The STEAM collaboration with Tahuna

We have reached that interesting stage in the Child-to-Child Vision screening project. The midway report has been written and sent off to the funders. 288 children have been screened and 25 of these require referral to an optometrist. I have put in a funding application for 2020 (and been turned down already – thank you Vodafone Innovations). So, today we made the videos. In this blog post I’m going to ramble a bit. There are reflections on making the videos. But this reflection goes straight into another set of thoughts about how we can start to ‘meet’ the teachers who are doing this STEAM collaboration. I think that I have started to think about how education can be more of a continuum from intermediate through to tertiary. The children told us this when they said how much they enjoyed the way that we learned from their feedback and kept on bringing back more prototypes based on their ideas.

Every project needs a video these days. In terms of making an impact, it’s up there with the academic article. But I have to admit that I’m a bit illiterate when it comes to making videos. Fortunately, Iain, the STEAM facilitator at Tahuna was at hand to help us. Part of my illiteracy is the incapacity to even vaguely calculate how much time it takes to make a video. In my naivity I thought maybe two hours would do it. In fact, by the end of two hours we had just made the first video. The last one didn’t get finished till the end of the school day.

So, I’d like to talk about the project – but first I want to describe what I learned about making videos. First off: I think that it’s both simpler and more complex than I had thought. The simple ipad is enough to make imovies with. That’s all the software needed. However, the things that made the video more professional were the Yeti Microphone and the Gimbal stand for the phone /camera

This is what wikipedia says about the gimbal: A gimbal is a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis. A set of three gimbals, one mounted on the other with orthogonal pivot axes, may be used to allow an object mounted on the innermost gimbal to remain independent of the rotation of its support (e.g. vertical in the first animation). For example, on a ship, the gyroscopes, shipboard compasses, stoves, and even drink holders typically use gimbals to keep them upright with respect to the horizon despite the ship’s pitching and rolling.

Who wouldn’t like a gimbal. So Iain could move around with his phone on a stick and the footage looks like it will work. And as for the Yeti mic – this seems like the thing that will make the sound professional. All of these are going to cost – but they’ll cost a lot less than upgrading to a mac. So, roll on 2020 – maybe this will be the year when I start making videos to go along with my blogs.

We made three videos and I’ll put these up when Iain has finished editing them. I have to admit that the lippy was on and I took care to go to the hairdresser last week when I knew that a video was happening this week. Unfortunately, none of that helped me to get over my stagefright. I don’t think that I was as bad as the time when William Fairbank was trying to get me to replicate our wonderful philosophical conversations on camera. What saved me was the wonderful Sarah Drummond (3rd year occupational therapy student and project manager extraordinaire) who realised that I needed cue cards. We learned rapidly to scribble these out and prop them approximately in the same position as the camera.

I took a small consolation from the fact that everyone seems to find it difficult. I had just thought that it was because I was too stupid to be able to articulate a whole sentence. Surprisingly, it even happens to the children – who speak in perfect sentences for the practice session and then start rolling around the place giggling and borrowing each others lines when the camera is rolling.

However, what I learned was that it is possible to frame a coherent sentence. Some people do it better than others. For example, the teacher (Karen Parker) who was working with us paid very close attention to what Iain was wanting. She is very good at getting the message. Maybe that’s why she’s such a good teacher. She communicates who she is in everything that she does. I was impressed enough to want to be a bit more like that. This is a good lesson from a day.

I learned a lot by watching Iain behind the camera. The question I had was “why would someone be so generous in helping us to make these videos?” or “what kind of job does Iain do that makes it okay for him to spend the whole day with us on this project?” This was just the second time I met Iain – the first time was when I was introducing the project and he was the one who came up with the idea that we might make sunglasses with the kids. I mean, how will we ever get the children over the stigma of wearing glasses if the whole process does not become somehow cool.

Today I think I learned a bit more about why Iain and Tahuna have been so generous with their time. We have landed in the middle of a STEAM collaboration, and they have a three year funding from the Otago Community Trust. You can read about this here:

All around us in the ‘conference’ room I began to see shapes emerging. I had just thought that there were cardboard sculptures. But in conversation with Iain I gradually began to piece together the stories of cardboard combined with microbit computers to make things work. And I began to see how this STEAM collaboration works. Suddenly I find that I’m learning from these amazing teachers. I’m learning things that I want to bring back to polytechnic. And I find that the circle begins to close: this was exactly why we developed the collaboration in the first place. The idea was that the polytechnic would need to get ready for the amazing kids that are now coming through the schools. How can we create education that does not dumb down the wonderful people who must arise from this kind of teaching.

I want to interject some words about design thinking, which I have learned from working with the product design students – but which has been best articulated by the teachers at Tahuna:

Design thinking is an iterative process that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. Using a structured framework, students identify challenges, gather information, generate potential solutions, refine ideas, and test solutions.

A design thinking approach focuses on developing students’ creative confidence. Design thinking connects real world problem-solving with classroom environments. Teachers and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on:

  • developing empathy
  • promoting action
  • encouraging ideation
  • developing metacognitive awareness
  • fostering active problem solving.

This project really has been desing thinking in operation. We presented about the project to the teachers at the staffroom and I loved seeing the ways that they took our ideas and thought about them in relation to the actual children that they are teaching. They really don’t think much about the philanthropic ideas of getting donations of spectacles to give to children at assembly (ugh! like giving out wheelchairs); and they are intrigued by the numbers of children who don’t wear their spectacles. So our thinking at this point became about how we could normalise the wearing of spectacles. Maybe at the beginning of the year they can take the information about who wears spectacles and ensure that they capture this in the first couple of days with the children (“put together your pencil case and your spectacles”); and they are also less than impressed by the idea that children might need more than one pair of spectacles (“what about teaching them responsibility?”).

I’m feeling really inspired by this project at so many levels. It’s hard to articulate just how great teachers are when they apply themselves to this kind of project.

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