Mar 26 2011

Great Global Hackerspace Challenge


We are tool using animals and its the reason that we are the dominate species on this planet. It is the reason that we make stuff – but we don’t make stuff anymore. (James Arlen)

I’ve been following  @myrcurial James Arlen for quite sometime on Twitter. What brought us together in the first place I’m sure, was our shared beliefs about education and the need for change. We both advocate for an education system that is not only fair and equitable for all students, but that is current and authentic. I also have been interested in his involvement in Hamilton’s Hackerspace, ‘Thinkhause’. James asked me to join his group of hackers at Thinkhause to discuss a new project: The Great Global Hackesrpace Challenge.

I toured the Hackerspace from the perspective of a teacher, as I often do. In education, we talk about problem solving. We talk about having our students “think critically”. We advocate and implement problem based learning and inquiry driven lessons. This hackerspace encompasses all of these things – in real life. As I toured the space and talked with James and the other project members I was fascinated with the set up of the room. Every area of the space was created to promote design, creation collaboration, discussion, brainstorming and problem solving. How about that.There was a massive island in the middle of the table was covered in tools, designs, and notes. On the other end of the room was another large table looking onto the interactive whiteboard (they made themselves) used as another space for group projects, conversations, and a place to create. Eventually, I was guided to the “think” area of the room containing a few comfortable couches and again, onlooking another giant idea wall. As the folks from the Thinkhaus described their project, my eyes kept wondering. QR codes were pasted on the cupboards with each code eventually leading to a description of the cupboards contents, or instructions for a tool. Recycled materials, electronics, computers, cords and tools in organized in every nook and cranny of the room.

Then, James showed me this fascinating project that he is working on for with a group of Girl-Guides as a way of promoting females to be interested in the engineering side of things. This video says it all:

Below is the pencast (audio and notes) that I took from our conversation about the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge. James describes a multi-device prob type tool (name yet to be decided) that allows students to collect data and interact with their environment in hundreds of ways. Our shared concern is that with the ease of technologies today, students often miss the opportunity to really understand how the data is collected. Looking it up isn’t good enough. This device, sort of a “new age” Swiss Army Knife will provide a multitude of inquiry based tools. Imagine a tool where students can measure their water quality and in real time in different locations? Imagine a tool that can be left outdoors and programmed to measure wind, or air quality, or temperature? Or a tool that allows students to interact with GPS using an exact gauge or a tool that can be hooked up to a toy car to replicate the force from an accident, or a tool that measures electrical currents and their reaction to different surfaces? It is these hands on experiences that will help students begin to connect to their own world and their interactions with it.

Conversation about Global Hackerspace Challenge Project #hamont
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