Creative Lab: from the perspective of… Jess Schofield

Pre-service teacher Jess Schofield shares her experience at Creative Lab, held at The Cube and Queensland Museum last month.

Jess: The Creative Lab program at QUT The Cube was a chance for educators from various fields to collaborate on ways to implement STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) in the classroom. As a pre-service teacher in the areas of mathematics and English the sessions were a great way to further open my mind to ways technology can be utilised across all disciplines in education.

I have been a facilitator of the LEGO Education programs at The Cube since their inception in 2013. At Creative Lab, I had the opportunity to facilitate the Design Engineering sessions using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 technology. This tool allows for all disciplines of STEAM to come together under the banner of problem-solving and project based learning.

I’ve had many discussions in recent months about what problem-solving can be defined as and how these skills can be acquired in a classroom situation. In maths, we often give students “worded questions” and label it as “problem-solving” or “real-life”. But in reality, the only problem they have to solve is to interpret the words and uncover the routine, knowledge-based problem.

At Creative Lab, I had conversations with teachers and curriculum writers about how true problem-solving should involve open-ended questions, creative responses and multiple answers. The Design Engineering workshop was a space to further explore this and the EV3 robots proved a perfect tool to guide that exploration.

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Design Engineering at Creative Lab was a space where networking took place and ideas were shared throughout the room. The participants had varying levels of experience, came from a variety of educational fields and each had their own expectations and outcomes from the session. Challenges were set to have robots manoeuvre objects within a Mars exploration context and using a combination of programming skills and physical design features. Although each of the eight groups was set the same challenge, eight very different solutions were presented. Participants went through the process of brainstorming, prototyping, testing, improving then giving and receiving critical feedback. There was a focus on teamwork and playing to strengths of individuals.

The conversations that were had around STEAM in the classroom were beneficial to all participants. We had the opportunity to share our own experiences of how the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robots have been used within our own schools and contexts, how they could be used in the future and make connections with colleagues to draw on the strengths and expertise of others.

As a pre-service teacher, Creative Lab was most beneficial for the networks and connections made with fellow teachers and education professionals and to gather ideas to implement robotics in high school classrooms. I feel competent in my knowledge of robotics and I’ve facilitated a wide variety of workshops to many audiences in the past. Moving forward, my goal is to implement long term robotics programs in high school settings. Creative Lab was the first step towards that goal. The program gave me the connections and resources to continue implementing STEAM, problem-solving and project-based learning in my future teaching and learning.

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