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What does the future of education look like?

27th February 2019

After spending the first half of 2018 researching and understanding the field in more depth, we at Fab Lab Barcelona ran a series of peer learning events as part of our Skills and Learning Cluster in October 2018, which brought together education experts, teachers, academics, DSI practitioners, makers, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and policymakers. Based on the ‘learning by doing’ approach, we explored different aspects of the future of education, and focused on how social impact can be maximised and facilitated through technology, including in-depth use of digital tools themselves in the workshops. In addition to running these sessions, we hosted the Poblenou Urban District Open Night on 23rd November, which involved over 2,000 visitors.

In our first peer learning event, participants discussed and developed lists of what they thought will be the most important skills in the future. We used digital fabrication tools to develop these visually, clustered ideas together across groups, and divided these skills into four categories using coloured LEDs. All four of the groups at the workshop agreed that the most relevant skills for the future are related to human interaction and personal development, with Interpersonal Skills and High Cognitive Skills topping the list. This hints at a vision the future where, despite technological advances, people skills and interpersonal relationships continue to grow in importance.

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Participants discuss future skills at our first peer learning event. These were laser-cut into plywood using the Fab Lab’s tools.

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Participants used specially-designed boards for presenting and clustering the skills they considered to be important for the future.

We built upon the lessons from the first session to understand how different elements of education - teachers, students, resources, environments, content, methodologies - can be organised to maximise their social impact.

Again, we relied strongly on digital fabrication tools to involve and engage participants in thinking more radically about the future of education. Participants worked in teams to develop a visualisation of their decisions by configuring a digitally fabricated gear system that represent each element of education, its relevance and its role within an interconnected system -applying tinkering, problem solving and machine making mindsets .

While in this session there were more differences between the groups, all were more or less aligned on the same ideas: that teachers and students have shared responsibility, and that the educational environment is more relevant than resources. The environment defines which resources and contents are necessary, but at the same time, the resources should be open, global, shared, collaborative and available online - an approach which can be summed up as “glocal”.

The groups also tended to concur that methodologies are more relevant than content itself. Given the availability of content and information online, they saw the major challenge to be how content is taught in a way which engages students.

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This digitally-fabricated gear machine helped participants visualise different elements of education at the second peer learning event.

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A participant watches the gear machine produce the visualisation at our second peer learning event.

In the final session, we explored how we might best distribute limited public budgets to build a sustainability framework for our future vision of technology-enabled, collaborative and glocal education,.

Participants again used digital fabrication tools, this time to visualise the distribution of resources according to the areas they considered most relevant, and then to assemble 3D model using laser-cut pieces to represent their distribution. Groups looked at the following policy areas in particular:

  • Funding & Governance: Sources of funding, uses of funds, co-funding, agency, role of parents.
  • Social & Economic Outcomes: Local development, job opportunities, social impact.
  • School environment & international connections: Learning environment, motivation, wellbeing of students, curriculum, students & teacher mobility.
  • Research & Innovation: Investment, early childhood focus, methodologies, trends, learning environment, involvement of professionals in education contexts.

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Groups at our third peer learning session discuss policies for sustainability.

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Using the laser cutter to visualise policies at our third peer learning event.

Following the successful peer learning events, we held an open evening at the Fab Lab Barcelona to share our findings and gather further input.

The views of the public reinforced those from our workshops, with participants placing most importance on the following skills: Empathy, Creativity, Ethics, Critical Thinking, Curiosity, Global Awareness and Collaboration.

The public participants also confirmed the need for shared responsibility between teachers and students, the relevance of the environment over resources and (although to a lesser extent) that methodology was slightly more important than the content.

In the case of policies, the most voted areas were Funding & Governance, Social & Economic Outcomes and Research & Innovation.

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Members of the public at the Poblenou Open Night at Fab Lab Barcelona.

The outcomes of the Peer Learning Events help us to understand that the future of education should have a strong human-centred approach (both on a personal and collective level) where we are all responsible for generating a positive impact in our local environment, sharing knowledge globally and applying innovative methodologies to engage the educational community (and the whole society) locally, with the aim of building a better world using technology as a tool and not as an end.

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Canvas of the Peer Learning Events, Skills & Learning Cluster.

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with educators, teachers, local businesses and other stakeholders to help turn these visions into a reality. These workshops will inform the future scenarios for DSI which we are building as part of DSI4EU, as well as shaping our policy and research work over the coming months. Keep up-to-date with our work by signing up to our newsletter and following us on Twitter.

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