FabLab and Its Learning Dynamic (Part 1)

I have been observing and stydying about “FabLab” idea by tracing back to its original ideas, practices
and theories behind this new leanring interactions. I observed the FabLabs, Maker’s Labs and some independent labs in the past few years and had done some interviews with teachers, lab manager, lab director who run the labs.  I wrote a paper recently for a course that I took about understanding learning environment which I think this paper might be userful for the teacher makers who are interested to understand the root of “making” in schools in the lens and practice of Constructionism (Papert, 1980).

I separated this paper into 5 small parts to make it not too heavy to read and digest. This paper will focus mainly in the interactions
between teachers and students in class in terms of the new attitudes and point of view to effectively deliver the learning development
in this environment.

Part 1: From 3D Printer, Traced Back to “Soap-Sculpture” 

In the last paper, I analyzed the way that BI Lab has done an excellent job in decentralized learning by using physical settings and objects in the lab to support student-centered learning. The idea that making the lab a space to “talk” for the students has projected its clear success as evidenced by a sixth grade girl who worked intensively by herself in the lab for a solid forty-five minutes with few interactions with teachers. All students in this class of fourteen students of mixed age from ten to fourteen years , mingled with each other and were highly focused on working on their individual projects alone and together.

This learning situation resonates with the learning environment of the “soap-sculpture” class, described by Harel and Papert in their book, Situating Constructionism. (Harel and Papert, 1991) Instead of soap carving, the students, in 2015, are making a variety of inventions with electronics, computer graphic design, 3D printers and so on. FabLab@School was originally designed based on the philosophy of Constructionism (Papert, 1980). The lab was designed to support student-centered learning and provide a variety of technology tools for young students to express and explore their ideas. Papert and Harel mentioned the “soap- sculpture” classroom atmosphere that modeled Papert’s idea to create a learning environment where a continuous “learning-richness” for mathematics and science can take place. FabLab with its new technology devices put students in a space where they can interact with mathematics and science in a concrete manner:

                      In this particular art class they were all carving soap, but what each student carved came from wherever fancy is bred and the                  project was not done and dropped but continued for many weeks. It allowed time to think, to dream, to gaze, to get a new idea and try it              and drop it or persist, time to talk, to see other people’s work and their reaction to yours—not unlike mathematics as it is for the                        mathematician, but quite unlike math as it is in junior high school.  (p.4)

We can see that in the “soap-sculpture” classroom’s “richness”, besides the physical setting and objects in the environment, it takes timing, freedom, space and interactions into account. Unlike the conventional classroom that is usually based on one-way communication, the learning dynamic of the “making” classroom consists of complex conversations and interactions, which this paper will discuss further.

End of part 1.

(If you are interested in the full paper, 9 pages, please feel free to let me know.)