Maker Pathway

Maker Badge
Maker Badge

“Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create, and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. These things are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our souls.” – Mark Hatch, CEO Tech Shop

Making is at the core of our everyday conversations, of our learning, of our lives. We make choices, breakfast, changes, our beds (some of us!); we even “make” time. We’ve looked at the relationship of making to composing and digital authorship, and we’ve talked about what we choose to make, why we make it, and how people respond to the things we make.

Making and consuming are two of our most fundamental human activities. Indeed, we engage in dozens (if not hundreds) of transactions as both producers and consumers every day, even as we perform tasks as simple as texting a friend and receiving a text. While many of our exchanges are intangible and we take them for granted, producing a physical object helps give form to our relationships to the physical world.

Image from Instructables.com
Image from Instructables.com

If you follow this badging pathway, you will have the opportunity both to make something and to reflect on how it is used/consumed—“little pieces of [y]ourselves”—that you will share, increasing your understanding of yourselves and of others. To have a fuller experience of making, you will do research to learn all that you can about something you would like to make, its components, history, importance, as well as how to make it. You will make an Instructable of your process and of someone responding to the thing you make, and finally, you will have an opportunity to think about what you have learned and what you might do differently in the “manufacturing” process.


Final Project for Maker Pathway

For the Maker pathway, your goal will be to summarize and analyze existing scholarly and popular sources surrounding the topic (Level I), engage in your own inquiry around the topic (Level II), and create a multimedia project that represents your critical interpretation and new understandings about the topic (Level III). In particular, you will develop a “how-to” guide, similar to the ones you might find on Instructables, and following some of the suggestions from Jessy Ratfink’s “How to Write an Instructable” mini-course. 

Your group will be collaborating around your topic, and your final project is meant to be an individual effort. That said, I know that the creative process — as well as the affordances of the digital tools and culture — may lead you toward co-authorship. In fact, I imagine that this will happen many times for us.

So, if you plan to develop a co-authored final project, you will need to articulate that clearly in your research plan and get approval from Dr. Hicks. Otherwise, please plan to collaborate with your group around the topic, but to develop your own final Instructable.

Group Reading, Viewing, and CMU Contact


Level I Activities

In Level I, your main goal is to summarize and analyze existing scholarly and popular sources surrounding the topic.

Level I, Task 1: Learning more about Making

  • Discuss the video and article with your group. Annotate these and keep thinking through what you have found. Do some more searching on the topic through the Library and Google Scholar. Save what you have found to Zotero.

Level I, Task 2: Writing-to-Explore Making

  • Writing-to-Explore Tasks:
    • Think about a time when you made something with your hands and especially enjoyed the process of making it. A meal for family? A skateboard? A painting/sculpture in art class? A Lego city? Bigger biceps? Describe in detail the thing you made and the circumstances around the making of this thing. Answer all of the following questions (write at least 500 words total):
      • Where did you make it? Describe the setting, the sights, sounds, smells, physical sensations that you remember during the process.
      • How did you make it? Did you use tools? Instructions? Did you get help? Did you work collaboratively? What people were there with you and what did they do?
      • Why did you make it? Why was it enjoyable/satisfying/interesting to make this “product”? What did you enjoy most about it? What was challenging about making the product? Write down everything you can remember about this “making.”
      • What happened to your “product”?
      • Who “used/consumed” it (consuming can be viewing, reading, wearing, eating, playing with)? How?
      • What meaning did the product have for the person who used it? Why? How did you feel about what happened to the “product”?
    • Brainstorm a list of things that you would like to make (if you need ideas, you might want to look at https://www.instructables.com/). The only rule is that it should be something that someone else can “consume” (use, view, wear, hear, eat, etc.).

Level I Submission Items:

  • LI,T1: Links to your annotated article and TED Talk
  • LI,T2: Writing to Explore (500 words, GDoc or Word)

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Level II Activities

In Level II, your main goal is to engage in your own inquiry around the topic.

