FABLEARN 2012: EdSurge was fortunate to participate in the second day of Stanford's FabLearn2012 Conference featuring demo exhibitors, maker workshops, and panel discussions. Moderating a panel of fab lab practitioners, Leonard was able to tease out a few of the major pain points for educators looking to begin their own maker movement.
All panelists agreed that the most important "must-have" is creative and enthusiastic teachers who are willing to adapt to the unknown. Bill Church, a 15-year teacher veteran and co-author of Physics with Robotics, explained how his persistence led to his school's first Makerspace in the basement, while Tomas Vega, a plastics artist and teacher in Sao Paulo, talked of his battle with Brazilian culture which favors buying things over making.
Everyone also agreed that teachers should start small and embrace the fab lab culture of rapid-prototyping and failing fast. No fancy 3D printers? "Just grab a glue gun and some foam pieces," noted Dave Otten, Physics and Applied Science and Engineering teacher at the Athenian School in Danville, Calif. Rounding out the knowledgeable group of panelists were: Angi Chau, director of the Bourn Idea Lab at Castilleja School; Brian Cohen, co-director of Beam Camp, a summer art and building camp in Strafford, N.H.; and Betsy Williams, co-founder of Hack the Future, a free hackathon for middle and high school students based at Stanford.
The most enlightening portion of the day came from a research talk by Paulo Blikstein, conference organizer and Stanford professor. He noted that fab lab activities need not be geared towards aspiring engineers and scientists -- the simple act of making can do wonders for students self-efficacy, regardless of their affinity for STEM subjects. For photos, video, and more perspectives from conference attendees, be sure to peruse the FabLearn Facebook group.