Monday, August 8, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 8: Staff Development at Redbridge AEI

Virtual becomes real in Thinglab... we 3D printed Pikachu

InspireNshare provided the keynote presentation and three Pop Up Thinglabs for Redbridge Institute of Adult Education staff development day.

Our keynote was titled "exponential" and focused on the trillion fold increase in computer performance since 1956 and what this means for education today. 

When I first used computers back in 1976 they were room sized, cost millions of pounds and rare but today computers are pocket sized, cost hundreds of pounds and almost everyone is carry one around. The potential for this pervasive and abundant real personal computing in education is amazing but for some reason the education system has been slow and reluctant to make use new technologies. I explored some of the reasons why the education system has taken a defensive position to new technologies and how this position can be changed. I outlined capabilities new technologies and gave examples of how they can be used in teaching.

Exponential and combinatorial developments in digital technologies have created an emergent "cambrian explosion" of digital technology in our time. Today is the most active and exciting time I have known in technology and the signs are that the rate of development is only going to become faster - for better or for worse this is just the start of the digital revolution and the information age. Education is an important way to prepare for the future but with increasing rates of change from technology developments that future is increasingly uncertain and unknown - it is imperative that education engage with technology change and especially the skills that are required to live with change and uncertainty.

I talked about the InspireNshare philosophy of developing the value of people in an increasingly automated future through creativity, inspiration, networking and sharing and introduced inspireNshare Thinglab as a practical example of our philosophy to experiment, explore and experience new methods, ideas and technology. I talked about how inspireNshare Thinglab was inspired by the Butterfly Effect and the story of the ancient Greek steam engine - simply showing and sharing things openly with people so they can form their own ideas about and uses for things is important - "creativity is contagious" and anyone anywhere can be the cause of something amazing ... imagine if Hero of Alexandria had shown his steam engine to enough people - maybe someone back in the first century AD would have seen its potential and history could have been very, very different.

Among the "cambrian explosion" of digital technologies in our time are AI, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 imagery 3D imagery, the Internet of Things, mobile IT, wearable IT and the Blockchain. Thinglab will be involved in all of these but is currently focusing on what we call new "digital dimensions" - virtual reality, 360 imagery and 3D printing.

Thinglab: 3D printing

I had learned my lesson from Pop Up Thinglab 6 and made sure that I set up the 3D printer on a good solid table that wouldn't wobble or vibrate too much. I used a Flashforge Finder 3D printer, Thingiverse web based digital design gallery for finding items to print, Tinkercad web based 3D design tool for editing and creating items to print and a selection of PLA printing filaments: redblueglow in the dark green and "wood" for printing.

The idea was to demonstrate how accessible 3D printing can be and to show it in action faults as well because seeing when things go wrong is a valuable learning experience so after setting up the printer and printing a some safe things like the 3mm spanner,  Butterfly Bookmark and a rook chess piece we started to experiment with spontaneity - using the Thingiverse gallery to "just print it" and see.

Red Queen #fail ...  learning from failure
I thought printing a full size Red Queen from a Thingiverse chess set would be a good item for Redbridge and Ihad never printed this before. The good thing about this is that it went wrong - this gave a super opportunity to discuss the reason why ... that the overhang half way up was just to big to print in mid air and needed support.

3D printed Pikachu from by  Flowalistik on Thingiverse
I asked the group what they would like to print next ... anything at all just name it and we'll see if we can make it! During the keynote presentation I had mentioned how Pokemon Go and augmented reality and one of the group challenged me to print a Pokemon :) We searched Thingiverse for Pokemon and downloaded and printed the first one that came up - Pikachu. This was a real pleasure as the spontaneity and context made the learning experience that much better and we Pikachu to the lady who challenged us to make a Pokemon - the lady in the main image of this blog post.

3D printing brings the opportunity to make real one of my big interests -  teaching and learning with objects. Unstructured and non-linear methods using conversation and objects had stayed with since London Educamp One when I saw Diane Brewster's session about Sussex University's "Creativity Zone". We displayed a selection of 3D printed objects from toys to tools to generate ideas and conversations and as the Redbridge institute has courses in jewellery making there were conversations about the role of 3D printing in jewellery - from jewellery itself through to customised packaging and our display of the Thingiverse Heart Shaped Box 3D printed in wood generated a great deal of interest and ideas.

Thinglab: Virtual Reality
News about virtual reality has been in the mainstream media recently and everyone at Redbridge had heard about it but like many had not experienced it yet. For the three VR group sessions I experimented and used the storytelling technique I used in children's virtual reality workshop in Pop Up Thinglab 5 asking the VR trippers to describe to the rest of the group what they were seeing and experiencing. Virtual reality has quite a "WOW" effect and its so easy to get "gob smacked" and disappear in the world you are seeing - I wanted to see if people could share their VR experience in real time with colleagues in the real world. I was wondering if the adults would be more reserved and circumspect than children in describing and sharing their experience but was pleasantly surprised to find that the adults were just as good as the children in sharing what they were seeing. 

In the same way that social media has generated a wealth of research and information about the human condition in our time I can see that virtual reality will lead to a great deal of opportunity for research ideas in psychology and the social sciences - providing opportunities to test scenarios that would otherwise be very difficult. An idea for a simple experiment has occurred to me just to see whether storytelling has any impact on memory ... whether it improves recall of experiences.

The potential of using your own technology in education is of high interest to me and while virtual reality is looking like it will split into a multitude of proprietary platforms I am increasingly interested in the more open and accessible VR that Google made possible with Cardboard VR. Julian Bream joined inspireNshare for the three Thinglab sessions at Redbridge and helped the group explore 360\VR content with their own smartphones. It was a real pleasure watching people "get it" as they searched for a found their own content with their own technology - the spontaneity and personal context made the learning experience that much better. Using own technology and discoveries like this means that people can continue on their own - without education system dependencies and could share and show others ... isn't this what education should be about?

Julian Bream in 360\VR describing our 360\VR session

Pop Up Thinglab 8 was also the first time I used our new 360 VR camera - the Samsung Gear 360. Click here for our first Thinglab 360\VR recording - a short clip of Julian in the middle of describing 

"What we are doing is ... we have all Googled using our ordinary phones available videos using the hashtag 360 VR ... we are looking for interesting locations like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London bus ride"  .... :)

Some of the photos and images from Pop Up Thinglab 8 are available on in our Flicker album here

Find out more about inspireNshare at

Find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab at

Find out more about Virtual Reality at

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