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Developing the Next Generation - Tech Tasters 2

Workshop kit for 7 days

In June 2022 we worked with Maine Valley Family Resource Centre and Maker Meet on a series of Taster workshops with a view to a longer-term programme using our Media Resources to develop STEAM skills, confidence and competence in young people.

In phase 1, we offered introductions to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3D printing, Circuits and wearables, Green Screen and creating Avatars. These were offered over seven workshops with over 143 young people ages 3 - 14 years. As we also work with inclusive design aspects, we also used low-tech activities along with technological aspects to engage young people, giving them a more rounded experience. This also supports young people to transition from consumption of media and technology to production.

Based on the initial responses and the facilitators' feedback, a consistent programme starting Sept–Dec for ages 12+ was suggested ideally with a small group of up to 15 young people. A smaller, more focused group would enable participants to deepen their knowledge of technology while working on their specific interests and an integrated approach to STEAM. Given the facilitators' experience and the participants' feedback, depending on the group’s interest, there could be x3 technology micro-groups running within the sessions.

Phase 2 involved a more focused approach to working with the young people of Maine Valley Family Resource Centre ages 9 - 14, from Sept. – Nov. 2024 to develop the Castlemaine Youth Tech Space over 8 weeks x3hrs of Castlemaine Youth Tech Space. This phase continued our collaboration with Chris Reina, Maker Meet. MakerMeet was formed to support educators looking for practical skills in Maker education and project-based learning andfocuses on approaches, mindsets and community.

Space – Safe and inclusive opportunities to form and express their views

When engaging in learning that is contextual and social, the aim is to support young people and those that facilitate their learning in a secure, safe and inclusive space to explore ideas and express them in fun friendly atmospheres that are not about right or wrong answers. For the pedagogues reading this, Makered and STEAM education ( transdisciplinary ’learning by doing / making’ builds on the work of Jean Piaget (constructivism – building knowledge structures) and Seymour Papert (constructionism constructing personal and public manifestations of knowledge) to go beyond the simple transmission of knowledge.

As learners construct their personal / public learning outputs / outcomes their awareness is developed from interactive, open-ended, student-driven activities that integrate multiple disciplines and allow the time and space needed to develop diverse skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking.

Voice – facilitated to express their views

Facilitated Check-in responses, Sept 2022

As three months is a long time in a young person’s life, and some had not attended Tech Tasters phase 1, we wanted to start the project with a check-in. This involved some structured activities / icebreakers to start building a group dynamic and find out what they wanted to do throughout the programme. This also ensured that the Lundy framework set up in phase 1 was used as a guiding principle.

The young people in this group attend different schools and are in different age groups with different stages of development. If our aim is to support them to imagine, design, and create their own projects by aligning the learning content and activities through hands-on approaches it is critically important we begin to develop a sense of who they are, their interest and abilities. We also continued to build an understanding of what technologies they use and why.

Snapshot of technologies used by the group S – Social, F – Fun, L – Learning

Audience – their views must be listened to

From this process a number of potential projects emerged and were discussed

  • Building Robots make a range of robots – Recycled materials, modelling, Design, Prototyping - 3D printing, Exhibition – physical / VR

  • SMART fashion / fashion hacks – design and create a fashion item and add circuitry (from idea to complete object includes recycled / junk couture) Hack some old fashion items you no longer use or want to change

  • Media – Digital storytelling - see below

  • VR – The Future of Castelmaine 2D, 3D and VR – what might that look like – Build a floor plan of the centre, design / create in 2D build in 3D and tfr to VR as an exhibition

This was then distilled into 2 clear projects to support the groups’ diversity in age and requests.

  1. Upgrading the FRC’s old desktop computers with new hard drives and operating systems to make google chrome boxes, which could then be used in the second project.

  2. A film project that would incorporate tools, e.g. green screen, image and audio editing with film sequencing, and skills building – storyboarding, developing a script, gathering assets and saving them and co-producing a short film.

Week 2 was focused on upgrading the old computers to Chromeboxes so that we could use them for the film project. Our young techies got a short introduction to the session (what / how) and then a health and safety / best practice induction including making sure all power to the computer is off and wearing antistatic wristbands.

