Building a Digital Making & Learning Ecosystem

I’m freshly back from 3 weeks of traipsing from Moscow to Madrid. To celebrate my return I participated in an event hosted by NESTA, a charity that aims to inspire innovation; the event was called Building a making and learning ecosystem. There were four panelists and we were each asked to give 5-10 minute presentations about how our organizations are contributing to building a making and learning ecosystem. A good question. One I tried and hope I answered. But enough about me, I want to tell you about the cool things my fellow presenters are doing and the positive changes in the UK that are contributing to the strengthening of this ecosystem.

Fellow Presenter #1 – Make to Learn

Make-to-Learn is an organization that bridges both the UK and the USA. They combine the DIY culture, digital practices and educational research to advocate for placing making at the core of educational practice. They seek to engage young people with collaborative learning, experimentation and invention.

Fellow Presenter #2 – Freeformers

Freeformers offer digital workshops to corporations so their employees can learn tech skills. For every paying corporate client Freeformers trains a young person in these digital skills. These same young people then become the trainers for the corporate clients creating a symbiotic relationship.

Fellow Presenter #3 – Apps for Good

Apps for Good partners with informal and formal education institutions to run app courses. Young people are paired up with professional designers, developers and entrepreneurs who assist them in creating an app that solves a social problem they are passionate about.

New Computing Curriculum in the UK

The UK has recently changed the curriculum from ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to Computing which will be implemented in September 2014. ICT taught students how to use software packages like Microsoft Office. The New Computing Curriculum will teach digital making skills and ensure students have an understanding of how technology works. Skills taught will include things such as understanding abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation, how to create and debug basic computer programs, and understand the hardware and software components of a computer.

Moving Forward – What Can Museums Do?

A topic that came up in discussion at NESTA’s event was the need to help teachers upskill (i.e. learn digital making skills required to teach tech to students) for the new computing curriculum. This is an area where museums can help. Seeing computing as cross-curricular means it can be worked into different subjects related to a variety of museum collections.

The V&A, a museum of Art & Design, holds a number of digital workshops for adults that are taught by digital makers, experts in the creative use of tech. Things such as soft circuits – making interactive hand puppets that light up, learning how to use arduino and raspberry pi to name a few. Teachers have been known to attend to learn these tech skills although the workshops are designed for adults in general. The museum is a safe place to learn; it gives entry points from the familiar (collection, and making activities) to the unfamiliar tech.

Moving forward perhaps museums should get accredited to give professional development points to teachers for attending our courses?

Would this be something your museum could offer or is offering? What else can museums do to help contribute to the digital making and learning ecosystem?

There was a twitter conversation during the NESTA event using the hashtag #makelearn. If you’d like to see what was said or contribute to the discussion further please use that hashtag.

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