reflectively assessing my professional goals

TechShop- what we could learn about learning

I’ve been enrolled in this past few weeks. The #etmooc was my first. Open education advocates like @courosa and @cogdog have crafted a world wide course exploring online learning and technology education curricula. This concept has shared many discussions of paradigms and inspired educators to blog their own experiences. The open collective seems to be part of the potential. Many educators have presented, written, tweeted or discussed the value of constructivist learning with the obvious digital theme. See my post > converting-lc-as-sandbox/

PICT0059Another ‘maker’ open community, TechShop has pushed obstacles of entrepreneurship and technical innovation. TechShop labs were built. Experts volunteer mentoring and inventors or designers experiment with projects free from the restrictions traditional education and corporate R&D politics. The boyhood dreams while building Lego transpire into engineering realities ie. origami kayak, see below. The TECHSHOP model connects nicely with my previous post ‘connected learning- digital sandbox’

If educators and schools could embrace more similar opportunities we could be preparing our students for the future much better than we do. There is nothing wrong with classroom methods that look traditional. Many master teachers benefit students’ intellectual growth with lecture based lessons. We need to keep our best storytellers but we need more sandboxes and techshops especially for our boys. Many boys need the kinaesthetic avenues they loved with Lego. Attention spam and focus isn’t all learner weakness. It can be environment restrictions too.

The open supportive creative diversity may also be part of the TechShop magic. Designing facility, capacity and support around access and flexible teaching and support by collaborative teams. I also think education needs to RE-assess how we evaluate learning. How governments direct assessment is part of it. Gatekeepers talk flexibility, openness, online access, and tarnish teacher morale by suggesting they are behind the times and rigid. I could not disagree more. In my jurisdiction (#bced) I see dedicated, educated and skilled teachers driving innovation not blocking it. The learning process of a MOOC is like a TechShop in many ways but it does require mature motivated participants to function. Techshops also have powerful face to face interactions not just an online community. They have labs built around US centers. Applying a MOOC to high school setting is perhaps problematic but not if educators could design modules with appropriate scale and scope. I believe the potential lies in solving how schools design opportunities that guarantee the online features of MOOCs with the powerful face to face experience in various forms. The realities of programming and caring for kids K-12 is huge. 4×8 timetables, length of day, staffing, supervision, safety, etc all dominate our landscape. It’s why our schools appear closed. Its why Distance Learning courses are glorified ‘correspondence classes’ that generate poor results. It’s why open communities are tricky. Maybe, somehow, we need more constructivist forms like TechShop?

TechShop is a chain of member-based workshops that lets people of all skill levels come in and use industrial tools and equipment to build their own projects. They have three locations in California, one in North Carolina, one in Michigan, and one in Texas.(Wikipedia)

CNN TheNextList

20130203-120256.“Four years ago, I moved into a small San Francisco apartment, and had to put my kayak in storage. At the same time, I read a magazine article on new advances in the art and science of origami. This led to a question that soon became an obsession: what if a boat could fold up like a piece of paper? What if it could go wherever you wanted it to go? I started folding paper models, and soon switched to full-scale plastic prototypes that I tested in the Bay and elsewhere. I built over twenty versions – first in a friend’s garage, then at Tech Shop in San Francisco. Tech Shop was a revelation: Its tools allowed me to build far better and faster, and the community got me thinking about the future of the Oru Kayak.
I met entrepreneurs who had turned obsessions into livelihoods, and encouraged me to think more about getting the Oru Kayak out into the world.”(CNN, Willis)

Other related reading…

DETROIT — The past decade has seen a 93% drop in IPOs for sub-$50 million companies, Mark Hatch, CEO of do-it-yourself workshop TechShop, said today.
Speaking at a Techonomy Detroit session on the DIY economy and crowdfunding, he attributed that squarely to bureaucracy and legislation such as Sarbanes Oxley, the law that tightened rules and added regulation for public companies in 2002, after Enron, Tyco, and other high-profile financial scandals burned investors and reduced faith in stock exchanges.
“We live in a completely different space than we did 10 years ago,” said Hatch, citing the explosion of innovation as tools, design, and even fundraising is being democratized.
Square made its first prototypes at a TechShop. The world’s fastest electric motorcycle was built at a TechShop. And OpenROV, the open source robotic submersible, was designed and built at a TechShop.
The problem, in Hatch’s view, is that “small” exits via initial public offerings have almost disappeared, due to the extra regulation. Which means that companies have to either get huge, get acquired, or stay at mom-and-pop scale.
De-regulating investing is a big priority for government – Congress and President Obama have recently tried to make it easier for companies to get funding by passing the JOBS Act.



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