Paulo Blikstein on One Fabrication Lab per Child: The Ultimate Construction Kit

| June 15, 2011

The educational system is one of the few in which the customer is not the end user. The customers of education, or the people who pay for it — parents, employers, politicians — have voice and influence in what happens in schools, but students themselves (the users) are rarely heard. The result is that students’ motivation has not been at the center stage of educational design. However, the need to teach the so called 21st century skills (innovation, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity) has brought the issue of student-centered design back to the public sphere. In my research group, inspired by the literature on computational literacy, critical pedagogy, and constructionism, we focus on student-driven, technology-rich, culturally-aware, project-based learning, in which students learn “just-in-time” instead of “just-in-case.” We are building technological tools, activities, assessments, and materials to make that vision possible in real schools. For example, we have been exploring personal fabrication as an educational tool — I created the “FabLab@School” project — a full-blown rapid prototyping lab that we are building inside high schools, in which students can build projects using advanced digital tools: 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics, sensors, and electronics. In this talk, I will describe the design and preliminary results of this project as an avenue to address the issue of student motivation, identity, and self-efficacy in Science and Mathematics learning.