Fablearn 2013 Digital Fabrication in Education Conference began yesterday and concludes today. A small conference with a focused topic is a nice contrast to the two large anything-goes conferences I have just come from. While it’s great to have a zillion choices at large conferences, having the opportunity to go deep on one topic you love is just fantastic. The conference organizers describe the event as follows:
“FabLearn is a venue for educators, policy-makers, students, designers, researchers, and makers to present, discuss, and learn about digital fabrication in education, the “makers” culture, and hands-on learning.”
In a word, it’s about making.
Curiosity number one for me was to check out the Fablab at the Centre for Education and Research at Stanford (CERAS). A small yet optimally utilized space full of all the tools tricks and goodies one could image for a maker space. The bright colours and easy access reflect Paulo Blikstein’s aesthetic. He suggests these spaces should not feel like a garage and should be gender neutral. People working in the lab, including children, should have access to materials with ease. Dangerous tools should be labelled and there should be lots of visual support so that it is obvious what something is for and can do.
Workshop 1: Teaching Children to Program
Gary Stager guided participants through the how, what and why of teaching computer science to children. We also played with Turtle Art which you can download for free here. I made this turtle art goodness with some help from Gary, an activity card, and my new friend Amit.
Amit was kind enough to rock the Hack the Classroom sticker!
Workshop 2: Effective Prompt Setting and Making Across the Curriculum: Integrating Project-Based Learning into the Classroom
Sylvia Martinez talked to conferees about the conditions for making a good prompt to guide instruction and learning in a maker space. A good prompt is brief, ambiguous, and immune to assessment.
Thank you very much to the organizers of Fablearn for providing me a scholarship to help me attend this conference. It would not have been possible to attend with their support. I am also fortunate that I had some support from an angel back in my school board who helped with the release time and covered the cost of supply. You know who you are, I just don’t know if you are aware how grateful I am. Thank you.