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Let Me Hack It: Teachers’ Perceptions About ‘Making’ in Education


Abstract and Figures

Making in education is an emergent practice focusing on learners as creators of things in a collaborative fashion while promoting knowledge construction through technology, design, and creative self-expression. Teachers’ (n=33) opinions about making were studied using an online questionnaire after they had attended an online course for professional development about making in education. The results suggest that there exists a group of educators who consider making as a promising approach in education and want to promote its use in schools.
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Let Me Hack It: Teachers’ Perceptions About
‘Making’ in Education
Ville Heilala1, Mirka Saarela1, Sanna Reponen2, and Tommi arkk¨ainen1
1University of Jyv¨askyl¨a
Abstract. Making in education is an emergent practice focusing on
learners as creators of things in a collaborative fashion while promoting
knowledge construction through technology, design, and creative self-
expression. Teachers’ (n= 33) opinions about making were studied us-
ing an online questionnaire after they had attended an online course for
professional development about making in education. The results sug-
gest that there exists a group of educators who consider making as a
promising approach in education and want to promote its use in schools.
Keywords: making in education, maker movement, digital humanities,
student agency
1 Introduction
Learning digital skills and competencies is essential. It is an endless life-long
learning journey which also forces us, educators, to reflect on our ways of teach-
ing and reform our pedagogical practices. In addition to educators, the digital
world also offers endless opportunities for all other representatives of the human-
ities. The ubiquitous digital world has given rise to a multidisciplinary approach
called digital humanism, which is an area of research that unites computing and
the traditional arts, social sciences, and humanities. It is defined by the “oppor-
tunities and challenges that arise from the conjunction of the term digital with
the term humanities” [4, p. 122].
Making as a promising educational approach [1] refers to an educational
movement, which is based on learning-by-doing with hands-on activities, cre-
ation of prototypes and artifacts, and collaborating in digital fabrication labs as
learning environments makerspaces [2, 10]. Halverson states, that the maker
movement “refers broadly to the growing number of people who are engaged in
the creative production of artifacts in their daily lives and who find physical and
digital forums to share their processes and products with others” [7, p. 496].
The maker movement promotes the digital humanities and actively contributes
to it by emphasizing informal learning through creativity, peer-interaction, and
digital tools [11, 9].
The theoretical basis of the maker movement is founded on the experiential
learning by Dewey, constructionism according to Piaget and Papert, and Freirean
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This is an Author Accepted Manuscript version of the following chapter: Heilala V., Saarela M., Reponen S., Kärkkäinen T.
(2020) Let Me Hack It: Teachers’ Perceptions About ‘Making’ in Education. In: El Moussati A., Kpalma K., Ghaouth
Belkasmi M., Saber M., Guégan S. (eds) Advances in Smart Technologies Applications and Case Studies. SmartICT 2019.
Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, vol 684. Springer, Cham. The final authenticated version is available online at:
2 Ville Heilala et al.
critical pedagogy [2]. Making allows students to acquire technical skills and to
construct mental models about troubleshooting and problem decomposition [5],
thus, having a close resemblance to the underlying aims of computational thinking
[15]. In this regard, the maker mindset is to be developed through playful exper-
iments in asset- and growth-oriented, failure-positive, and collaborative manner
[10]. Clapp et al. suggest, that “the core educational outcomes of maker-centered
learning concern the development of agency and character” [6, p. 163].
The research about making has been concentrating on developing STEM
learning and enhancing programming skills and computational thinking, while
the materials used in making range from latest digital tools and software to more
traditional and tangible materials [13]. The recent research has been focusing on
learner’s point of view, and especially quantitative research from the teacher’s
perspective has been scarce [13, 1].
The purpose of this paper is to examine Finnish teachers’ opinions about
making in education after they have attended an online course called Let Me
Hack It during which they developed their competencies in making more
specifically creativity, technology, and programming in an educational con-
text. Teachers’ competencies relating to the educational use of making were ex-
amined through the lens of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)
[8]. Furthermore, teachers’ opinions about making in education and the reasons
to attend the course are studied.
