Honoured to present as part of the WE.org Global Classroom series. This episode is on “Using Technology to do Good in the World”. I was very proud to see some of the experienced students who experienced the WE Connect Global Simulcast become coaches and mentors to our novice students. Not only do students learn about 3D printing and electrical engineering, but they also learn about lighting, public speaking and global broadcasting.
Perhaps the most important learning from the European Maker Faire had nothing to do with Engineering or Graphic Arts, or History or Culture, but rather around language.
The girls were concerned about the unknown language issues that they might face being in a foreign country. There certainly was lots of English around but how would they interact with the general public.
Day 1 was dedicated to schools where there were many groups of kids in which most could speak English. Sometimes, there would be a group where none could speak English save one. Our students would speak and then one would translate with lots of emotion and patience. It was sweet to see parents and teachers helping their very young students understand what we were doing and learning how to solder using a hot soldering iron. My favorite moment was when a young student translated to her parent.
Day 2 was open to the general public where English was much more rare. Fortunately, we had designed our posters to be very graphical and language independent. We also had the foresight to connect with some Italian students through a connection with the Varkey Ambassadors to translate our brochure. Almost all of our 300 copies were distributed on day 2. To our surprise, I think because of the eye contact and body language of our students, passers-by took the time to read the translation on the spot. They would smile and nod as they began to understand what we were doing and why. It was particularly fun teaching people to solder with a hot iron without using any words.
Afterwards, the students talked about their experience and made the jump in empathy. This one day low risk event gave them a short glimpse into what it might be like for the growing number of new-comers that are arriving in our town and in our school. I had never intended to grow they citizenship in this way. Wonderful unintended consequences
Students did so much work, so many different kinds of work to get to the European Maker Faire in Rome. It shows why they were the only school on this side of the Atlantic and one of only 3 high schools outside of the EU invited to the European Maker Faire.
Transdisciplinary projects offer the advantage of developing discipline content in a “just in time” fashion that adds a level of authenticity, enthusiasm, and purpose. Students don’t ever ask, why do we need to learn graphic arts, or sentence structure, or a second language, or engineering or public speaking because the answer is obvious and right in front of them, often times for something due next week!
I gave a keynote at the STEM Symposium in Colorado that suggested my ideal high school of the future will look much like k-2 where there is no border between the disciplines, and where competencies like communication, creativity and critical thinking are just as important as content knowledge. Current Generation is a tangible example of this style of learning at a high school level and these girls reflect on their work.
Students reflect on what it means to be a Maker? The deep desire to use their talents, their learning, their innovation and creativity to make the world brighter comes out in each interview. Girls in Engineering will change the world.
For almost 20 years of teaching, I have been trying to create transdisciplinary learning experiences. Projects like the Xenotransplant Project (2008) and the Aquaponics project (2013) were stepping stones. I was trying to get to a Renaissance education where it was impossible to see the difference between science and art reminiscent of Leonardo DaVinci. The well known sayings about “Rome not being built in a day” and “All Roads Lead to Rome” seem particularly poignant and pervasive.
In October, Current Generation physically traveled to Rome to showcase their work to the world of makers. Students are making a better world using their learning, even as young adults from a small town on the other side of the Atlantic.
Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Citizenship
WEConnect is the virtual arm of WE.org ‘s WeDay. Current Generation was chosen as one of 4 schools globally as inspirational examples to over 100,000 students and teachers in 27 countries.
WE selected us because one of our students took time off summer work and families changed vacation plans so that she could participate in the We Are Social Entrepreneurs (WASE) program sponsored by We and RBC. After working from noon till 4 pm every day with 2-3 hours of homework at night, she expertly pitched to the judges and won a starter grant.
With only a couple of short days before we fly to Rome for the European Maker Faire, the fantastic camera crew arrives with all their gear, the host, the producers and technical crew arrives. We all have a great time late into the evening and most of the next day setting up, practicing over and over again, editing, trimming, word choice, volume, pace, timing.
As educators, we strive to find authentic learning opportunities where all of the disciplines are mixed with purpose. Students interact with the professional to talk about the temperature of light, the impact of color filters, technical sounds issues, interviewing techniques, how to succinctly tell a story, how to stand and speak live on camera. This is a fantastic addition to their learning path that included science, engineering, and graphic arts.
Perhaps the most important learning was a sense of confidence, accomplishment, pride comradery and importance. The rest of the world thinks that what we are doing is an important way to make the world a little bit brighter. Even as young people from a small town in a have-not province, we can become innovators, social entrepreneurs and global citizens that use their talents, develop new skills and make an impact in the world.
I always thought that you had to have the movement before the video, but they helped me to understand that the making of the video is also the start of the movement. We had such great success last year that our students lamented, “Why can’t every student in Atlantic Canada have such an educational experience?”
So we want to make a longer documentary to show the shift in Culture when students get a personalized, trans-disciplinary education that solves real world problems. It builds the competencies and contributes to the Profile of a Learner that we hope to have in our graduates and our citizens.