The FabLearn Conference originated from Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2011, and has been held in many countries like USA, Denmark, Australia, Brazil and Japan. It aims to provide school teachers, makers and anyone who is interested in maker education a place to meet and exchange ideas through various activities like workshops, seminars and forums. It also encourages maker educators to communicate with one another directly or indirectly, schools and maker spaces to share experiences in teaching, equipment operation and skills. There are also workshops and seminars where teachers and makers can discuss about any maker education topic and their future collaborations, and the introduction of maker culture to the people.
The name FabLearn might not sound familiar to people in Asia. It is actually a conference dedicated to digital maker education, and it aims to create opportunities and showcase the charisma of digital making to inspire students to one day become the innovators of the present and the future. Since the first maker space OpenLab. Taipei started operating in 2013, FabLabs and maker spaces have been showing up everywhere in Taiwan, both inside and outside of campus. Taiwan has officially entered the age of Maker Education, and education should be for everybody, so currently there are 6 Fab Trucks moving all across Taiwan providing mobile maker experience, the Maker Car providing digital services to Southern Taiwan and other rural areas, and also the Maker Classroom founded by NTPC Young Maker which consists of 5 high schools in New Taipei. The maker trend has certainly had a huge influence on the younger generation.
At this very moment, the education-oriented FabLearn arrives just in time.
FabLearn has been held in the Americas, Australia, Europe and Asia(FabLearn Asia 2015 was held in Yokohama, Japan), in the forms of forums, short talks and workshops. Learning digital making by doing it yourself, is simply the best way to learn. This year’s Fablearn Taiwan 2016 will be in Chang Jung Christian University, Tainan. “What exactly is maker education,” “how should I teach,” and “what are other people doing?” Let’s find the answers together!
Thailand: What is maker education, and how do you teach it?
“What has making brought us, and whose lives has it changed?”
The first speaker was also the host of the event Nalin Tutiyaphuengprasert Tukta of DSIL fablab@school. As a former video producer, she switched career to education and she believes that every maker educator should ask himself two questions, “Why let students do the making, and why the need to change the traditional classroom?” Her answer was “because we have to change the way they think and do.”
“Why start caring about maker education?” After the financial crisis, Thailand started figuring out how to keep up with the world, and learned to change. “Because life will only become faster and faster.” Nalin decided to start with education reform, and they hope to change not only the students, but even farmers and fishermen, people we don’t usually think they need to “study.” She took Brazilian fishermen as an example. Due to lack of education, fishermen tend to have fewer opportunities and a lower quality of life, so the educators gave up regular textbooks and instead used a language fishermen can understand to write new materials. These fishermen all became literate in just 3 months. “Learning from your own environment is the fastest way.” Nalin believes that making use of the environment and content is the best way to learn.
“Learning should be more than just memorizing. We need to look at it differently.”
Nalin founded DSIL in 2013 with support from her local foundation, Stanford later joined it and became Fablab@School Bangkok, so she changed the name to DSIL Fablab@School. “What do you think is the important thing to do?” Nalin believes that instead of asking the students to accept the current education, teachers should encourage them to show what they have learned by making something. “It’s not difficult to make the time, finding the right people, and the right way is.” To give freshmen the time to adapt to the new environment, the maker course opens in sophomore year, and starts from the basic operations and skills, and not so goal-oriented on the works. This is to support students with passion but no experience.
“What should a good teacher do?”
“How to ask the right question, answer the question and learn it again.”
Besides teaching the students, it is also important to support the teachers. “What we learn at the moment is different from the real world. A single theory or course can no longer solve a real problem.” Not only students, teachers need digital learning even more. They need to learn to combine different subjects into one project, and set up interdisciplinary, advanced courses to meet the demands of learning. “But how do you make sure the students are learning?” This is the most asked question by a lot of teachers. Nalin thinks that this question should become the reason why teachers use various informal ways of teaching. “Try to make the students think what they have done.” Through simple learning process, let the students gain confidence, and they will eventually seek complex knowledge by themselves, while thinking about their own learning process along the way. Lastly, she also encouraged all teachers responsible for maker education to have genuine passion and confidence toward making. “Only when you are a maker yourself, can you turn other people into makers.”
The other speaker was Global STEM Learning Association, Japan representative, and founder of FabLab Kamakura, Japan, Miss Youka Watanable. She believes that FabLab should be treated as a social enterprise, and be connected to universities, the market and the overall economy, so people can all work together and become better at what they do.
There are about 16 FabLabs in Japan right now, only 3 are inside universities, and they are all run by the students, not the government. Within these spaces, there are students from different departments, and they don’t just make things, activities like piano concert, book club are happening all the time. Students can join in as long as they have the passion.
Outside campus, the Japanese society is quite conservative. The arrival of FabLab gave the adults the chance to explore, and find the craziness and fun they have been missing. It has also blurred the line between educators and students, and thus boosts communication. Besides running maker space, Youka also started paying attention to maker education. The FabLearn Asia 2015 held by FabLab Kamakura had discussed about the feasibility and policy of the Science Technology Engineering and Math Education in their current education system.
To meet the demands of even more makers, Japan has developed more than just the FabLab. If a maker space is like a grocery store, then Makers’ Base is a supermarket. It targets women and tourists, and gathers all the tools, consumables and even courses you might need for woodworking, metalworking, pottery, tailoring and so on. It is more of a space for creative workers and startups. (Extended reading: Makers’ Base TOKYO：隱身目黑巷弄中的綜合型共享工房)
The FabCafe from Tokyo, Japan combines coffee shop with simple digital services like 3D printing and laser cutting, to provide an easy atmosphere for everybody to make the things they like. Japanese makers think of it as a place for them to inspire and talk to one another. (Extended reading: FabCafe咖啡飄香 ，都會空間中的藝文DIY) Of course, there is the Bio Lab. It turns DNA into building blocks as its creative attempt. Not only does it reduce the expensive cost of equipment and time behind bio-manufacturing, it also breaks through the limits of imagination and creation from the past experiments that were too serious and complex. (Extended reading: 生物製造時代駕到！Bio academy教你「如何培養出幾乎所有東西」)
1: The definition of maker education is debatable, everybody has his own opinion on its origin. Here refers to the government’s official campaign.
After hearing from the international speakers, it’s time for Taiwan’s own speakers. Read more about it here: I’m a Teacher and I Have a Question, FabLearn Taiwan 2016 Answers Your Questions! Part II