2Let Me Hack It - Creative technology and coding for
Let Me Hack It was a free-of-charge 7-week online professional development
training funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education. The course was
organized by Mehackit, a social enterprise which focuses on giving both live and
online coding courses and teacher training workshops since 2014. Let Me Hack It
was designed to encourage primary and secondary school teachers in Finland to
view and teach programming as a creative practice. The creative approach aims
to make ICT more appealing and personal to a variety of students regardless
of their background and skill level. From the teachers’ professional development
point of view, the aim was to contribute to teachers understanding about the
interaction of pedagogy, technology, and content.
The participants completed a track of programming exercises related to mu-
sic, visual arts, or creative electronics (Fig. 3). A major part of the course con-
sisted of getting acquainted with maker culture and the different aspects of the
creative work process. The educational and applied approach was important;
teachers’ were encouraged to deal with the lessons learned in relation to their
teaching practice and subject matter expertise. No prior experience in program-
ming was required. Open-source culture and resources were introduced along
the way. The programming tools used in the course (Sonic Pi, Processing, and
Arduino) are open source technologies, as well as the course platform Open edX.
The participants received digital badges for completing the course.
Let Me Hack It 3
The basic structure of the course was designed around the themes of the
underlying learning model (Fig. 1), which is based on creativity research, con-
structivist learning theory, maker and STEAM (science, technology, engineering,
arts, and mathematics) education, and design thinking. The learning model is
flexible in order to support creative project work by allowing multiple entry
points and diverse working paths.
Fig. 1: Pedagogical model of the Let Me Hack It online course.
Fig. 3: Three examples of teachers’ creations in the Let Me Hack It course.
3 Data and Results
Teachers completed an online survey after the course. The survey was sent by
email to all teachers who signed up for the course (N= 399). A total of 33
complete responses were received. The response rate (RR1) of the survey was
4 Ville Heilala et al.
8.3%. The questionnaire consisted of Likert items and open-ended questions. Due
to the small sample size, Likert items are analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Open-ended answers about the reasons to participate in the course were analyzed
by the first author using thematic analysis [3].
The basis for the questionnaire items was the concept of technological ped-
agogical content knowledge (TPACK), which depicts ”an understanding that
emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge”
[8, p. 66]. The Likert items in the survey aim to reflect the respondents’ under-
standing of technology, pedagogy, and contents underlying the educational use
of making. The analysis of the questionnaire data seeks to answer the following
research questions: Why did the teachers decide to attend the course? (RQ1),
How teachers assess their TPACK knowledge relating to making after the course?
(RQ2), Do teachers think making is a relevant educational approach? (RQ3),
and What kinds of advantages and disadvantages teachers see in using making
in teaching and learning? (RQ4).
Most of the respondents (70%) were working in Finnish basic education. Rest
of them were working on other school levels, and two respondents were from
different fields than education. In general, respondents had already established
their careers as educators since 70% of the respondents working as educators
had more than five years of teaching experience. 51% of the respondents were
women. Respondents represented a wide range of subject areas. However, the
main subject areas were mathematics, natural sciences, and craft education.
62% of the respondents completed the course, and the rest completed it partially.
Respondents assessed on a 1-10 scale how familiar they were with making at the
beginning of the course. In general, the respondents were not very familiar with
making before the course (Xm= 4, IQR = 2) and 20% had used Arduino, and
one respondent had used Processing before the course.
3.1 RQ1: Reasons to attend the course
One open-ended question addressed the issue of why the teacher decided to
take part in the online course (“Why did you decide to sign up for the online
course?”). All of the respondents answered this question. Answers were analyzed
thematically, and we identified the following reasons (frequencies in parentheses):
interest in subject (14), interesting preconception (6): teachers mentioned
that they are interested in the subject (e.g., “The subject is interesting”), and they
had a positive preconception (e.g., “The course sounded interesting”).
personal development (5), wanting to learn new (5), lack of previous
knowledge (3), employability (1): teachers participated for the personal de-
velopment, they did not have previous knowledge and wanted to learn something
new (e.g., “I wanted to learn new skills. Coding was a completely new area for
work requirement (5), applicability in practice (3), interest in applying
(2): teachers had a work-related requirement and they were seeking something
they could apply in their own teaching (e.g., “In our school, Processing is used in
programming in mathematics”, “I wanted something new to teach in class”)
Let Me Hack It 5
possibility to receive guidance (2), flexible studying (1), certificate of
completion (1): for some teachers, the possibility to study online was a reason to
participate as the course provided flexible way of studying while providing same
time the opportunity to receive guidance. A certificate of completion was mentioned
in one response.
