devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. When stories began circulating of PPE shortages, makers worldwide immediately stepped up in huge ways to design, develop, and manufacture face masks, shields, and even parts for medical devices such as ventilators. AbD identifies “Community Making” as one of the primary benefits of maker-centered learning, defining it as, “Finding opportunities to make things that are meaningful to one’s community and taking ownership of that process of making, either independently or with others” (Clapp et al., 2017, p. 41).
  • Metacognition – Metacognition is an integral component of metaliteracy, as one of the four domains of metaliterate learning. Although the current literature and frameworks on maker literacy do not explicitly address metacognition in maker-centered learning, the concept is certainly interconnected with the maker learning process. The maker mindset involves critical evaluation of one’s own beliefs and outlooks. In all of my makerspace instruction sessions, I start by introducing students to the maker mindset, which gives students the opportunity to understand and evaluate their own shift in thinking as they develop themselves as makers. Additionally, Wallace et al. (2018) discuss how maker learning activities were more effective when faculty members included self-reflection in the assignment. They describe how the addition of journaling or other self-reflective components to maker assignments increased student growth. This metacognitive step also contributes to maker empowerment, because when students understand the elements of mindset development, they have the ability to control their own learning.

As more academic libraries implement makerspaces, academic library maker educators may face pressure to demonstrate how maker literacy fits with the ACRL Framework. Metaliteracy not only expands students’ expertise of information literacy to include rapidly changing digital environments, it also has the potential to be the bridge that connects newly forming innovative literacies, including maker literacy, to the ACRL Framework. By embracing mindset development rather than skill acquisition, information literacy instruction has the potential to help students develop lifelong practices and viewpoints that will continue to serve them long after they graduate.

References

Agency by Design. (n.d.). The Framework for Maker-Centered Learning. http://www.agencybydesign.org/explore-the-framework

Clapp, E. P., Ross, J., Ryan, J. O., & Tishman, S. (2017). Maker-centered learning: empowering young people to shape their worlds. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wallace, M., Trkay, G., Peery, K., Chivers, M, Radniecki, T. (2018, August 3-5). Maker Competencies and the Undergraduate Curriculum. Paper presented at the 2018 International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces, Stanford, CA. Retrieved from https://rc.library.uta.edu/uta-ir/handle/10106/27518

Sarah Nagle is Creation and Innovation Services Librarian at Miami University in Ohio, where she supports transdisciplinary projects and course integrations relating to a variety of maker and innovation topics. Sarah’s scholarly interests include inclusivity in the maker movement and how maker-centered learning can enhance learning both in informal environments and higher education. 

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