We live in an information-based technological age where our resources and tools are expanding rapidly. In a time of social networking, online gaming, smartboards, and iPhones, technology is an integral part of our culture. However, in schools, programming and computing courses are sparse, budgets meant to address technological education are frequently excised and computers are generally outdated. The need for cutting edge and accessible technology in our schools is critical in the development of a new generation of problem solvers.
On the creative side, we need to introduce our students and staff to interactive, hands on activities that promote critical thinking skills. In my experience as a teacher, I have found that there is fear surrounding new approaches to instructional methods that do not fit the conventional mold. In particular, the reticence and confusion regarding technology in schools is something I hope to combat through engaging students and teachers in successful workshops and lectures. Faculty and students need to understand the value of a technology-enriched program before they can fully embrace one.
Instead of viewing technology purely as a utilitarian tool, I believe the motivation to engage in self- driven projects will expand the scope of technology into the meaningful spaces of students’ lives. The power of inspiration is indispensable in the effort to connect students to technology. Engaging students in activities applicable to their lives is instrumental in any successful program.
It has been amazing to see students taking ownership over the CTC. Students with different interests and ideas end up in the CTC and often times end up collaborating with each other. The space allows the opportunity for interdisciplinary learning. Musicians, artists and engineers are all in a space together where they normally would be in different classes. The work that emerges as a result is often times idea oriented and not media specific. Students come to us with a problem that they need to solve, knowing the CTC is the perfect space to tackle these projects. For example, one student was interested in creating motion controlled musical instruments but she was not a musician. She was in charge of developing the program that allows someone to play the instruments using their body movements. She collaborated with a musician who was able to apply his knowledge to the new perimeters that she created in order to play a drum kit through various gestures. Another student wanted his entire science class to experience the inside of a cell through virtual reality. The issue he faced was that during the class period, only a handful of students were able to try out the 3D goggles while the rest of the class waited for their turn. The student collaborated with art and engineering students to repurpose a 20ft Geodesic Dome in order to create a curved mini-IMAX theater. The new dome fit the entire class of students inside and the multi-channel video software allowed everyone to share a full virtual reality cell tour with narration, without having to use a headset. Other projects have ranged from a pedal power music box, design and marketing for small businesses, wearable electronics, kinetic sculpture, 3D modeling, T-shirt making and more.
The CTC also holds a monthly lecture and workshop series sponsored by the Winchester Savings Bank. The series explores the intersection of art and technology, bringing in a number of speakers who have challenged students to consider different perspectives on the world. Lectures range from topics such as, Tinkering in the retina “garage” to make inexpensive retina imaging systems, spirituality, kinetic art, how puppeteering has influenced the foundation of computer science and fashion design. We have also offered a range of workshops which have included video mapping, wearable electronics, podcasing, live video manipulation and DJ courses.
I hope students experiences with the CTC will allow them to acquire the ability to think across disciplines, learn how to articulate goals and actualize ideas into finished projects, acquire the technical skills they need, and embrace failure as an educational tool.