Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Beautiful Mash-Up

On Friday, 250 Year 5-8 students, their teachers and more than 20 mentors from the technology industry experienced the magic than can happen when education and industry work together.

The first ever Christchurch Mash Up for primary schools was initiated by Michael, Tim and Bryn from Code Club Aotearoa and many other parties with an interest in getting young people into technology and design thinking. These included Bridget and Carl from the FabLab, Caitlin Duncan from UC and a huge number of a volunteers from technology firms around Christchurch. The format was based on the highly successful High School Mash up held last year at the EPIC Hub.

250 students filled the Selwyn House Atrium

What is a Mash Up you might well be wondering?

Well, I'm still not entirely sure of the strict definition myself(which is probably slightly alarming given that I played a small role in helping to organise the event!) but one thing I know for sure is that this Mash Up event provided rich, authentic, highly engaging, real world learning experiences for the 250 students lucky enough to be there.

The challenge was to work in teams of 5-8 students to identify real world problems, gradually whittling down their list to one problem that really bugged them. They had to work to find solutions eventually planning and designing their best idea. There were mentors for each team who were industry professionals and there were pods of "pros" such as Bridget and Carl with their 3d printers for prototyping, Bryn with his incredible array of sensors and Esther with her marketing skills so teams could get feedback on their logos, company names and guidance with their pitching.
Bridget McKendry from The Fablab prototyping with teams

There were many steps to the process and the students were learning all sorts of new terms including-

  • Ideation
  • Market Validation
  • Solutioneering
  • Curation
  • Pitching

This was a very intense and exhilarating three hours and the learners were so engaged from the get-go; the atmosphere was electric! 

One of the many highlights of this event was the arrival of Claudia Batten, kiwi entrepreneur. She had a very powerful message for us all.

"You only fail if you give up. Keep trying." 

What a great message; have a growth mindset. Her message was empowering and inspiring for the young Christchurch learners. 

A highlight for the teachers was being able to leave the students with the mentors to attend a workshop led by Caitlin Duncan from University of Canterbury. Caitlin shared her research findings around primary school children learning to code and Initial Learning Environments such as CodeAcademy and CodeAvengers. It was a great chance for teachers to chat about the computer science in our schools and what our next steps are. 

The afternoon drew to a close with selected teams sharing their pitches with the three judges, followed by a question session a la Dragon's Den. 

Finally, a prize giving. Prizes were then awarded for a range of things including Best Pitch, Best Solution and Best Teamwork with prize money from the Christchurch City Council. 

Cobham Intermediate pitches their virtual pet with emotion sensors

It was an amazing afternoon and I feel grateful to have had a small role working with the industry professionals to bring Code Club Aotearoa's dream to fruition.  I learned lots from working with this amazingly dedicated group of people who want to see young people have the opportunity to join the thriving technology industry. Their belief in the ability of the children of Christchurch to achieve amazing things in such a short period of time was a reminder to me that we should never underestimate young learners. Huge thanks to Michael Trengrove and Tim Hatherley-Greene and also to Bridget McKendry for your unfailing belief in and dedication to New Zealand's young people.  

Amazing things can be achieved when schools work with professionals to solve wicked problems. How can our schools benefit from this model? How can we create more opportunities for education and industry to create magic together? 

Caitlin Duncan talks with teachers about teaching coding at primary school

Here's an article about the event from Stuff.

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