AuLAB: Education based through discovery. The art centre as a tool.

In this article we present the various initiatives carried out by the Educational Department of LABoral that has been recognised for its great work both in our country and abroad.

Published: Jul 07, 2014
AuLAB: Education based through discovery. The art centre as a tool.

Image: LABoral

By Laura Cano (@Via_di_uscita), La Caja Revuelta.

The reality of the educational departments of museums, or DEAC's (departments of education and cultural actions) in Spain has its own peculiarities. It is not surprising that, in all cases, history has marked and fostered the foundation of these departments in very specific contexts.

Historically, these departments result from the need of the new educational approach implemented in Spanish schools in the 1960s, which got away from the memory-based educational model and shifted towards an active education. Teachers introduce visits to museums in the educational programme with the purpose of involving students, through experience, in the building of knowledge. Thus, museums start to need professionals that are able to fulfil this new demand. Initially, the teachers themselves will perform this task in the museums. Some of them will even leave official teaching to get involved in the work of museums.

It was in the 1980s that educational visits extended their range, so far too focused on students, influenced among other trends by the New Museology. A massive demand resulted in the development of activities for pre-determined groups, but also for the general public. This attitude was criticised as populist, because due to the visits and activities organised by the educational departments, the museums got a great number of visitors. This way, the educational work was being assessed in quantitative and not qualitative terms.

Now-a-days the situation is not much different, although the advancements, both in terms of research and practice, are significant and of a high quality. The professionals of educational departments typically do not feel integrated in the dynamics of the museum and, in many cases, the DEACs are seen as dispensable departments that can be easily outsourced. The need to include them within the general concept of the museum, within any approach of the museum, is urgent. In addition, museum educators want to build critical and serious narratives that can show the institution’s voice. The creation of knowledge in a collaborative way based on the collective intelligence is their strongest argument.


I quote some words of the text On the modernist paradigm to the postmuseum: Six challenges from the educational change, by María Acaso:

In the crossroads between art, technology and museums, collaboration is keystone to carry out this shift that we are experiencing. References to this concept are constant in most texts by theorists that currently write about education and art and, in most cases, the tool to accomplish an effective collaboration is technology. But, in how many institutions is this collaborative approach being actually implemented? In how many centres technology is nothing more than a management and exhibition tool? Is it not time to use technology to generate truly interactive communication channels capable of including the audience in the selection, design and development of the activities of the museum? Some institutions have started to implement this shift, like La Laboral (Gijón), where in 2009 a school was invited to develop with a group of artists a project on time, snails and the e-mail where primary school students had a central role. But, again, this case is just an exception.

Since its very beginning, at LABoral there has been a constant interest for educational matters. The museum is understood not as a venue that we visit as passive actors but, on the contrary, as active actors and where we learn through the personal, collaborative and common experience.

Image: LABoral

AuLAB is conceived as a didactic project addressed to primary, secondary and vocational education students. To this end, proposals are developed with the participation of educational centres and teachers, with the aim of adapting them specifically to the needs and peculiarities of each group. This is achieved by developing educational programmes in the form of projects, where the art centre is an educational tool in itself. LABoral opens its workshops, makes its facilities and equipment available to students and citizens, offering us all available resources in its reach to build learning by means of discovering the processes, encouraging creativity and developing critical thinking: learning to learn.

The goals of the project, lead by Lucía Arias, are the following:

- Designing and analysing formal and non-formal activities aimed at developing in the centre a participation space and a work culture open to the environment that fosters a variety of aspects of personal development of students.

- Providing teachers with knowledge and tools to access new spaces of learning.

- Helping teachers become autonomous in the design, development and assessment of learning activities and environments in line with a project-based work methodology.

- Fostering a critical reflection upon the role of information and communication technologies in the educational context.

- Changing the way students and teachers perceive their relationship with technologies: Moving from being a passive user to being a knowledgeable one.

- Promoting changes in the organizational and curricular models of the educational centres.

This goals result in several levels of action and activities, in which the point of departure is the crosscutting, educational and social use of ICTs:

- Annual programme of workshop-visits to the exhibitions and projects, aimed at introducing the public to artistic practice, the key topics of art and technological culture, addressed in particular to the educational community, young people and groups at risk of exclusion.

- AuLAB programme, in collaboration with the Directorate General of Vocational Education, Curricular Development and Educational Innovation of the Regional Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of the Principality of Asturias. This is an experimental classroom, integrated in the operation of centres through the didactic programme and its main goal is the personal development of students based on their basic competences. It is aimed at providing knowledge on the technological language and accomplishing the crosscutting use of ICTs, at the same time fostering experimentation and critical thinking with educational centres that take part in the programme. 23 Asturian educational centres took part in the programme.

The annual programme is structured around three pillars: Learning through design, directed by Susanna Tesconi, consisting of the manufacturing of an artifact digitally designed in the shopfloor of the FabLAB; TV-LAB, directed by the collective Neokinok, is an experimental television lab where participants reflect upon mass communication media and creativity is activated making tv programmes broadcasted over the Internet; introduction to programming, where Luis Díaz, project manager of the Fab LAB, introduces students to the concepts and basic operations of digital technology, for students to move from being a mere consumer of technology to getting some knowledge on its processes and operation.



AuLAb has received the recognition it deserves, not only in our country, but also at international level.

In October 2013, Lucía Arias and Susanna Tesconi were invited to the University of Standford (USA), considered a key institution in educational research, to share the experience of the School Dropout Prevention Programme carried out at LABoral, in a forum of experts or FabLearn. The project was carried out with students of 12 Asturian educational centres during the school year 2012-13, and the results were promising.

Also in 2013, LABoral received the Prize for the Best Educational Programme at the RACs, the national awards for contemporary art, organised, among others by the IAC, Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo.

Recently, last month to be accurate, LABoral presented its Digital Design and Manufacturing Programme at FabLearn Europe, the first European conference on digital manufacturing and education. This event has been organised jointly by three prestigious universities: The Danish University of Aarhus, the University of Stanford (USA) and the University of Bremen (Germany).

At the campus of the Danish university, Lucía Arias and Susanna Tesconi, presented the educational experience carried out with the public school La Ablaña-La Pereda, in Mieres. In it, the school with the FabLAB of LABoral planned the manufacturing of a house for worms with the active participation of all students who provided ideas and prototypes. Once the most suitable proposal had been selected, the students designed a strategy for disseminating the results on their blog and over the social networks.


Image: LABoral


For all of these reasons, we can say that AuLAB is an example among Spanish educational departments, it implements original initiatives, adds value and enrichment to students both at individual and collective level, emphasising the committment of its professionals with education and bringing technology closer to society.



-Acaso, María, Del paradigma modernista al posmuseo: seis retos a partir del giro educativo, 2011. Web site: Edumuseos: reflexiones en torno a prácticas educativas e instituciones culturales. Consulted on June 4, 2014.

-Padró, Carla, Retos de la museología crítica desde la pedagogía crítica y otras intersecciones. Revista Museo y Territorio [on line], no 4, 2011, pp. 102-114. Consulted on June 4, 2014.

-Rodrigo, Javier and Añó, Cristián, Mediación y Educación en Museos/Centros de Arte. Web site: Pedagogías y Redes Constituyentes: Plataforma de Investigación en Prácticas Culturales. Consulted on June 2, 2014.

-Sánchez de Serdio, Aida and López, Eneritz, Políticas educativas en los museos de arte españoles. Los departamentos de educación y acción cultural. VV.AA, Desacuerdos 6 [en línea], 2011. Arteleku-Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, Centro José Guerrero, MACBA. Consulted on June 2, 2014.

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