A Posteriori @ SENS.Club’s Salon on Technology in Education and Vice Versa

Last night I provided a brief introduction of our company, our practices, and our mission to a professional, largely-French speaking crowd at a public forum on Technological Transformation in Education.  Tuyen Thanh, one of our trainers, was kind enough to hook me up with Maltem/SENS.Club for the gig.  While this crowd-schmoozing is not part of our normal shtick, it was nice to discuss the benefits of technology in the classroom, the disruptions caused by the democratization of knowledge, and some of the evils inherent in mobile devices and other dystopia-inspiring memes…

It was also an honor to sit on a panel with various professors from prestigious schools like SMU and ESSEC business school, as well as the current French Minister of Digital Transformation in France.

For a slideshow of my talk on Constructionism and A Posteriori brand of disruption in the TechEd marketplace, follow this link.

Zhenghua Primary Clinches 1st Place at Robocup

We are very proud of our students, especially when they beat all expectations and outperform against all odds.

When we won the contract to teach the Junior and Senior CCA Robotics Clubs at Zhenghua Primary, it seemed like a straight-forward LEGO Mindstorms contract.  However, we have found out that CCA’s are never just one thing… As long as we behave like teachers or mentors, and not product vendors, we will get to experience a host of exciting curve balls thrown at us, based on the demands and interests of the program managers and their students.  In this case, we were asked to provide Robocup CoSpace Rescue training after just 2 weeks operating a LEGO curriculum there, and fortunately we were ready for the ask.

Last weekend, the teacher-in-charge sent me a congratulatory notice about his club’s first place win at the national Robocup Junior event – one of the best achievements they ever had.

Pei Hwa Secondary – Teams working frantically to outdo each other in a CoSpace Rescue in-class challenge

RoboCup Singapore this year had a lot of technical issues,  leading to the competition being delayed a few weeks back unexpectedly, and taking place during a weekend after the schools normally stop the afternoon extracurricular clubs, so the kids can focus on their end-of-semester exams and projects.  Still, the Science Center Annex was packed on Friday afternoon, during the registration and practice session.  The atmosphere was charged and we met teachers and teams we work with from Zhenghua and Temasek Primary schools, and Pei Hwa and Swiss Cottage Secondary schools. We have been working with some of those kids on these teams over the past 3-4 months using various Robotics curricula, sometimes specifically training them towards the Robocup competition challenges – namely line-following techniques, C language, and event-based programming.

RoboCup Grand Prix & Rescue Line challenges require robust line-following capability: tricky maps that change from round to round.

I’ve enjoyed the competitive atmosphere of technology challenges, ever since my earliest days at Tufts University, working with my freshman-year roommate on our entry to the American Nuclear Society automation conference Robotics Challenge in Savannah, Georgia.  Two decades forward, I’m still enjoying it both vicariously through our client schools, as well as with our company’s ongoing efforts to operate as engineers and makers, not just educators.

Kudos to Singapore’s Education (MOE) and InfoComm (IMDA) ministries, and their various academia partners, for making an effort in this area – motivating and subsidizing a relatively wide array of events, challenges, and competitions to help all students reach their true potentials.

Latest Offering: Board Game Design + 3D Printing

Last weekend, Cort and I tested out our first IMDA-sponsored course, free and open to the public.  The theme was Board Game Design, and we used 3D design (utilizing the free and child-friendly TinkerCAD) and 3D printing to provide a technological edge to the otherwise traditional medium.  We held the 6-hour workshop over 2 days in the IMDA Pixel Lab MakerSpace at Tampines Regional Library.

We limit front-of-the-class instruction time, and try to spend the bulk of our lessons helping learners with specific problems. This encourages the broadest learning experience – lots of trial and error, creativity as no rigid script or prescription to follow, and dynamic, on-the-job learning. Just like the real world!

The workshop time was divided into three main parts:

  • Learning & playing table-top games, especially popular, cooperative board games like Forbidden Island and Castle Panic
  • Game Design Theory
  • 3D Design & 3D Printing (of anything, but cool replacement board game pieces for boring pawns from the above games was the unrealized holy grail…)
Kids playing cooperative board games together, with some guidance from myself and my daughter, who has become an adept player. Cooperative board games teach strategic thinking, collaboration, leadership skills, and creativity – but mostly, they’re a super-fun way for a family or group of friends to spend time engaged in an activity together, and not consumed with mobile devices…

We had a wide range of relatively young subscribers from 6-12 years old, so it was a bit of a challenge to keep a strict pace.  However, it was great watching the older kids bringing the younger ones along on their gaming sessions.  And the youngsters of the bunch were surprisingly adept at manipulating 3D objects in TinkerCAD.

Every student designed their own original creation. No script, no limits – only open-ended creativity allowed here…

Each child left the workshop with one original 3D design printed on the single 3D printer provided in this MakerSpace.  The lack of resources was a frustration for us and the students alike, so we’ve taken that to heart in our latest pitch to a primary school interested in this curriculum for its Infocomm & Media Club.  We hope to bring this original technology module to a wider audience around the island.

My 9-year-old daughter participated, and she came home full of ideas she wanted to test out on TinkerCAD – so, now I finally have an excuse to give my wife to buy that 3D printer we can’t fit anywhere…