Recently we had a group of our Year 6 students participate at The Future Schools Expo at the Sydney Technology Park in Redfern. This great experience to participate in a Makers Playground was provided by Future Schools organisers in conjunction with Datacom and various supporting sponsors.
Our involvement wasn’t haphazard. Student activity commenced last year months before the actual event. Our students, then in Year 5, participated, identifying a number of authentic problems to solve (educators provided by Datacom lead this process). Four of the problems were selected by the students as authentic challenges for the Future Schools event. A series of videos were then created by the children outlining the problems to be addressed.in the Makers Playground, at the Expo. These videos can be viewed at http://www.futureschools.com.au/makers_playground.html
Much of the equipment provided by sponsors in the Makers Playground, at Future Schools, would be new to our students so a little time on lead up was provided to develop familiarity with various maker space technologies. This proved to be valuable and it was interesting to see how intuitive the children were in working with the different technologies. We are starting to build resources ourselves and this was a great opportunity to see possibilities that these new technologies might bring.
Types of resources provided in the Makers Playground included: Little Bits, Spheros, Arduino, Edison robotics, tablets, Laptops, Scratch, Craft resources, Activity mats etc.
The conference delegates experienced authentic learning in a “Makers” environment. Delegates were able to interact with student teams working on the solutions for the four challenges. During the sessions, Datacom’s Professional Learning consultants (Maker Mentors) played the role of ‘teacher’ in supporting student Makers in using the range of technologies / resources to design, build, record and report on solutions in this dynamic, just-in-time learning environment. For both the delegates and the children the experience was really a rich one. Our students certainly worked effectively, productively and collaboratively. It was great to see the students interacting with delegates sharing their experience. Our teachers accompanying the children were also actively involved recording, supervising and more importantly in experiencing / learning.
While this was not a competition, evaluation and feedback plays a big role in any Makers project. FutureSchools provided a great opportunity to model this with each team presenting their solution to a panel of experts (Maker Magistrates).
1. How well did the solution address/solve the problem?
2. How innovative is the solution?
3. How well were the ideas presented?
4. How well was the technology used?
The resulting solutions were a great testament to the making process. I will post more about the process and the solutions produced in response to the challenges in a seperate post.
I often attend conferences and as adults we browse around asking questions and looking, but rarely do I see adults really doing “hands on” experiences. The Maker Playground provided that sort of experience for the delegates.
Interestingly I took a small group group of students around the various exhibits. The children were all about “hands on”. They touched and played with everything (thanks to the generosity of the exhibitors). It was such a different experience looking at the vendors displays with the children. They gave everything a work out and judged quickly the value and productivity of resources. For the children it was like the ultimate “play” arcade. For me it was a great way to really see the possibilities of otherwise relatively static displays.
What did the students engage with the most?
Virtual reality goggles
The NAO robot
The Romo Robot
The live reptile exhibit
The Promethean multitouch interactive panel
Another component of the Makers Playground experience was the parent / student activity. This was conducted late on the first day and was open for parent and student participation. About twenty families from our school joined in to do an “Edison” maze challenge. Again this provided a great collaborative and powerful learning opportunity for all involved.
For any school interested in developing STEM capabilities the Future Schools Expo is a must. Looking forward to 2017. This year too we are sending several teachers to EduTech which is being held in Brisbane – very worthwhile when the opportunity for real immersive professional development is so great.
Learn more about The Future Schools Expo here:
Learn more about EduTech here: