INTERVIEW: TOM TOBIA, MAKERVERSITY

By Krisi

Tom Tobia, Makerversity founder, has spent the last few months over in the states developing our learning initiative dubbed Makerversity DIY.We catch up over a cuppa to discuss the future of learning as envisioned by Makerversity and why it’s so important to continue to support digital manufacturing.

HeadShotTT

Although this is all still very early days could you please explain what Makerversity DIY is and how it’s been developing in America?
To give you some context, most of the support we’ve had for any learning stuff we’re doing has come from the west coast in one way or another for example Autodesk, who most members are familiar with through getting free software from, and Pearson both of our contacts are based in Portland and San Fran so the draw of doing more stuff with them was there.

So what have you been working on specifically with Pearson and Autodesk?
We were essentially given an R&D budget by Pearson to think about how we might do some lessons that exemplified the approach of prototyping and learning by doing in a school setting that wasn’t impossibly scary for teachers to administer. One of the biggest hurdles with most of this stuff is that you give a school a 3D printer and nobody knows what to do with it, so it just sits there collecting dust. This is partly because teachers aren’t always given the appropriate training to use the technology and additionally there’s the struggle of finding practical ways of applying learning through doing in a meaningful way.

Can you give us an example of some lessons you’ve been trailing?
The best example of a lesson that’s been really successful is the microscope one that we rolled out at the V&A digital design weekend. This involves taking a £10 webcam and hacking it to turn it into a microscope. The idea behind that is the kids learn something by doing it; they learn a bit about electronics, a bit about disassembling products and the upshot is the kids are then really motivated to learn via the medium of that tool, whether that’s biology, mechanics or chemistry, the kids are straight in there.

Sounds exciting! How does this cross-over into Makerversity @ Somerset House, are you able to harness the skills and expertise of our existing members and what has the input been like?
The input and enthusiasm has been really amazing! Up until now we haven’t had the best structure to pull in all the expertise in a sustainable way but now that we’ve started to create more framework around our learning programmes we’re in a better position to know when, how and who to pull into various lessons. For example we’re prototyping a ‘build your own classroom’ set of lessons where Makerversity members have designed a 3D printable table bracket that can then be used in conjunction with pre-cut timber to build desks and seats.

In the upcoming months our mission is to develop ten lessons around making in the classroom so once we have a clear intention for each class we can start to collaborate with individual members who can offer in-depth knowledge in niche areas. This is hugely valuable and exciting for us as it opens up the kind of cross disciplinary dialogue that we hoped to achieve when first founding Makerversity.

What’s the next step for Makerversity DIY ?
In the coming months we’ll be continuing to develop and formalise our lessons into teacher friendly formats, and that means creating more content, making video’s and other learning aids – which is also another great way to get MV members involved. Essentially we’re aiming to get our lessons up to a point where teachers feel comfortable to learn them and then adapt them to their own needs. Teachers are extremely good at thinking of creative ways to teach stuff. It’s just they don’t always have the tools or the time.

What do you think is the value in bringing this kind of technology into the classroom?
Something we’ve discovered is lots of people learn better kinesthetically, and we’ve found once you produced something for yourself, whether that’s physical, digital, film or an object, motivation and confidence is visibly increased and that’s one of the fundamental principles and reasons for starting up Makerversity in general and getting this stuff out there!

Thanks Tom! look forward to seeing more of this in action soon!

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Posted By Krisi
Managing Director