Step aside, here come the children

Guest blog by Carl Paveletich, Director at Fabriko

InternetNZ granted Fabriko $3,500 toward a suite of laptops for delivering technology workshops to low decile schools and communities.

Our education system evokes some of the most passionate and polarising conversations. From trailblazing teachers pushing the boundaries of the curriculum, to frustrated and often isolated parents. While we watch education continually reform, in the centre we keep seeing children at their resourceful best – exploring new territories and discovering new skills. All with untainted enthusiasm and an energy to discover the new.

But, we have the advantage of sitting outside the ‘formal’ system, in an often awkward space between education and innovation. The Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) movement began over twelve years ago at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an outreach programme to explore a new digital economy based on citizen led projects, peer2peer learning, open hardware and decentralised control. It’s a global experiment that now encompasses over 1000 Labs across 78 countries around the world.

What binds the network is affordable access to technology. Every Lab shares a common and evolving suite of tools ranging from 3D printers to Arduino. The network acts like a large open source platform where, with a bit of imagination and the right questions, you can design and build (almost) anything.

Fab Labs are both a response and accelerant to contemporary digital culture. Not just in terms of the sophistication of the machines and tools (in fact most of them are very basic), but in the spirit of building upon existing knowledge, being open to sharing, recognising the potential of new combinations, re-appropriating and remixing.

Fab Labs add a small nudge of momentum to a much larger pendulum that includes crowdfunding, local economies, MOOCs, social enterprise and citizen science. Platforms that embrace bottom up innovation, participation and the dissemination of ideas.

These platforms are at the grassroots end of what is being coined the fourth industrial revolution. A phase of human evolution where the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres are being blurred. Built upon the third industrial revolution which gave us personal computing and the internet.

We are at the beginning of a period where science fiction starts to become an everyday reality. The gap between having an idea and executing it is closing at an unprecedented rate. This is an incredible time to be growing up. Literally anything is possible. If you dream it as a twelve year old, then it is highly likely you will be part of making it happen when you leave school.

So where does this leave Education?

How can we keep up with the pace of technological change and give the next generation the best possible shot at succeeding?

The reality is that they’ll be fine, as long as their enthusiasm and hunger for exploring the new is set free. The ability for children to cut through the murk and see things for what they really are is what we need to capture. It’s the perfect time in life to take risks, follow passions and develop the all essential growth mindset. There’s an ever growing need to put greater emphasis on creating participatory projects that seek fresh ideas on current social and environmental concerns. We need to think of New Zealand Education as a breeding ground for new ideas, a place for experimentation and prototyping new ideas. Education should be in continuous BETA.

With everything you need to know about anything now available at a click of a button. We simply need to make the modern tools of invention accessible to all. Our schools are the incubators for the future. Let the young minds lead the way.


Thanks for that Carl - and I totally agree: (just about) anything's possible, it's all about sharing, and for us to really make progress we need to accept that a) everything's always in "beta", and b) the old top-down education model needs to change: the kids learn faster. I'd love to see the expectation on the educator in the digital context change: from knowledge disseminator to mentor and facilitator... The model described in (the book is a quick and enjoyable read, and is freely available in PDF on the site) is, I think, the way forward. The horse has bolted - the teachers won't be able to "retool" fast enough to be able to credibly teach an integrated digital curriculum. People you, Carl (and Bridget), are the vanguard of the path forward, offering guidance, inspiration, and access. Plus nudges in the right direction for learners and educators alike. All the best on your visionary efforts - and let's discuss a pilot of TheOpenSchoolHouse ideas in South Christchurch!