In general, teachers signed up for the course because they were interested
in and curious about the subject, and they had a positive preconception about
making. Some of them participated in for personal development and because they
wanted to learn something new. Furthermore, precise work-related requirements
and applicability of the learned knowledge and skills were essential factors. Re-
sults, as mentioned above, were expected as technology-oriented teachers might
more willingly attend courses involving technology.
3.2 RQ2: Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge
relating to making
Fig. 4: Items depicting teachers’ technical competencies.
Fig. 5: Items depicting teachers’ pedagogical and content related competencies.
6 Ville Heilala et al.
Questionnaire items in Fig. 4 depict the teachers’ technical competencies
relating to making. In general, they were well technology-oriented teachers. Ma-
jority of the respondents (73%) assessed their technical capabilities as better
than teachers on average, and half of the respondents were confident in trying
out implementing making in practice. Furthermore, half of the respondents eval-
uated their programming skills as sufficient for a teacher (52%), and they could
make simple electronic circuits (48%). Both skills, programming, and electron-
ics were core subjects in the online course, and they are valuable for educators
utilizing making in the context of teaching and learning. Comparing to previous
skills, using a 3d-printer was seen as somewhat more advanced skill as one out
of three respondents reported the ability to use one. However, this might also be
due to lack of access to a 3d-printer.
Pedagogical items of the questionnaire (Fig. 5) concentrated on teachers’
abilities to implement actionable and creative learning sessions. The content in
the online course focused on developing insight about creativity and educational
background of making. After the course, three out of four respondents had an
idea of what making is. A slight majority assessed they could implement ac-
tionable making sessions supporting creativity, while others disagreed or were
undecided. Most notably, almost all of the respondents would like to have more
knowledge and know-how about making, which might indicate a more profound
interest and motivation towards making.
3.3 RQ3: Teachers’ opinions about making in education
Fig. 6: Items depicting teachers’ opinions about making in the context of teaching and
Let Me Hack It 7
Fig. 7: Items depicting teachers’ opinions about the status of making in schools.
Almost all of the respondents wanted to try making in their teaching, and the
majority (82%) would probably continue using making as a part of their teach-
ing practices. Furthermore, making was considered something that is needed in
schools. Teachers assessed making as a pedagogically meaningful way to teach
and learn the contents in the curriculum. Two out of three respondents thought
that all learners should have an opportunity for making, and they would like
their colleagues to be also interested in making. While the teachers’ opinions
about making were overall quite positive, one out of four respondents disagreed
or were undecided whether making “is their thing”.
The teachers who attended the online course were interested, motivated, and
they assessed to have better technical skills than average teachers. Notably, while
being highly technology-oriented, the respondents still considered making to be
something new (67%) and different (79%) in Finnish schools. Furthermore, about
half of the respondents assessed making to be difficult to implement in schools.
Table 1: Summary of background variables (gender and age group) for selected items.
gender age group
item answer male female 25–34 35–44 45–54 55–64
positive 87.5 65.2 88.9 90.9 37.5 60.0
undecided 12.5 34.8 11.1 9.1 62.5 40.0
negative 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
positive 75.0 43.4 44.4 72.7 50.0 20.0
undecided 25.0 34.8 44.4 0.0 25.0 80.0
negative 0.0 21.8 11.1 27.3 25.0 0.0
positive 75.0 82.6 88.9 90.9 75.0 60.0
undecided 25.0 13.0 11.1 9.1 25.0 20.0
negative 0.0 4.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 20.0
positive 75.0 91.3 100.0 90.9 87.5 60.0
undecided 25.0 4.3 0.0 9.1 12.5 20.0
negative 0.0 4.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 20.0
Although the participants of the course formed a relatively homogeneous
group (middle-aged Finnish teachers), there were some interesting gender- and
age-related differences in their answers to the questionnaire items. Table 1 sum-