Level II, Task 1: Immerse Yourself in Research

  • Find additional sources about the specific thing you want to make. Get as much information about it as you can. Use at least four credible sources. At least two of these sources must be academic or trade sources found via CMU Library research and two can be from other sources, including popular media. Include an MLA or APA style bibliography of all your sources. With your sources, you should be able to answer some of the following questions:
    • What are the components of this thing? Where do they come from? (For example, if you’re making a cake, find out how flour is made.)
    • What is the history of the thing you want to make? (When was the first cake made? Why? What were key historical moments?)
    • What is the social, political, environmental, and/or cultural importance of the thing (when, for instance, do we bake cakes? For what occasions? Why?). How do/might people use/consume this thing?
  • Find and interview someone who has made the thing you want to make.
    • Part I: Discover all the reasons why this person likes to make this thing. Is it the feel of the materials? The motion (it’s good exercise, it’s meditative, and so on)? The results? The act of sharing it or giving it to someone else.
    • Part II: Ask this person to explain in step-by-step fashion the process of making the thing they make. Ask for tips so that you can make it yourself.
    • Take notes, including your questions and the interviewee’s responses. Type these up and share your impressions.
  • Go play. That’s right. Start by remembering what it was like to be a child. When you think of “playing” as a child, what do you think of? Write down all the words you associate with “play.” Now go out start playing with the materials you are going to use and/or play with a thing like the thing you want to make. Spend at least one hour engaged in some play. Describe your play experience (it could be like a diary entry). Consider the following:
    • How did you feel before you started?
    • What did it feel like to play?
    • What were you thinking?
    • How did you feel afterward?
    • How does play relate to learning?
  • Combine your thinking on all of this into a “Immerse Yourself” essay (Summary and Analysis Paper or approximately 750 to 1000 words)

Level II, Task 2: Project Proposal

  • Narrow down your list to one thing. Review information about Project Planning from Writing Commons.  Describe the Instructable you will make in detail in a project proposal (at about 250 words). Answer the following
    • Mode: What are the characteristics of the genre of an “Instructable?” What are the types of structures that writers use? What counts as evidence in this community?
    • Media: What do you need to learn about using audio, video, images, maps, hyperlinks or other digital writing tools? How does this media enhance your overall argument?
    • Audience: Move beyond a “general audience,” and describe who, specifically you are writing for. What do they believe? What counts as evidence for this audience? Considering the demographics (age, regional location, income level, etc.) and psychographics (values, interests, concerns, affiliations, etc.), carefully describe the rhetorical audience for this object and set of instructions.
    • Purpose: Choose an active verb. What are you trying to do with your writing? Write more about this verb and how your project is going to guide your work on this project.
    • Situation: What do you know about this genre? This topic? What will you have to learn about the technology that you plan to use?

Level II Submission Items:

  • L2,T1: “Immerse Yourself” essay (Summary and Analysis Paper or approximately 750 to 1000 words, GDoc or Word). Include info from:
    • Additional sources, academic and popular
    • Additional interview
    • Your experience playing
  • L2,T2: Project Proposal (250 words, GDoc or Word)

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Level Three Activities 

In Level III, your main goal is to create a multimedia project that represents your critical interpretation and new understandings about the topic. For this pathway, you will create an Instructable.

Level III, Task 1: Prototyping

  • Using everything you have learned and experienced, you will make something and then share it, documenting the process as an Instructable. Before beginning, you might want to give the thing you make a title or name, such as “The Paper Airplane Armada Ever,” “CMU Championship Chocolate Chip Cookies,” or “Capturing the Perfect Sunset on Lake Michigan with Your Smartphone.”
  • Bring to class your product and your Instructable. Give a group or group(s) of students in the class your Instructable and ask them to read it. Then ask them to try to use or consume what you made. Ask them only to “use” the thing at this point, not to comment on it.
  • Carefully observing what people did, answer the following in a Google doc (500 words):
    • How would you describe their body language as they used/consumed your object—do they express curiosity? Do they seem amused? Moved? Confused? Hungry? Frightened? Do they touch the object? How?
    • Did the people use/consume the thing you have made in the way you would like?
    • State your impressions of what the “consumers” are doing and what you think it might mean, for example, about the effectiveness of the thing you have made.
    • What additional information will you need to include in your Instructable?
  • Ask for peer review on the Instructable and the thing you made. See peer review guidelines.

Level III, Task 2: Finalizing your Instructable

  • Revise and polish your Instructable, according to the feedback you received.
  • Prepare any additional materials you may need for the teach-in.

Level III Submission Items:

  • L3,T1: Prototyping your object and documenting feedback (500 words)
  • L3,T2: Final, published Instructable
  • Reflection in Flipgrid

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Required Artifacts for Submission

Level 1

  • LI,T1: Links to your annotated article and TED Talk
  • LI,T2: Writing to Explore/Informal Brainstorming (500 words, GDoc or Word)

Level 2

  • L2,T1: “Immerse Yourself” essay (Summary and Analysis Paper or approximately 750 to 1000 words, GDoc or Word). Include info from:
    • Additional sources
    • Additional interview
    • Your experience playing
  • L2,T2: Project Proposal (250 words, GDoc or Word)

Level 3

  • L3,T1: Prototyping your object and documenting feedback
  • L3,T2: Final, published Instructable
  • Reflection in Flipgrid

Student Examples


With sincere appreciation to my colleague from the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Stephanie West-Puckett, I have adapted many of these materials from her Writing 104 course.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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