Glen Bull of Fab@School (a 2010 DML Competition Winner) tosses out the words "children's engineering" casually to an audience (including Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, US Department of Education), and gestures to a large screen. A video shows a 5-year-old child engaged in "product design," using digital fabrication to create his own 3D object.
Five years old. I recognize the wonders of crayons and sandboxes, but this is a whole other level of creative potential to explore. A couple of mouse clicks, some light keyboard typing, and voila: digital fabrication in the classroom, right down to kindergarten students.
(If you want to see what thought-leader educator-types look like when they're excited, watch this video on digital fabrication, STEM learning, and children until about the 1:34 mark.)
As the team from Fab@School wrote in a recent email, "Digital fabrication is currently in a position comparable to that of microcomputers in the late 1970s: enjoyed by hobbyists and early adopters, but on the cusp of entry into the mainstream." What I appreciate most about participatory learning is how students move seamlessly between online and offline, thinking and doing, something that digital fabrication promotes in spades.
Here's additional information from Fab@School about their program:
"The Fab@School platform provides an onramp to 3D fabrication. It features the newly developed software (Fab@School Designer) for the elementary and middle school students. Fab@School Designer supports 2D fabrication using both the Silhouette 2D fabricator and new 2D tool heads on the Curry / Cornell 3D fabricator that were developed for the Fab@School project. From these initial experiences, students will move on to explore the full potential of the Cornell / Curry 3D fabricator through additive material fabrication, thus providing an elementary through high school trajectory that will engage students in math and engineering education."
In yesterday's post, I re-blogged Paula White's insights into teaching kids abstract concepts through digital fabrication, a viewpoint that Fab@School shares, "Digital fabrication supports a range of learning styles, gives students a rewarding and enjoyable way to learn abstract concepts through active construction, introduces the engineering design process, and prepares students for careers in the workplace of the future."
If you aren't able to attend the 2010 DML Competition Winners' Showcase on March 4, 2011 (held concurrent with the DML Conference: Designing Learning Futures), you can catch Fab@School at several other events, including the National Technology Leadership Summit sponsored by twelve national education associations, conference
presentations at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) annual meetings.
In addition, FableVision and Software MacKiev are developing commercial marketing plans for the completed product. And great news: Fab@School, one of the 2010 DML Competition Winners, was recently awarded an NSF ITEST award.
Countdown to the 2010 DML Competition Showcase features Where Are They Now? updates on the 2008, 2009, and 2010 winners. The 2010 DML Competition winners will showcase their projects at the Designing Learning Futures DML Conference on March 4, 2011 in Long Beach, California.
Visit our DML Countdown page to view more updates from featured projects.