Monday, March 27, 2017

Techgirls and Makerspaces - two recent events

Summary of two professional development occasions attended recently. Both are initiatives to increase children's exposure and interest to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, although the sessions attended were focused mainly on technology.

Firstly, a lively evening session with TechGirls are SuperHeroes with Jewella (aka Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen). Held at Ara on 15th March. The main objective of the session was to launch the Techgirls movement's main international event. NZ will participate in the annual technovation challenge for the first time this year. Teams of primary / secondary school girls are mentored over a 12 week period to develop and pitch an app, to solve a real world problem relevant to their context. Technovation is looking to sign up not only teams of girls, but coaches and mentors as well. Coaches could be parent, teachers etc. who assist with the logistical and support issues. Mentors are women or men from industry who will be able to help the teams meet the technical challenges.

Secondly, a session with Dr. Kylie Peppler from the University of Indiana who is in NZ for a 6 weeks Fulbright visiting scholar to Otago University. She was in Christchurch briefly to provide a session, organised by Professor Nicky Davis at University of Canterbury. Dr. Peppler shared her work on Maker Spaces. She provided background on the Maker Movement and provided examples.

Quoted the work of Resnick & Rosenbaum (2013) extensively - Designing for Tinkerability including the following:
Process over product; themes not challenges, diverse examples; tinker with space; engage with people not just materials; pose questions, not just seek answers; combine diving with stepping back.

Examples included the use of Arduino based sets; working on e-textiles to learn how circuits work; using 'scratch' to learn basic programming principles.

All in, two interesting sessions to provide some background on what is happening in the junior school sector. These students will be coming through into tertiary study within the next few years. Tertiary educators need to tap in to students' prior learning rather than be continually focused on treating students as 'blank slates'.

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