Empowered Learning in the Makers Movement 

Jules Verne Project – a learning experience needed! 
In my search for more powerful learning grounded in theory and research I came across constructionism. Constructionism is reflected in the learning experience. Within the learning experience learning is an active process, in which people actively construct knowledge and skills from their experience in the world. People don’t get ideas: they make them!
This aspect of the learning experience comes from the constructivist theory of knowledge development by Jean Piaget. To Piaget’s concept, Papert added another type of construction. He argues that people construct new knowledge with effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products or services. With standardised education and testing growing rapidly in higher education we loose the connection with our youth, professionals and companies. With loosing that connection education no longer contributes to society. We educate youth and professionals to become succesful in yesterdays society and outdated companies.


I’m a believer in the following statement: ‘Development is something that happens to you: learning is something that you make happen.’

empowered learning

If you believe in that statement, then you might wonder if ‘professional development’ is really the best way to frame the learning experience you want for professionals to engage in. The way I see it, ‘personal learning’ is a much better term to use. I know that ‘learning’ puts the work in the hands of those directly involved. Instead of ‘development’, which often happens whether we want it to or not. You can only truly learn when we have a personal stake (engagement) in what is being explored.

Jules Verne

One of the steps I’ve taken to disrupt the way learning happens is to create a learning experience in a free environment based on design thinking, appreciated inquiry and personal entrepreneurship within the University where I work. I realised the Design Factory (Hanze Ontwerpfabriek) together with other passionated educators. To realise more impact I gave myself 80 days to create a learning experience. The project must reflect a truly valuable learning experience for youth and professionals to shape and create the future and contribute to future-proof companies. I named it my Jules Verne Project because he was a true trendwatcher and philosophers, two main aspects of learning that higher education doesn’t pick up.

Jules Verne Project is multi-sided education in empowered leadership and entrepreneurship. Our learning experience programmes are not designed simply to shape students to fit the future, but to help them create it. Learning takes place in real life, is multidisciplinairy, future driven and contains deep thinking. The Jules Verne Project focuses on students’ potential to develop and to achieve. Creating impact in society asks for learning that taps into creativity and empowerment. We help students to get a direction (by real life challenges), creating a setting that will get them there and navigate them through uncertainties that will follow. We want to provide a place where creatives and potential change-makers can develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies they need to fulfil their ideas, values and visions. We build the framework in which people can become curious, entrepreneurs and empowered leaders.

empowering learning

four pillars

The Jules Verne Project is a dynamic interplay between the aspirations of students and participants (creative companies and teachers). There is a clear and deliberate similarity between our pedagogical strategy and the qualities we want to promote in our students and participants. That approach is built on the following four pillars: greenhousing, curiousity, do, entrepreneurial.

Greenhousing – most of our teaching is intended to be experimental, like a research-oriented laboratory. The aim is not only to acquire and transfer existing knowledge, but also to develop new knowledge and new perspectives.

Curiousity – our approach is goal-directed and rooted in reality. All of our learning experience programmes explore current and potential trends. At the same time, students and participants are encouraged and supported to find their own fields of interest, imagine their own desired futures and values, and test theories and methods to achieve that change.

Do – learning primarily comes from first-hand experience (do), and the active participation of students is central. Learning is supported and enhanced by reflection on these experiences. Practice within real-time environments encourages not only an increasing level of aptitude, but also a new understanding of the world.

Entrepreneurial – an entrepreneurial approach empowers students. By taking the individual as a starting point and develop a learning environment in which they can move themselves towards new learning, rather than be directed as such, they become creative, curious and entrepreneurial.

Our learning experience programmes and culture are strong on imagination and initiative, and encourage our students and participants to show the same qualities.
I will be proud if I give my students the power to consider what kind of society they want to be part of, teaches them to use their abilities to create the change they want to see, and gives them the skills to act on their dreams. This is an ambitious mission and so needed in todays and tomorrows society, if you ask me, that I will use my time and energy to make a difference.

2 thoughts on “Empowered Learning in the Makers Movement 

  1. Thanks a lot for this post. I really like it. As you mention, your project is ambitious, but you make it, you do it and you have a clear idea of what you want to create or should I say, what your students (learners) have to create.
    I like it, I also try to do my best with my first year degree students although it is much more simplier…. in any case, thanks a lot to share with us your way of reaching what the constructivist theory or pedagogist as Piaget once thought about.


    1. Dear Arantza, muchos gracias for your compliments. Great that you recognise your own work in it. I do too. I’m ready to create an environment where it happens all the time, instead of moments I recognise within my work too. I’ll keep you posted. I experience that it’s not easy to get the key practical things communicated. That’s where my focus lies for the next 60 days.


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