School program at fabLAB Asturias. FabLearn 2013

School program at fabLAB Asturias. FabLearn 2013

Image: LABoral

By Susanna Tesconi and Lucía Arias

Last 28th October 2013, we presented a part of the Drop-out prevention program (organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Asturias) at FabLearn 2013, 3rd edition of this seminar about digital fabrication and education, organized by TLTL-Transformative learning technology lab, University of Stanford.

Paulo Blikstein directs and organizes this event aimed to educators, policy makers, investigators and makers to present and discuss about digital fabrication in education: teachers building their own Fab labs, portable laboratories to impart workshops almost anywhere or education experiences at science museums.

Here is our experience with four school groups at fabLAB Asturias last school year.

Since LABoral started working with schools, teachers had explained their difficulties to meet students needs at the same time they teach the curriculum. This program has been the opportunity to research the real possibilities of an art centre to help in that purpose and become an expanded classroom, distributing creative languages and promoting a critical use of digital technologies.

The first and main goal was to encourage critical thinking in the use of technological tools in education. A second and more ambitious goal, change teachers and students relation with technologies.

Explaining the network that made this experience possible is also important:

  • LABoral: what role should an art centre (focus on art, science, technology and society) play in education? What new formats are the most adequate?
  • fabLAB Asturias: research on fab labs as resources for schools and education.
  • Ministry of Education of Asturias: the direction of curricula development and innovation from the ministry was willing to create new learning environments and resources.

The reasearch residence Susanna Tesconi developped at LABoral from 24 April to 3rd May 2012 was in a certain way the starting point for this programme. It was a short activity with with a small group of teachers to create education resources and material using design and digital fabrication at fabLAB Asturias.

Teachers´ training
From the very beginning, we tried to start a very practical and participatory research aimed to define the 4 projects and define some methodological issues in the interaction with the students. At this point the main objective was implementing a change in the teaching model and  offer an environment where teachers could freely create curricular activities and find solution to the problems in the classroom by researching on new tools and methodology.

The goal was not to teach specific tools or techniques, but to encourage a process of prototyping educational activities and learning environments using design principles and digital fabrication, in order to generate and share knowledge that might drive a change in the everyday classroom activities.

Workshops and projects with the students
After the tearchers´training, students started to come to fabLAB Asturias for 2 intensive workshops during the school year and  several work sessions taking place every two weeks.

The workshops and the work sessions were structured as a research, a design case study starting from a user´s need or a specific context and ending with the realization of a prototype,passing through several steps of testing, discussion and re-designing.

The students tested different shapes, materials, and fabrication techniques in order to improve the functionality, the interaction and the appearance.

This learning process has been definitively more imprtant for us than the final results:

  • IES Rey Pelayo, Cangas de Onís: Design and creation of a signage system design for the highschool. They used the school logo to design the whole project.
  • IES Jerónimo González, Sama de Langreo: A shoehorn that also picks up shoes especially designed to help senior citizen. They named it ROSE (from Recoge Objetos Sin Esfuerzo - easy pick up tool- also a tribute to Rous, their teacher).
  • IES de Pravia: Design and fabrication of a SCRABBLE® game. Students research about the game and focused on finding technical solutions to build a 5:1 scale real prototype they can use at school.
  • IES Universidad Laboral, Gijón: This group chose light as a theme: its everyday use and application to opaque projectors and other similar devices, focusing on investigating lamps design and production.

DBR-Design-based research was the chosen methology. It is a kind of practical and participatory educational research aimed  to design educational activities and learning environments and also to define theories.

DBR, as the prototyping process for product design, take place through continuous cycles of design, enactment, analysis, and redesign, working on  between practice and theory at the same time.

After running some introductory activities in order to make the teachers  comfortable with the machines we run a focus-group on implication of digital fabrication and fabLAB environment in education. Different kind of very interesting elements came out during the discussion: technical, educational and emotional issues worth of analysis.

Every group of teachers designed a one school year-long project and developped it with the students using fablab methodological and technical support. The resul was a sort of toolbox, filled with technological tools for digital fabrication and design, methodological tools as PBL(Project Based Learning), research tools as DBR and tools for emotional managing.

We found several difficulties along the way such as: the lack of an experiential teaching model, the lack of computational fluency in teacher and students, frustration and fear about using technology, but something happened during the process and the teachers now seems more confident about tech and are adopting PBL as methodology as you can see in this interview to Rosa Ana Álvarez, one of the teachers.

Impact of the program
We would like to thank the teachers and students for their good willingness and their hard working to take this activity back to the classroom. It is important to say, that this was the first time for most of these students to commit themselves in a long term project, something unusual during their education experience.

All through the process of designing and producing each project, the students developed their critical thinking skills and abilities to research and use resources. Also, they established a new relationship as “active users” with technologies.

At the same time, getting out of the classroom fostered an alternative way to deal with their problems and changed their social roles.

Establishing an equal relation with teachers and felt responsible of their own learning process had an impact in their self-stem.

We managed all the process as a group, students, teachers, the fabLAB team... sharing and discussion was the main tool in order to make decisions. This situation produced interesting changes in the typical roles in the classroom, bringing teachers and students to the same level. This offset in the typical teacher/student interaction  allowed everyone to learn about  relational and emotional skills, something a little more complicated than the technological learning. Xosé Candel, one of the teachers talks about it in this video.

The program continues this school year, with 4 high schools and 5 primary schools.

Enlaces de interés
Sobre FabLearn
Sobre Paulo Blikstein
Presentación de Leah Buechley sobre educación y la cultura “maker”
Intervención de la Dr. Sherry Hsi en el panel Scaling up Making
Sobre Design based-research
Sobre el programa de prevención de abandono escolar

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  • 33203 Gijón (Asturias)
  • Spain
  • Phone: +34 985 185 577
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