Monday, 3 August 2015

We should be developing our students as 
polymaths, tinkers and dabblers!

Many schools are delving into the Maker Movement by setting up Makerspace areas for students to learn-through-doing (constructivism) in a social environment. Maker culture encourages applications of technologies and explorations across learning areas as in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). 

Design Thinking can be used as the learning process (discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution) and tools such as 3D printers, electronics and programmes such as Scratch and Sketchup can be utilised.

Makerspace allows students the opportunity to become tinkers, that is, to improve something by playing with it and making adjustments. Design and innovation can often evolve from an identified issue or need and may be focused on an everyday item that needs adjustment to enhance its capability.

Makerspace also allows students the opportunity to become a dabbler, that is, to potter about with ideas or objects, to scratch the surface of hunches, and to fiddle or play with objects to spark ideas and make initial links between ideas. This play-time can effectively be a tuning in time and allow the free flow of discussion, observations and social interactions - crucial for learning how to work effectively with others to innovate.

Makerspace allows students the opportunity to become a polymath, that is, they can utilize their skills and knowledge across a significant number of different subject areas to solve problems. Being a polymath will be crucial for entering the workplace of the future as specialists are now being replaced by generalists. Generalists creatively transfer and apply knowledge and skills across disciplines crossing unrelated things to innovate, whereas specialists view problems from a single discipline and often offer a narrow alternative.

Over-specialisation, eventually retreats into defending what one has learnt rather than making new connections (Robert Twigger).

We are aware that the world of business and entrepreneurship value those who see connections between disciplines:

One who can recognise a relationship between two disparate fields of ideas will more likely to come up with the next, big, new thing. That’s investment gold! (Aeon)

However, I believe the key to developing students as polymaths (generalists) is by ensuring we approach learning from a transdisciplinary lens.
Not disciplinary, multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary but transdisciplinary. What is the difference?

Transdisciplinary learning has a two-fold meaning:
1.              learning that has relevance across subject areas;
2.              learning that transcends the confines of the subject areas to connect to what is in the real world.

Transdisciplinary is a focus on issues across learning areas, between them and beyond them, for the emergence of new and broader perspectives and for deeper understanding of the interrelatedness of complex issues.

We often believe inquiry learning is transdisciplinary but I challenge you to use the descriptors below to analyse all learning opportunities in your programme and identify how many are truly transdisciplinary.

(ASCD, Educational Leadership, Jan 2015, P.13)

The key message is:

Transdisciplinary + Makerspace = Polymaths
Students of the future!

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