Technology Will Save Us is Powering MakerEd in UK

Apps & Mobile, EdTech, Learning, Startups

When we take the opportunity to follow a child’s lead, we may not know where we are headed, but the path is typically authentic and often leads to a learning moment. In this case, it led to a genuine maker moment.

On a recent, rare, trip to London with one of our sons, it felt somewhat indulgent to truly follow an 8 year old’s lead (when so often, an older brother, a schedule, a work project, or something else can interfere). One of his leads found us climbing 539 stairs to the top of St. Paul’s cathedral. Another found us staring through a glass floor straight into the Thames at the Tower Bridge. We also found ourselves dashing through the Tower of London.

Most of those adventures were peering back at history, yet one was very forward looking. During a stop at Pearson we heard several local tips from Laurie Forcier (Manager of Thought Leadership for the Office of the Chief Education Advisor) and Nathan Martin (Senior Researcher). In particular, our son Luke latched onto Nathan’s tip regarding Technology Will Save Us (TWSU). Nathan had sparked an interest.

Luke had heard that, through a Technology Will Save Us DIY Kit, he could make his own handheld games console. So, off we went on a quest to find the DIY maker kits and learned Luke wasn’t the only one captivated by the idea.

BBC is ensuring that every 11 year old in the UK will have a DIY Kit in their hands this fall and is working with Technology Will Save Us to make it happen. The kit that will be distributed – and the strategy to inspire – was an updated homage to the original BBC Micro, an early programmable home PC that introduced many people in the UK to computers for the first time.

In addition to the technology exposure, the process will undoubtedly spur innovation and creativity, two things UK author Charles Leadbetter believes are critical for success.

Even if you aren’t among the 1 million 11 year olds in the UK, you can have access to similar kits. TWSU Head of Product, Aaron Johnston, further sparked Luke’s interest by graciously walking him through their kits. TWSU currently offers a DIY Gamer kit (build your own console and learn to code), an Electro Dough kit (involves playdough and circuits), a Synth kit (to build a synthesizer and play music), and several others.

Moreover, the premise behind these kits is clear and compelling:

  • Technology is for everyone
  • All young people are makers
  • Technology makes making awesome, and
  • Let young people invent the future

Accordingly, all of the kits seek to inspire and develop makers by including stages of completion (promoting corresponding feelings of satisfaction), sharing (leveraging social-based motivation), and a next step (spurring future action).

Further, the Technology Will Save Us team has begun assessing its products against Pearson’s Efficacy Framework. According to Product Lead Aaron, “Our initial review has stacked up extremely well against that framework,” yet further evidence of their potential to make an impact.

The kit that captured Luke’s interest was the DIY Gamer Kit, which would allow him to build his own handheld games console (with a flappy bird-like game), and then code and invent his own games. There will be four key steps to the process:

Make. Makers assemble a games console using inputs to control an 8×8 display. For the brave, one version of the kit allows kids to solder together parts on their own circuit board (we are thankful to bring home the pre-soldered version).

Play. Once the maker phase is completed, kids are rewarded with the opportunity to play a variety of pre-loaded games.

Learn. The device is controlled by the open source platform, Arduino. Makers can download and learn to use the software to better understand the world of physical computing.

Invent. Makers can use the helpful library of code, cheat sheets and how to videos to create their own games.

Bethany Koby – mom, CEO, designer, educator and art director – co-founded Technology Will Save Us in 2012. She felt that education was not finding enough ways to keep up with technology – and that much more could be done to promote creativity and problem solving skills. Accordingly, her business is dedicated to sparking the imagination of young people using hands-on technology.

Bethany reflected on her perspective not just as founder, but as a mother, “in order for our son to be prepared for ‘many futures,’ he will need to learn to make good decisions and be productive with technology.”

Interested in learning more? Check out their website. Better yet, Technology Will Save Us team members are gearing up for the Maker Con & Maker Faire later this month in NYC. Bethany will be joining a panel of makers to talk about bootstrapping your startup.

It’s hard to argue with the goal of developing and inspiring makers.

Luke is already making up his own language to describe it, calling his new find a “goy” – a game and a toy at once.

Luke’s next quest: completing the kit.

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