BISU: Thinking About the Future

11 Mar 2019

BISU: Thinking About the Future

11 Mar 2019

Why is BISU leading the charge with Maker-Centred Learning in Ukraine?

By Thom Conaty, Whole School Project Based Learning Research and Development Leader (MA in Creative Technologies,Trinity College Dublin; Fellowship of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce; project manager for Benjamin Franklin International School makerspace in Barcelona; over 10 years experience in maker-centred education as lead workshop developer for the Science Gallery, Dublin)


By 2030, auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimate that 30% of current jobs will have disappeared. The main causes of this are attributed to growth in automation (robots taking the place of human workers) and artificial intelligence. This is clearly a concern for all our students and it begs the questions:

“What skills will they need to survive in an uncertain and rapidly evolving future job market? What can we do to prepare our students for this environment?”.

There will still be a need for workers in 2030, so what are the largest companies that are driving innovation today, looking for?

Google has said that the seven skills it looks for most when hiring are:

  • Being a good coach
  • Communicating and listening well
  • Processing insights into others (social awareness)
  • Empathy and support towards colleagues
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Connecting complex issues

It’s interesting to note that none of these are technical skills. Google will hire someone without a Computer Science degree if they believe they possess the above skill sets.

More generally, as our students graduate into an uncertain job market, they are going to have to be adaptable, resilient, have a lifelong relationship with learning, and have the self-belief to enter new environments and showcase their skills.

Ofsted (the UK Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) clearly share this view. Following their latest Framework for Inspection of Schools Ofsted will ask all of England’s 22,000 schools to explicitly demonstrate how they develop the character of their pupils, with specific reference to their resilience, confidence and independence.

Making: An Evolution of Learning

For around a decade now (particularly in the United States) there has been a quiet educational evolution happening in some schools that seems to have had just the right impact to address all the above-mentioned skill requirements. This re-adjustment to the classic model of education is often called Maker-Centered learning.

Maker-centred learning occurs when students are provided with resources (tools, equipment, materials, expertise, time), basic skills training and are presented with an open-ended, but structured real-world problem to attempt to solve. To increase student engagement most projects will, at least in part, relate to an area of personal interest, while maintaining a direct connection to the school curriculum requirements.

While engaged in developing such projects, students are gaining experience in project and time management, personal and interpersonal communication, Design Thinking, digital fabrication technologies, computer programming, digital design, and entrepreneurial skills. Basically, they are being introduced to the challenges they will meet in the real world. Students seem to respond to this with an increased sense of responsibility for their own learning as well as high-levels of pride in their output.

Not only do students often learn more efficiently this way, but they also report higher levels of self-efficacy (belief that they can achieve what they put their minds to), satisfaction with their learning and higher levels of engagement with learning as a life pursuit.

What is a Makerspace?

The environment in which the resources for maker-centred learning are made available is known as a Makerspace. The new BISU NUPS makerspace will be equipped with modern digital fabrication equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters and CNCs (drills that can cut in 2 or more dimensions using computer control). This equipment allows students to rapidly prototype and test real world product ideas. It also includes interactive technologies that allow communication between the digital and real world (think responsive robots or a system that automatically knows when to water plants when the soil is too dry). It also includes computers, traditional electronics and metal/woodwork equipment so that students can make (almost) anything.

Another important resource is expertise and guidance. This year Thom Conaty has been employed to design the new makerspace at BISU Nivki Upper Primary and Secondary School. Thom who has an MA in Creative Technologies from Trinity College Dublin, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, has just completed a similar project at the Benjamin Franklin International School, Barcelona. He has over 10 years experience in maker-centred education as lead workshop developer for the Science Gallery, Dublin, and as managing director of his company, where he introduced 1000’s of students to the world of creative technologies. He also has real-world experience in product design, manufacture and international distribution, as the company also developed DIY (Do It Yourself electronics kits that people build themselves) electronics products aimed at the creative industry (professional musicians, music producers, educators and artists). Thom has already begun to work with students and staff to train them in the skills required to maximise the efficacy of the makerspace, and to inspire them to their creative potentials.

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