Friday, 22 August 2014

On cardboard boxes, whatchamacallits and education - Why do we need to embrace the Maker culture?

What education needs is a good old whatchamacallit. Not the temporary workaround patching type, but the mechanism that emanates creativity and ingenuity, the contraption that promotes remixing, repurposing, divergent thinking and vision.

What education needs is to embrace ingenuity and never let it go. We are all born craftsmen, and from an early age we are ready to dream up the next great invention. We turn pillowcases into invisibility capes and cardboard boxes into treasure chests, rockets, boats and closets.

But spend a few years in an educational institution that does not understand the power of play and creativity (you have heard of places like that, haven’t you?) and you end up losing faith in imagination. The problem is that with that, we also lose our ability to invent, reinvent and think like scientists-the type that enjoys questioning everything and always asks: what if?

But education is not all about pillowcases and boxes, right? What about standards and tests, and the curriculum? How can we explain all this to parents, governments, students and also to the general public?

It's simple! The Maker culture carries some pillars that can be taken for life: agile and distributed processes, openness to new experiences, sharing and the acceptance of failure as a path to success. Indeed, if our leaders were to adopt the last pillar, we would have a much better world!

Failing is good, especially if we fail early and fail cheap. Can you imagine the amount of money we could save?
Encouraging the Maker culture means to encourage imagination, thinking, organizational skills, and, of course, learning by doing and play. We need more content producers, more solutions to our problems. We need sharp minds!

So this is what I urge you to do: get to know a bit more about the Maker culture, create collaborative spaces in your schools, communities and companies. Invite everyone to get their hands dirty, to tinker and play.

Celebrate your imagination… and if your pillowcase no longer fits you as a cape… don’t you worry ... we can always invent new fabric, a new hero and a new way to make the world happen. Now tell me, what would you do if I gave you a cardboard box?

If you want to know a bit more about the Maker culture and cardboard boxes, check these two links: The Global Cardboard Challenge Maker Faire

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What's Coming Up Next?

Another year is coming to an end, and this is just a quick post to let you know what has caught my attention in 2013.

2013 has produced both exciting and quite unglamorous news for education. As always, the discussion tech or no tech permeated the discourse of many schools administrators and teachers.However,the accelerating pace of change has shown that innovation suggests much more than bringing gadgets and new tools into the classroom. What we are witnessing now is the reconfiguration of the classroom and learning environments.

So, in my opinion, what are the top 10 trends in education that we cannot afford to ignore?

1. Big Data;
2. Adaptive Learning
3. Learning Spaces Design as an agent for maximized learning experiences
4. BYOD and Tablet Computing
5. PBL and Tinkering
6. Coding as a second Language
7. Gaming and gamification
9. Wearable Technology in the classroom
10. 3D Printing

These are just a few of the changes that have caught my eye. I´ll be addressing each of the trends in future posts. Please leave comments, and let me know your own view on top trends to watch for.


Friday, 4 October 2013

You can touch it, but you can´t master it! Or ... Why everybody thinks the dog ate the Los Angeles school officials’ homework?

Deciding on the format of 1:1 programs is no easy task, and I bet that the Los Angeles County Unified School District has gotten the drift, the hard way.

If you don´t know what Los Angeles has got to do with this post, I´ll try to clear things in 140 characters, or less: after having iPads hacked by students, the Los Angeles County Unified School District decided to take the devices back.

If you would like to read a bit more about it, you can click here.

Now, back to this post…
How do you ensure the success of your deployment? How can you build a self-sustaining ecology in your school in order to keep things running smoothly?
The idea of this post is to address a few questions that might have been overlooked by the LAUSD.

b>1.Who is your end-user and how much thought has been put into it?

It is not enough to hand out iPads when you haven't designed an experience for your students. Using mobile devices in education is much more than providing devices, it is an experience that can open many doors to research, tinkering, questioning, discovery and creativity. And just like any other learning experience, it must follow a process.

2.Work on the positive concept of Hacking!

Again, it´s all about the end-user. Teachers and students-must understand that that energy put into discovering fissures in the system could be put to good use and solve crisis within the community.

3.Happiness and Meaningful use

A simple Poll can help you understand what the devices mean to the community and how they can be put to ideal use.<

I could go on forever ...but I will end my post by listing other points that need more attention: digital literacy, relevance of the project outside school grounds, teamwork (parents, teachers, students and community), ideation, crisis solving strategies, trust, and last but not least...understanding that knowledge does not reside in gadgets or in teachers.

As for the Los Angeles County Unified School District, this is an excellent moment to put into practice everything we say about teaching resilience in schools. A real leader (be it a person or UD) must be able to take a step back, learn from their mistakes and take positive actions after going over all the possible overseen issues.
Learning and teaching should be democratic moments of exchange and it is my perception that L.A iPads, with extreme setting restrictions and all the activities that were too guided, became a painful reminder that some people still think that students are meant to be seen, not heard.

So…what would you have done differently?