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A key goal of maker-centered learning is to help young people and adults feel empowered to build and shape their worlds. Acquiring this sense of maker empowerment is strongly supported by learning to notice and engage with the designed dimension of one’s physical and conceptual environment—in other words, by having a sensitivity to design. This sensitivity develops when young people and adults have opportunities to: look closely and reflect on the design of objects and systems, explore the complexity of design, and understand themselves as designers of their worlds.

The interrelated nature of these capacities—looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity—is illustrated by the three parts of the circle pictured below (text from AgencybyDesign).

magnifying glass

LOOK CLOSELY
Looking carefully at objects and systems in order to notice their intricacies, nuances, and details. By looking closely, one may begin to see the complexities inherent in objects and systems.

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EXPLORE COMPLEXITY
Building on close observations and explorations of complexity to see the potential for building, tinkering, re/designing, or hacking objects and systems.

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FIND OPPORTUNITY
Investigating the interactions between the various parts and people associated with objects and systems, including the range of values, motivations, and priorities held by the individuals who engage with particular objects and systems.

Maker Empowerment

"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."

Sensitivity to Design

Learning to notice and engage with one’s physical and conceptual environment by looking closely and reflecting on the design of objects and systems, exploring the complexity of design, and finding opportunity to make objects and systems more effective, more efficient, more ethical, or more beautiful.

 

Research from Agency by Design a multiyear research initiative at Harvard’s Project Zero investigating maker-centered learning experiences