DIY with Digital Technology

pic1Advances in technology mean that our devices are super slick, shiny and reliable. Any information we desire is at our fingertips. Devices are easy to use, easy to carry around, intuitive, and they provide easy, open access to our world. In many important ways we are more knowing and better informed, and we have the means to easily and conveniently satisfy our appetites for knowledge into the future.

All of this we get with the mere press of a button or with a few clicks on a keyboard. Anybody can do it – little higher order thinking is required. We have created a world of skilled consumers of technology. That is not all bad and nothing to be sneezed at!

But is it all too convenient? Are we losing some critically important skills?

Several societal trends, including the “Maker Movement”, suggest we are starting to react against this convenience and this passive consumerism. We are becoming curious enough to appreciate that things just don’t work.

Things don’t just work! Generally somebody not something (at least at this stage in history) is responsible for making things work. Everything that just works has some kind of code behind it that makes it run and usually someone, not something, has created that code.

What should teachers want for their students? If we had to choose, would it be students as passive consumers or active creators contributing to the “Maker Movement”?

Barack Obama offered some wise words when he once said: “Don’t just play on your phone, program it”.

Code and program to be an active creator

Let’s continue to build into our curriculum and our teaching, more serious and sustained opportunities for students to make, create, invent and to code and program. If we can’t fit it in we have to throw something out to make room – it is that important! We want future generations of students to be responsible for making things work.

Let’s continue to encourage our students to take a DIY approach with digital technology. Many teachers are already going down this path and many more will follow.

Coding and programming skills, the core of a DIY approach, can be quite easily taught to students through clever sites and apps without the teacher having any coding background. Students emerge from these experiences able to think and plan to make things happen, creating applications such as interactive games, robots, quizzes and animations. By teaching coding skills and encouraging students to take a DIY approach to using technology we can take these skilled consumers to a higher level of operating, and even if they never intend to pursue programming as a career, learning to code will improve their problem-solving skills, ignite their creativity and enhance their logical thinking. We can and must produce active creators for the future.

Make together to be an active creator

The crucial thing about actively creating is that for any project, usually, the one individual doesn’t have all the skills to complete it. You have to call on the skills of others to reach completion. Collaboration and team work emerge and maker spaces begin to proliferate. Learning is democratised, shared and problems are solved – a true reflection of how learning occurs in everyday life.  This is the kind of learning we want for our students in our classrooms.

The “Maker Movement”

Actively creating through coding and programming is only one aspect. The “Maker Movement” is one of the trends in digital technology likely to make big inroads into teaching and learning programs in the near to medium future. It is transforming education by integrating “making” into all facets of the work of students. In a nutshell, the “Maker Movement” is about every student making and creating – taking a DIY approach.

Opportunities for students to “make”, stem not only from the call for schools to teach coding and computer programming – the key to controlling a new world of computational devices – but also from computer controlled fabrication devices such as 3D printers; and physical computing such as open source microcontrollers, sensors and interfaces, robotics, wearable computing and plug and play devices that connect small microprocessors to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors allowing us to test, monitor, and control our worlds.

There is no doubt the “Maker Movement” is a very sound pedagogical model and worthy of our attention and consideration.

This years’ Leading a Digital School Conference will connect with the “Maker Movement” through the Play Space. In this alternative session option, participants will have the opportunity to interact with a range of new technologies and “toys” inspired by the “maker movement” and the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum. In the Play Space delegates can take the time to play with and experience playful robotic toys, cool construction toys, 3D pens, make their own computer options, experiment with apps for teaching coding and much more. Delegates will also be provided with links to support materials for using the options back in the school setting. Delegates decide what they learn and experience; and delegates engage with the DIY approach.

The Play Space will be run by John Pearce (Tutor, Deakin University, Salty Solutions Education Consultancy) an experienced educator (30 years’ experience as a teacher in the K-12 sector) with a great gift for teaching with digital technology.

To learn more about the Leading a Digital School Conference which will be held at the Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne on 20, 21 and 22 August 2015, and to register, go to: 

The program offers leadershipclassroom practice and cutting edge/future sessions.


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