Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab: Education As Art

Pop Up Thinglab Virtual Reality Travel Agency in Croydon Central Library Reception

Education as we think of it today normally happens inside a box - inside a course in a classroom or lecture hall where we are measured, managed, graded, selected, batch processed and linearly determined by the formal education system and its establishments.

The idea for Pop Up Thinglab is to take education out of the box - to deliver the experimental, exploratory, open, informal, DIY and social experience of Thinglab to anyone anywhere and to put into practice new methods, new techniques and new technology.

To take education out of the box I had to break all the rules.
A classroom or lecture hall is a highly structured and controlled environment. People are carefully selected to be as homogenous as possible and fit into clearly defined and managed roles. Activities are designed with a beginning and end in a linear fashion for a specific time period and to deliver specific skills and information in a structured way for testing and measurement.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to find a way for education to happen for anyone, anywhere -where at anytime there would be any mix of people of any age, ability, culture, race and religion - you name it. I had to find a way for education to happen in public for the general public in public spaces. I had to find a way for education to happen in an unstructured way where anyone may come and go as they please and to make and take away their own learning from the experience - whatever that might be.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen the techniques of classroom teaching and teaching inside a box just wouldn't work - I had to try something else. For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to unlearn what I knew about teaching.  For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to break all the rules of formal education - I had to flip from structured, linear, deterministic and highly managed education to unstructured, non-linear, non-deterministic free-style education.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to flip mainstream education for "un-education" and the DIY style punk counter-culture of Edupunk

Way back in March 2010 I attended Educamp London - an education un-conference that made quite an impression on me (see "The Meaning of London Educamp One"). Some of the methods used at the Educamp London Unconference are very relevant to the type of uneducation I needed for Pop Up Thinglab to happen. In particular Diane Brewster's session about Sussex University's "Creativity Zone"

"Diane unpresented while mingling with us around a table of hands on material  – standing rather than sitting was more dynamic but chairs were there as well – it was a very fluid and natural."

Diane's unstructured and non-linear method using conversation and objects had stayed with me all these years and seemed ideal for Pop up Thinglab to happen and this is the main approach I thought to explore. Doing what might be regarded as "Avant-garde" teach like an artist and explore the Dadaist style Cut Up Technique to de-construct and tear up linear content into fragments so it can be explored, connected and constructed personally and through conversation in real-time in the real world.

Education As Art

Harold Jarche suggests we learn "like an artist" - I take this and try to teach like an artist using human sensitivity, creativity and imagination to create something meaningful in real-timeJulian Bream described me as "a creative live wire" and my presentations as being "like an art installation" - with Pop Up Thinglab I try to extend this as a form of "performance art",  as a form of teaching that deliberately encourages chaotic tangents with their own trajectory and set of interactions without a single point of focus.

The main photo at the top of this post shows a moment in time form the first Pop Up Thing Lab - The Virtual Reality Travel Agency in the public reception of Croydon Central Library. It is like a Cubist representation of multiple simultaneous interacting tangents and trajectories at one point frozen in time. You can see a man using his iPhone to find 360 videos on Youtube to watch with a Google cardboard VR viewer. You can see a young girl in the Royal College of Surgeons medical training simulation using a Samsung Gear VR headset. You can see a group of boys and girls interacting and having conversations around the collection of objects on the table behind me. You can see me talking about an old fashioned 3D viewer with a young girl and boy. 

Pop Up Thinglab isn't about classically scripted education - its about Jazz. Pop Up Thinglab is about education exploration, experimentation and improvisation in real-time and in the real world.

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