8 Ville Heilala et al.
marizes gender and age groups for selected items. It shows that more men
(87.5%) than women (65.2%) in the course thought they have better techni-
cal capabilities than teachers on average (item 7). Likewise, more men (75%)
thought that they have sufficient programming skills as a teacher (item 8). How-
ever, more women (91.3% compared to only 75% of the men) agreed that they
could teach the contents mentioned in the curriculum by utilizing making (item
22). Interestingly, 100% of the youngest teachers participating in the course
agreed with this statement, while only 60% of the oldest teachers agreed with
that. Similarly, more women (83% compared to only 75% of the men) thought
that making is a pedagogically rational way of teaching (item 22). Again, more
teachers of the younger generation agreed with this.
3.4 RQ4: Opinions on advantages and disadvantages of making in
teaching and learning
Fig. 8: Keywords extracted from the teachers’ open-ended answers concerning advan-
tages and disadvantages of making in teaching and learning.
Teachers wrote about their opinions about the advantages and disadvantages
of making in teaching and learning in an open-ended question. All respondents
wrote something about the advantages, and all except one respondent also wrote
about the disadvantages. Keywords relating to teaching and learning were ex-
tracted manually from the answers. Fig. 8 shows the keywords extracted from
each question.
The teachers described the advantages of making using vocabulary associ-
ated with contemporary discourse about learning (e.g., experimenting, learning
by doing, critical thinking, intrinsic motivation, engagement, participation, em-
powerment). Keywords suggest that the teachers might be able to identify the
underlying pedagogical ideas of making (e.g., experiential learning, construction-
ism, and critical pedagogy). In general, many of the reported advantages relate
Let Me Hack It 9
to promoting student agency. Reported disadvantages seem to relate to lack of
time and resources (e.g., lack of materials, large group size), higher workload
(e.g., lots of planning, having to create the learning materials, requires a lot
from the teacher), lack of competence, and challenges relating to way of work-
ing (e.g., learners’ unable to do creative activities or work independently). In
the study sample, disadvantages did not seem to relate directly to making as a
way of learning. Instead, they are more related to practical teaching arrange-
ments, resources, and to the perceived uncertainty relating to the competencies
of teachers and learners.
4 Conclusions and Discussion
This paper presented our preliminary findings concerning the teachers’ opin-
ions about making as an educational approach after they attended an online
course about the subject. In general, the teachers participated in the course
because they seemed to be already interested in making, and they had a pos-
itive preconception about it. The need for professional development and work-
related requirements were also important reasons for participation. Furthermore,
as equality is an important topic in the discourse about making in education [1,
12], it is worth noting that half of the respondents were women.
Teachers were technology-oriented, and their opinions about making in ed-
ucation were positive. Teachers wrote about the advantages of making using
vocabulary typically used in contemporary discourse about learning. They expe-
rienced making as a promising approach for teaching and learning. Even though
the teachers were highly technology-oriented, they still considered making as
a new and different approach in Finnish schools. The previous interpretation
might indicate that making as an educational approach is still a relatively new
phenomenon in Finnish schools. The reported disadvantages seemed to relate to
teaching arrangements, resources, and experienced uncertainty relating to the
competencies of teachers and learners. Due to the small sample size, it is not pos-
sible to make far-reaching conclusions. Technology-oriented teachers may have
been more likely to apply for the course than other teachers causing a sampling
bias. The sampling bias might affect, for example, by giving a too positive im-
pression about making. However, the results suggest that there exists a group of
educators who consider making as a positive phenomenon and want to promote
its use in schools.
The preliminary results provide guidelines for our future work. We aim to
examine teachers educational adoption and use of making. From the digital hu-
manities point of view, the topic is intriguing: making might also be one option
to develop skills needed in digital humanities. Making is about building things. If
we have at least some agreement that digital humanities might involve ”building
and making” [14], then digital humanists and makers have a lot in common. In
schools, students as makers might be like digital humanists creatively exploring
the intersection of technology and the humanities. Possibilities to participate in
activities involving creative use of technology might ignite a spark, which en-
courages some of the learners to contribute to the field of digital humanities in
the future.
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