Finding Children’s Lost Creativity, Interview With HELLO MAKER Founder Jiahong Zhou

Photo credit: Youting Zheng (鄭友婷), HELLO MAKER

“Children’s natural innocence allows them to see things more directly, differently, and sometimes even better than adults. Their creativity and thoughts however, are often suppressed by the society today.” To inspire children to be creative in a mostly cramming system, and help them accomplish what they want to do, is what Mr. Jiahong Zhou (周佳弘) and his seven partners believe in.


Playing + Learning = Action

There are many definitions for Maker, but for the team HELLO MAKER, a Maker is someone who uses resources at hand and works his way towards his goal. “It can be a piece of work, or just an attempt. The important thing is the process of moving towards your goal. Maker is but the attitude and the spirit.” Said Jiahong Zhou (周佳弘) the founder: “We found that it’s common in all age groups that as technology makes our lives easier, people tend to put their ideas into practice less often.” Which is why HELLO MAKER has summarized every stage of education to simply “play.” This will increase people’s adhesiveness towards creation and imagination, and hence continues their passion for their works.


Take back learning initiative, become the best partner

The fun of being a Maker is that, many things can only be accomplished after a group discussion or attempt, “which is why the teacher-student hierarchy is not for us. A teacher is someone who helps the students with his tools and experiences. He helps them by working with them as a partner.” Zhou said that as long as children are familiar with the tools to a certain extend, they can often amaze you with what they can make.

Zhou also added, due to the low birth rate in recent years, the team has had a few overly protected students who have never seen a screwdriver or used a pair of scissors. However, given the opportunities, all children have something in common: they get used to new tools and challenges quickly because they want to understand what they are interested in. To teachers, when children are able to analyze for themselves and come up with their own thoughts or present their works, it’s rewarding. Standing by the children instead of telling them the correct answers as an instructor, and believe in them, feels even more powerful.

Logic: the source of creativity

The team takes tools very seriously when arranging courses and activities. Take program compilers for example, they all have something in common, and that is the visual program compiling interface. It aims to turn a complex programming language into beautiful drag-and-drop programming blocks, so that beginners and children would be interested. In the foreseeable future, more and more similar language learning tools will emerge. As long as you master the similarity of all programs: logic, you should have no problem learning any language.


A student showing the strandbeast he made.

Each course has its own teaching aid. There are 4 kinds of toy blocks the team currently uses, at least 5 kinds of program compilers for toy block robots, and many versatile single-chip robots. One of the best teaching aid for training preschoolers the concept of space is toy blocks. Because toy blocks are easy to dismantle, so when children make mistakes while playing, they learn from their mistakes.

From amateur to official, programming language is gradually being valued

Zhou believes that there are 3 aspects to how the society thinks of maker education, and they are the government, the parents and the students. In recent years, the government has been trying to promote maker education on different levels, but many children stop taking courses once they are in high schools due to pressure from their parents because it’s not part of the official curriculum. Only a few children wait until universities to continue learning on their own. “During this period of time in which they stop learning, it is also the time children are the most creative and energetic. Fortunately, under the positive influence of the media, parents are starting to change the way they think.”


The stacker (Source: HELLO MAKER)

Today, the government has included programming language into 2018’s curriculum guidelines. Zhou and his team are happy to see that logic and programming will soon being introduced into the official education system, though it is still necessary to watch how well the curriculum and teaching methods are planned out. The content has to be meaningful to the students, instead of just rote learning of programming the same old way.

This article is a repost from SHOKUZiNE.