Demo on Fablearn Europe Conference

June 19, 2018 - Context of Education / Mistakes in Education

I am honored that I could be a part of the third Fablearn Europe conference.


design – build – make – learn
June 18 2018
NTNU, Trondheim, Norway

[Download my paper here]

I was part of the Demo & Poster session of the conference. But because of the central location, I got the attention of all visitors at all coffee breaks (so not only between 11.15-12.15).

For this conference, I designed an electric challenge that was impossible to do without mistakes. Through this simple artifact, I was able to start conversations about mistakes in education. A demo is a great form to interact and start a conversation, but next time I can better do a poster presentation and bring a demo with me. That makes it easier to share more of my work and findings instead of only through a demo and conversation. That being said, it was great to meet up international peers and discuss the role of the mistake for education.


I also brought (and this was a hard one to get through security (by plane), but some mail traffic and a special security line got me there) my conversation piece with me I designed earlier to compare the answers of the dutch and the international network of makers and designers. (results to be researched) It worked very well to had people answer the questions while speaking out loud what their doubt was with the choice of their answer. I already noticed that the Fablearn community had more difficulty to choose only one answer, and most of the time they choose more than one answer, hacking my questionnaire. The travel made the pins come off a little bit, but that revealed an opportunity to talk about mistakes and gain some empathy.

I choose 5 teachers from 4 different countries (Denmark, United States (north and south), Croatia and Poland) to be a part of the probe. I am really curious for the results to come back. (Difficult part is that the teachers need to buy a post stamp in their own country, so joining is not free as it was in the Netherlands. I am hoping these teachers will help me out here..)

I also designed two paper exercises. But there seems to be not successful (or if you like so: a failure). Only 2 persons took these challenges. Other people did not notice these papers or did not pay attention to it. The electric challenge and the conversation piece were taking up all the attention.

In my conversations with different peers, I discovered there is an interesting difference in the freedom of teachers to change education in Europe. Where in Hungary the government decides what should be educated (and in South-Korea it is even more strict with time schedules) and when in Finland teachers have a lot of freedom to change education. It was interesting to discuss this freedom with both parties. No freedom (Hungary) makes it nearly impossible (nearly, because Eastern Europe people are grown-up with the skill to ‘dance with the rules’) to do anything different and with that innovate education. In Finland there is a lot of freedom, causing teachers to take a stand and stay there. There is no urgency to change. Of course this is not as black and white as I sketch it here but still, this is an important note to make. We mostly talk about the bright side of freedom, but there is not much written on the dark side of freedom of teachers.


Takeaways from the conference

  • Iterations in education are hot (but nobody seems to have a way to do so)
  • Teachers seem to be the linking pin in changing education but are hard to convince to change (a lot of school interactions in labs still are a ‘trip to the zoo’: the teacher brings the class in another environment and waits till it’s ready.
  • A lot of makers, designers, and lab managers agree on teachers being designers. Teachers are a little cautious.
  • There is still a lot of resistance against changing education, in particular drastically changes (as the system)

“We still need to test the students at one point, so we don’t have that much freedom – Teacher from Texas”

The -weerstand- seems to be in the not knowing how to do it differently. It request a different perspective on education, more towards learning and less in complex systems.

  • There is a lot of difference in the freedom of teachers in Europe. In some countries, teachers have too much freedom where other countries don’t give teachers any freedom at all. Both freedom choices have disadvantages. The solution is probably in the middle: a lot of freedom for teachers, but also guidelines and -motivatie/push- are needed to keep teachers in -ontwikkeling-.
  • We need practical stories to tell to inspire others. Then we have something to discuss.
  • The conference was mostly filled with researchers from universities, some lab managers and a few teachers. I was missing the makers in the discussion.
  • It was interesting to also meet experts of the Educational profession (who were new to Fablabs) and discuss the opportunity of these places with them. They do not immediately understand the importance of making while researching, also the design research approach is not a -gewend- method. They still rely on quantitative research and approaches.
  • I really need to bring a poster next time so people are able to read the background of my research as well.