December 13, 2013

A TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters

Agency by Design project manager Jen Ryan discusses the maker mind at TEDxDirigo. Photo by Michael Eric Berube.

Agency by Design project manager Jen Ryan discusses the “maker mind” at TEDxDirigo. Photo by Michael Eric Berube.

Earlier this year I was asked to participate at TEDxDirigo, a statewide TED Talk formatted platform for residents of the state of Maine,* to celebrate and share innovative and creative thought.

Embracing the AbD (and maker) principle of testing ideas in progress, I decided to focus my talk on the team’s current (at the time) concept of Maker Empowerment while highlighting one particular question at the heart of our research: why should we notice the designed dimension of our world?

Though a bit anxiety inducing (talking to 300 people is a lot different than workshopping with 30!), the experience was both illuminating and provocative. The talk resonated with many in the audience, including university STEM educators, parents, and business leaders. Perhaps just as important, it helped me clarify some of the guiding questions behind our research.


Many thanks to Adam Burk and the Treehouse Institute for producing the event, and in particular to Janice O’Rourke for her TEDx guidance.

*Though based in Cambridge, I actually live in Portland, ME.

3 thoughts on “A TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters”

  1. Wonderful TED Talk, Jen. I’m excited to find this blog as we are making space for the maker mindset at our school and it is exciting to find others that appreciate its impact.

    It seemed that you were inviting conversation about Maker Empowerment in your TED Talk – so I’d like to engage in a bit of conversation. I really like many of the ideas you discussed around Maker Empowerment and the ways that your group is exploring thinking around our designed world. I’m curious about why you chose the term Empowerment to describe it. I’ve studied and researched power structures in the classroom, particularly as it relates to educational technology. Power was also a theme that emerged in my dissertation with sixth grade math students. As I have learned more about power, I’ve tried to avoid the word empowerment. From its definition and its connotation, empowerment is about giving power to someone else. It is as if the people with power choose to give power to others. I’m not sure that is the way that students view it – nor do I think it is a realistic view of what happens in the classroom (or should be happening in a healthy, vibrant, learning-centered classroom). I also don’t know that it aligns well with the maker ethos. I don’t view makers as folks who wait to be given power. They know deep down that they are equipped to do and create and tinker – and they exercise their power to do and create and tinker. Some may think this is semantics – and they might be right – but I also think it exposes some deeper held beliefs that might be important to explore.

    I look forward to learning more about your organization and all the work you are doing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *