The uTEC Maker Model was created by Bill Derry, David V. Loertscher, and Leslie Preddy and published for the first time in the 2013 December issue of Teacher Librarian as a simpler Google Drawing. It's purpose is to assist those who are interested in the Makerspace movement to recognize  the progression in many fields  the characteristics of a person of any age who is making progress along a continuum from being a user of something created by others to the act of creating something that is innovative.

Excerpt from: Loertscher, David V., Leslie Preddy, and Bill Derry. "Makerspaces in the School Library Learning Commons and the uTEC Maker Model," Teacher Librarian, vol. 41, #2, December, 2013, p. 48-51. the original article is attached at the bottom of this page.

Text from the Poster:

U for Using:

  • Enjoying; Sampling; Engaging; Playing; Participate in or experience what others have created

We are all users and enjoy the creation of others from games to microwaves to cell phones to art and music and the automobiles we drive. We love new models and often want to be the first to own them but we trust the creative approach of the inventor and use the item as intended.

T for Tinker:

  • Playing; messing around; Questioning; Researching: Making personal changes to others’ creation

We often become curious or dissatisfied with an invention and start messing around with its purpose or the way it works or we arrange the music or change the game. We might repurpose the item to use it in a different way than the inventor intended.

E for Experimenting

  • Building; Trying/Failing; Repurposing: Modifying and testing theories; Learning from failure / success

At this level, we get serious about tinkering and begin experimenting with an idea, invention, musical sound, video technique as we wonder what would happen if… This requires much trial and error, record keeping of what we have tried, thinking, and rethinking..

C for Creating

  • Inventing; Producing; Entrepreneurship: Novel product; Ideas; Inventions

The ideas have now come into focus and a product or new item appears as a prototype and ready to push out into the world of ideas, production and demonstration.

My Developing Dispositions

  • Strategies

    • Work & Time

    • Organization

    • Teamwork

    • Problem Solving

    • Persistence

    • Resilience

  • Actions

    • Know

    • Imagine

    • Inquire

    • Design

    • Collaborate

  • Roles

    • Presenter

    • Mentor

The uTEC Maker Model visualizes the developmental stages of creativity from individuals and groups as they develop from passively using a system or process to the ultimate phase of creativity and invention. As illustrated in the model below, there are
four levels of expertise.

A Makerspace participant begins at the Using level. A User enjoys engaging in an activity to sample something new. Here individuals or groups use a tool, device, or program in the way—and for the purpose— the inventor intended. The User follows
through an experience, re-creating something others have already created.

Examples include learning how to, then playing the computer game, playing the musical score, or using a software program pretty much the way it was designed to be used. It is following the step-by-step instructions already developed by another to
create a foodcraft, DIY, fine art, or fashion.

We recognize high levels of skill and perhaps even addictive behaviors on the part of these consumers, but they are still just at the consuming level. Teens might be completely absorbed and totally obsessed for endless hours by the levels of play in World of Warcraft. A pianist may practice hundreds of hours trying to master a Liszt concerto. A student knows every trick in the manual for producing an acceptable term paper using Microsoft Word. In each of these cases, the User makes little attempt to alter the game, the score, or the software but may become very skilled and adept with a particular of variety of tools and resources.

At the Tinkering level, the user begins to fiddle with or retry things that the original creator did not intend or build into the invention or instructional pattern. The Tinkerer is at the formative stages of questioning the how and why and has gained enough confidence through his Usinglevel experiences to begin making personal changes to others’ creations. The gamer learns to trick the game into performing different results. This might require altering some code just to see what happens. The decorator might modify the decorations
intended on the cupcakes. Often, the User is bored with the usual procedures or results and so fiddles around to produce a different result. Our musician plays with the composer’s original score, making his own changes to the arrangement. And our
report writer tricks Word into doing something unusual.

At the Experimenting level, the individual  or group begins to seriously abandon what has been created by others, working
beyond curiosity and fiddling to a purposeful design of something new. The Experimenter begins to contribute to a topic’s knowledge base. We recognize that a passion for a goal is beginning to emerge, and as the ideas begin to flow, trial and error are enacted as hour after hour slips by unnoticed. Hard work and dedication to a project take over—it is the transition stage to the next level. The Experimenter learns
from failures as well as successes. He modifies to test pre-existing theories, sometimes repurposing what is known about the
world into new understandings. Our gamer, convinced that a new and better game can replace past experiences, starts to learn the skills necessary to program a new experience. He envisions an app that plays as a better game than World of Warcraft. Our musician, tired of performing the works of others, takes the knowledge of musical theory and begins serious work on composition: I like this idea; not that. Does this work? What if . . . ? No, not right yet. Tired of Word, our person decides that there has to be a better experience of document creation: What if? Suppose that . . . Can we design this? Here we find experimenters keeping notebooks and Google Docs of newly forming ideas blended with what has been tried already, by themselves and others. It all becomes not only a passion but also an organized process of experiences and experimentation.