Week 2 – From redundant technology to working Chrome boxes

Influence – views acted upon as appropriate

Week 3, Foundation skills began the second part of the project – working on their films. As a way to develop understanding of how films are made and what is needed to develop them, week 3 focused on deconstructing films. A simple activity helped the young people breakdown aspects of films so that they could understand the elements for their storyboards – this included a remix activity.

  • Selecting from a bag of props the young people had something that was linked to their storyline and character.

  • Next, they selected from a bag of film styles, e.g. funny, sad, mystery, action.

  • Finally, they selected a location for their film.

Understanding film elements

Each stage was used to discuss that aspect of filmmaking by gathering their thoughts, ideas and understanding from them and expanding on their ideas / understanding as necessary.

For week 4, storyboarding saw our young filmmakers began their own projects in earnest, some working individually and some in teams. Each of the films they proposed were unique, highly creative and clearly showing imagination. To enable the facilitators to support them effectively, the young people had to create storyboards and include information about costumes, props and look and feel.

Extracts from storyboards, script, characters and props

Week 5 – 8 Gathering and creating assets, filming, and taking direction covered the final weeks were focused on gathering and creating assets, this included stills, voiceovers and working together to help with filming as well as acting in each other's films. For some, it also involved directing green screen action to produce scenes that could not be created any other way.

3D modelled image with recorded footage, Scene from Nonsense at the Race Track

The project was completed end of Nov. with a screening proposed to share with friends and family at the resource centre.

Project Summary

It was clear that a project-based approach after the Taster sessions was important for introducing new skills and ideas. This builds a more solid foundation for the longer coherent work that builds 21c / 4C skills. Given the mixed age groups, abilities and developmental maturity of the group, a minimum of 2 – 3 facilitators depending on skills is necessary. Technology based learning requires more complex inputs / support and with a large group of mixed ability and social / emotional maturity, a third facilitator can focus one-to-one on any issues that arise leaving others to focus on skills development and technical support. The concrete results of the project can be summarised as follows:

  • 7 Desktop PC’s upgraded to Google Chromeboxes

  • 5 short films were produced with students working in teams and individually on their own films and also contributing to other’s films by acting, where needed.

  • Family Screening night

Over the course of the project the following outcomes were apparent and attest to the social and emotional learning that occurs within such projects. These can be summarised as follows:

  • All participants stated they wanted to do more, we will look to see how this can be facilitated

  • Social skills evolved as did friendships and collaboration skills within the group

  • Supportive interactions – both emotional and practical interactions that supported others were clearly witnessed e.g. being part of each other’s films and helping with ideas and feedback

  • Parents reported young people were choosing to come to the Tech space over other activities and an enthusiasm that was evidenced in leaving home early and wanting to stay later

Within the Tech Tasters ethos, there is also longer-term a focus on the contexts in which the young people live and play by building a foundation and support, tools, resources, and a community to facilitate ongoing participation in the opportunities offered. During the 8 week programme, participants also looked at a number of possibilities for future projects around change and community work, these included:

  • Telling stories about their community – (media – digital storytelling, filmmaking, making a digital book, newsletter or zine – what stories do you they or others have to tell or want to tell using (blogs, Vlogs, boggle, Inkle, Little birds, Blabberise, Animoto, short films)

  • Showing off anything they think is cool in your community (QR codes / website

  • Creating a VR exhibition about your place (or the robots / 7-week projects)

  • Sharing the nature from their area (biodiversity) e.g. book, ‘digital’ puppets / avatars – of wild life-telling their stories

  • Setting up and using a maker space

  • Painting space, creating 3D items for the space -

  • Sensory garden – building seating / hydroponics / vertical garden wall / using solar and motion sensors

An unexpected direction for future possibilities came from parents who witnessed aspects of the programme – skill building for them also. This could open opportunities for an integrated literacy programme that is intergenerational and builds social, eco and digital literacy simultaneously integrating circular design thinking, community projects and tech skills for good.

The Future is Now.

It is time to prepare today's learners for today’s world.

Our work continues through Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM with up to 16 schools in the Munster province provide to Transition Year students with integrated project-based learning experiences that will prepare them for the next steps in their learning and life journeys beyond formal education.

Would you like to be one of those 16 schools?

Please get in touch with MCSS below and find out how we can help your school community and its students prepare for a VUCA world - one which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

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