Monday, April 17, 2017

Why Every School Needs A Makerspace

Image: Remake Learning
Thinking, like human nature, is diverse - abstract, practical, linear, holistic, critical, generative, convergent, divergent, rational, lateral, analytical, logical emotional, analytical and a whole lot more. We have our preferred or comfortable ways of thinking but blend our thinking in different ways according to context - sometimes its better to focus hard on something and break it down into smaller more manageable bits while other times its better to zoom out, look for connections and analogies or let your mind wander.

Learning, like human nature, is diverse - conditioned, programmed, constructed, individual, social, private, open and a whole lot more. We have our preferred or comfortable ways of learning but blend our learning according to context - sometimes its better to read something while other times its better to have a conversation, watch someone do something or try doing something ourselves.

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open” ~ Frank Zappa

Like a balanced diet, thinking and learning diversity is good for mental health and wellbeing - it helps prevent narrowing of the mind and "getting stuck in a rut" - it provides a toolkit and range of responses and options for different circumstances and different types of problem. We need different blends of thinking and learning for different types of problem and in different situations. Using the wrong blend of thinking or learning could be disastrous - using pure emotion when numbers need to be crunched is as bad as using only rational analysis in social interactions.

Different points of view
Thinking and learning diversity enriches us all both individually and collectively. The "cross fertilisation" opportunities in a diverse thinking and learning polyculture are a rich source for for creativity and innovation - a combination can achieve more than the sum of the individual parts alone.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.” ~ Tim Berners-Lee

Thinking and learning diversity plays an important role in being able to adapt to changing circumstances - having a range of skills, abilities and ways of thinking and learning is essential when it comes to uncertainty, the unknown .... and preparing for the future.

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. ~ Abraham Maslow (The Psychology of Science)

"Most existing education systems at all levels provide highly siloed training and continue a number of 20th century practices that are hindering progress" 
The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 

In meeting the challenge of educating large numbers of people education systems have tended to look for mass effects through the economies of scale possible through specialisation, standardisation and development of a monoculture of explicit knowledge that can be more easily codified, packaged, delivered, consumed, tested and graded.

“using the language of knowledge is no proof that they possess it." ~ Aristotle

The real world is diverse and does not fit straightforwardly into a standard education framework - perhaps its time to start accommodating real world thinking in the education system - not only can it motivate improving results but also better prepare our young people to face new challenges in the future. 

"Learning is experience. Everything else is just information." – Albert Einstein

What we consider as learning has in many ways become narrowed to remembering explicit content ...  most often conditioned by working through a program, package or scheme of work and by listening to a teacher. However, our learning, like human nature, is very diverse - our learning is also constructed through practical experience and experiment.

People are more than just minds to be filled or programmed in front of a screen - people have bodies, feelings and emotions and live in a real world. When people try to do things and fail or succeed, emotions are triggered, and these have a significant effect on how we learn.

If you think about the things you remember best they are probably the things in which you have been actively engaged in some way. Seymour Papert’s research convinced him that children (and for that matter adults) learn more efficiently if they could see a tangible result and that people are motivated and inspired to learn when they are using that learning to make something they care about.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Active Learning Leads to Higher Grades and Fewer Failing Students 

“students learn more, which means we’re doing our job better. They get higher grades and fail less"

There is also a strong ethical component to explore active learning.

"There is a growing body of evidence showing that active learning differentially benefits students of color and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or women in male-dominated fields"

“The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” in 1964–they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.”

Repeated findings underscored an irony. Many of the world’s great scientists had been teaching with scant evidence to support their methods, something they’d never tolerate in their research.It’s just not how the brain learns, It does not learn to do these things by watching someone write on a chalkboard or by listening to them talk.

Using the traditional hour-long lecture to teach science, is like relying on medieval medicine while boxes of antibiotics abound. “It’s the pedagogical equivalent of bloodletting”

If you experience the condition of the problem, you’ll remember the answer much better. Lectures have it backwards. They basically give you the answer, then you practice it."

Education behind glass
For decades education has been making education increasingly two dimensional by flattening it in a managed learning environment behind the glass wall of the computer screen. For decades the PC has been the only game in town for education technology and variations of a screen have come to come to dominate our thinking about how we use technology in education. Today, a rich diversity of new technologies is emerging signalling the end of the screenage as we know it. 

Papert’s vision was that children should be programming the computer rather than being programmed by it - he saw computers and technology as "objects to think with rather than dispensers of information" and that "It’s not what you know about the computer that’s important, but your ability to do things with it." Papert also wrote about 

"the necessity for the educator to be an anthropologist. Educational innovators must be aware than in order to be successful they must be sensitive to what is happening in surrounding culture and use dynamic cultural trends as a medium to carry their educational interventions."

The PC era is already past and the end of the "screenage" is coming. For decades schools and colleges have built computer labs and put education in a managed learning environment behind glass but today they need to broaden their thinking to accommodate the wide range of emerging new technologies becoming available in the real world and invest in the economies of scope of makerspaces to blend a diversity of thinking and learning to make learning tangible - not only motivate better results but to prepare and give young people more options to face new challenges in the future. 

Image: InspireNshare Pop Up Thinglab 19 Make:Shift:Do 3D Printing

"The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report estimates that "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist” and that even “old” jobs will look radically different in workplaces transformed by technology."

We cannot simply educate future generations for a life behind glass and for the jobs of the past, today or tomorrow but must educate future generations to be able to think, do, adapt and learn for a life in an unknown and uncertain future. The essential, crucial skill is the ability to think and learn. 

To add another dimension to education and to prepare for the future step away from the computer and the glass and into the makerspace.

InspireNshare focus on developing the value of people in an increasingly automated future and specialise in creative, holistic & cultural approaches with technology, learning, business and life - to find out more visit

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