At the top, or Creating level, success, independent thinking, and action occur. There is a result. It is unique, perhaps innovative. There is a novel product or design, something to share, perhaps publish or market. The Creator makes a difference in the world with his inventive actions. We begin to think about impact, benefit, entrepreneurial possibilities, and, in the world of perpetual beta: Can I create an even better version? As Einstein said, this is the level where “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Our gamer is now beyond the prototype and into production; our musician is publishing a new work and encouraging others to perform it. And, with this new style, he is off to his composition career. For our software developer, what avenues will he choose for dissemination? Open source? Commercial sales? And will
he do versions or constant improvements as other commercial companies do?

Those watching this entire process happen begin to recognize that a series of dispositions is developing. We have, in the model, recognized many under the topics of roles, actions, and strategies. But it is important to recognize that the growth of creative thinking and independence is difficult to thoroughly define in a manner that fits all because we are unique, our learning paths distinct, and success for the individual varies greatly. We realize that our lists are not exhaustive, and so we encourage users of the model to create other dispositions worthy of attention. Readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath will track through those stories of people who rise above great challenges and find success. Perhaps we can staircase all the dispositions into three levels that seem to be exhibited in the current networked and flat world.

  • Personal Expertise. At each level of the model, individuals are developing skills and dispositions that contribute to success. It is a never-ending development of what they know, can do, and can contribute.

  • Cooperative Group Work: When working together on a project or task, individual contributions have to be significant and actually aid the success of the whole. Each person’s thoughts, opinions, and findings are valued by the group. Each individual provides a noteworthy addition to the outcome.

  • Collaborative Intelligence. Often a specific goal is general in nature and develops as a group tackles an idea. The invention of a new tablet or iPad is a series of ideas, testing, and collaborative work, and what emerges is greater than the sum of the minds that created it.

In all this, there is one cautionary idea, and that is the assumption that age has something to do with the various levels of
the model. One merely has to attend a large Maker Faire to understand that children, teens, college students, graduate students, true entrepreneurs, corporations, and everyday individuals of all ages can and are
Makers. A few examples might illustrate our point:

“If Students Designed Their Own Schools,” Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RElUmGI5gLc). Here teens actually create their own curriculum and learn various skills as they solve their unique essential questions. “My Invention That Made Peace with the Lions,” TED talk by Richard Turere (http://tinyurl.com/mqvhvmf). Turere is a thirteen-year-old Maasai boy who developed
an invention to help his family and others deal with the threat of lions, and he speaks here at a TED conference. Inspiring! “Sugata Mitra Builds a School in the Cloud,” TED Talk (http://tinyurl.com/ cl7wvd7). Mitra begins by discussing the current school system and how it is not
really preparing kids for their future anymore. What will their future look like? He shows how giving students time and a compelling question can engage them enough to learn on their own. His environment online sounds a bit like the virtual learning commons and knowledge building center in its collaboration component; he also talks about something like a personal learning environment, but he calls it SOLE
(Self Organized Learning Environments). Association of Science, Technology & Innovation (http://tinyurl.com/m7brzlq). Consider the phenomenal entries they received for their Young Inventors Challenge. The 2013 theme was “Green Inventions: Ideas on Sustainability”. Their
YouTube channel showcases young minds accepting the challenge to develop a “new composition, device, or process.” Their solutions
range from an automated waste sorter, portable air filter, smart pillow, and many more fascinating innovations.

Formal and Informal Education

As teachers and teacher librarians, if we use the uTEC Maker Model as a framework for thinking and internalize the various levels, we will start recognizing it as we work with children and teens. Recognition is the first element. We recall the story of a colleague whose firstgrade child had created an elaborate community on Minecraft for his class project. When he showed it to his teacher, she immediately told him that it would not count since “we don’t do computer games” in our class. This was a child well into the Tinkering Level, but the teacher did not recognize the amount of time, creativity, skill, and play that had gone into that project. Whether we understand the technology or fear it, whether we know anything about the content of a passion-driven idea a young person is working on, we all need to investigate the idea a bit before automatically condemning it as a nonstarter. It has been said that children come to school with the excitement of creativity built in, but it tends to get squashed the longer they remain in K–12 education. For adults, the question immediately becomes, “How do I encourage and support creativity in a standards-driven testing environment that does not reward creativity?” If we use rubrics to judge the progress of a learner, and that rubric does not allow for creativity, originality, or even total innovation, am I treating one child differently than another? The product or behavior might well not meet that original rubric. We suggest that an alternative route of recognition always be built into assignments, projects, or inquiry. Consider the effects of the 80/20 rule of Google as it could be applied to schooling. It is reported that Google requires every employee to spend 80 percent of their work hours doing their job on whatever task they have been assigned. But 20 percent of the workweek should be devoted to doing, creating, thinking, making, learning, or hatching new ideas that might be of value in


  • For those interested in an introduction to Makerspaces in school and public libraries, there is a 2-3 hour professional development learning experience called a QuickMOOC that costs $10.00 and can be signed up at http://lmcsource.com

David loertscher,
Feb 11, 2014, 12:46 PM