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
Element14 Blog

Teach with Innovation and Creativity, not Technology

“Technology will not improve student learning, scores, literacy levels until we change the way we teach through the use of technology” (a summarized quote from @Instructivelnt)

On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to some Secondary Educators about using social Media in the classroom. In these 45 minute sessions (not enough time!) we were able to invite both @thecleversheep (Rodd Lucier) and @Instructivelnt (William Kierstead) to join us us via Skype.

Paper BloggingWhat came out of this discussion, in both instances, is that you do not need “technology” to be innovative.
Rodd presented us with the idea of teaching social media by addressing the skill of sharing and collaborating. He suggested that this can be done through the use of school bulletin boards. For example, having students replicate their Facebook profiles on posters in the hallway. It is ironic that often the same students who are embarrassed to show their work or profiles in a school hallway, are putting up the same information on the internet. He also presented us with a community bulletin board where students at an Elementary school would write opinion pieces and elicit responses from the school community using sticky notes.

Bill, an innovative leader and passionate educator in New Brunswick spoke about the importance of connecting our students to real world issues and using media and communication tools (video conferencing, Bridget, Skype) to connect students to the world around them. Bill is the brains behind the New Brunswick 21st Century Video which provides examples of students using collaborative methods to track the onset of Spring around the world or use their own classrooms as media news hubs.

blogs to shareOnce again, my twitter feed came through. In one short 140 character tweet, I asked my fellow learners to share their classroom blogs, wikis, and sites. I can’t thank them enough for taking the risk and time to GIVE.

@ChrisRzazewski “If it helps it’s my 4u English wiki”.
“I’ve just started this one w 14 yr-old”
“Hope it’s helpful! As you might see, I’m still learning =] “
Zoe, I’ve used these 2 last semester with teen groups
“You don’t have to ask. You can use mine anytime you’d like”.
My blog has links to the public edmodo pages which have outlines of lessons / assignments, etc.
“other class blogs from my school listed at under links – check JK w Ms. Joanne”
@wirededucator and and of course
@mgmitchell’s class and student blogs

Unplug’d – Canadian Education Summit

There is this guy I know named Ben.
For the past several years, Ben has given me lots to think about that has eventually led to a joint project called ‘Unplug’d’.
So let’s go back to the beginning…..

The year was 2006. I had heard about this new classroom tool called “Smartboard”. So I did a search and found a site called, In fact, this was the only site that I had ever seen that incorporated audio, text, resources and music all in one. How about that. So I listened. And listened…and listened…and listened. I soon got my own Smartboard and made my own lessons and eventually my own podcast and then I made my own blog too. Finally, I began my own story, just like Ben (but different).

In his latest story, Ben talks about the Unplugd event in his usual charming way with his inherent ability to make his audience want to hear more. What is different about the Unplug’d story however, is that it is incomplete.

This story will be complete (or at least more complete) during the Unplug’d all Canadian Educator Summit that takes place August 5-7. Educators across Canada will spend a weekend together in a remote part of Algonquin park ( to reflect why they have become leaders in education reform. Along with this guy named Ben, some of the most innovative leaders in education will tell and share their stories. They will make connections about what what factors, what values, what characteristics led them not only to their place in education today but why their paths crossed during this single weekend in August, 2011.

Along with Ben, there is a guy named Rodd. (@thecleversheep), the driving force behind Unplug’d – who brought together a team of whom is geographically separated by thousands of kilometers across Canada. There is Darren from Manitoba, Alec and Dean from Saskatchewan, Tom from both B.C and Montreal, Bill from New Brunswick and Rodd, Ben and myself from Ontario.

View Unplug’d Team in a larger map

Questions? This will answer them (or at least some of them):

UnPlug’d Overview
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