Purpose before tech or vice versa?

As the project has looked at the impact of making on learning with this group, I’ve shared innovative examples to try to inspire through the planning, thoughts and decision making stages to support students’ own innovations.

Threaded into inputs about design and process have been ideas to extend making opportunities and draw out comparisons and thoughts about a maker’s propensity to be creative and what that can look like.

Interestingly, for some students, this correlated to maker projects with perceived ‘high tech’ physical computing devices incorporated such as Raspberry Pi.  Conversations and discussion around complexity and purpose with such examples even gave a “Woah, that’s proper tech” from one interested student (for research purposes I’ve kept to the local language colloquialisms used!)

Complexity in this case, through possible projects with an Internet of Things focus, impacted on particular students’ engagement and interests with such tools as the touchscreen and sensors as inputs/outputs.

Talking through a Retro Pie project also generated enthusiasm for some too; particularly from the gamers amongst the group. Through guided questioning they started to use the project idea to differentiate purpose and assimilate how inputs can radically change a design plan and outcome combinations.

What followed were fascinating insights into perceptions of the tech element of digital making and how students can become engaged with the addition of wider learning possibilities.  For some, it was an indication that their engagement levels increased when consolidating knowledge and skills from across the curriculum.

Taking an interest built up from a technology discipline in school for example, or at home, saw one of the students keen to create a project using crochet.  Designing an adornment through textiles was already familiar to her, but then adding a wearable tech component gave the chance to consider broader purposes and more perceived ambitious outcomes.

For another student then the thread of a ‘tech for good’ project saw her sketching ideas to take wearables into the feline market.  That approach was definitely with a purpose of pet protection and collar design came before actual functionality. It was through the iterative design stages on paper before second stage decisions with tech became clear, and during the prototype stages she seemed to enjoy tinkering with the code online rather than committing to an initial written plan.

Throughout the term we’ve observed examples of personalised and collaborative student approaches in this school’s maker environment. For me, some have been compelling as reinforcement to the ideas that digital making can be self-differentiating and inclusive.

For this post I wanted to consider the students’ perceptions of creativity potential through digital making; particularly with tech and how that was incorporated into their designs.

Of course impact on learning is paramount and over time we saw a realisation that process can be more important than outcome. Sketches sometimes became a stimulus to build on progression of ideas and programming.

Using Codebug as a physical computing device, to design a wearable tech piece, supported differentiation and progression capabilities. The starting point as a communication tool, to write a scrolling message through remixing shared code, gave everyone the chance to download a functional algorithm.

Sketching then gave some students the impetus to consider complexity and progression, particularly to visualise feasibility for inputs and outputs, and for some this approach was new; something more akin to art. That’s also where the progression routes with other physical computing devices and craft circuits came to the forefront with project possibilities.

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What struck me during the final workshop was the expectation from the students that they each had unique designs but could collaborate to learn from each other.  Perhaps also that self-guiding roles in a practical environment seemed informal?

And sketches.  Sketches evidencing progression of ideas and adding the potential for further creative and tech elements.

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How did the last session end?

With a commitment from the school to continue to provide opportunities for this group of students in their makerspace.  Next term they’ll be working on new wearable tech projects with the same Codebug devices; either as one team or through two very distinct projects.

And sketches; that’s how the session finished.  Maybe the final week of term had planted a festive seed of imagination and creativity, but could wearable technology have a Yuletide theme?

Here’s how one of the students explored his own question through designs; as yet, unfinished:

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