Twitter reflections of a 2 day “maker” event at University of Canberra

1 08 2015

Mobile Makers exhibition title wall

Illuminated by the glow of a strip of programmed rgb LED’s, the Mobile Makers exhibition title wall at University of Canberra gallery

Through University of Canberra’s Angelina Russo’s enthusiasm and energy an ARC application is lodged for a mobile fab lab to tour various regional Australian locations. Although we won’t learn the fate of the application until November 2015, representatives from many of the participating organisations accepted the University’s generous invitation to invest two days in exploring the project’s territory at the intersection between Art and Science. A highlight for me was Ross Gibson’s presentations, which amongst other things, encouraged us to think about relationships between the digitally materialised and narrative.
Here is my Storify from day 2.
For day 1, check out Lynda Kelly here.
A small, silver coloured, vintage model car.

What is an authentic object? Contemporary manufacturing processes including digital scanning and 3D printing invigorate a new dimension to museological conversations about authenticity.

A ready to eat chocolate  biscuit and 3D printed cookie cutters

Materialising the digital into edible form.


Podcast interview with Glen from Polyglot about the live soundscape in Paper Planet

17 07 2015

The highlight of the recent winter school holidays public program at Powerhouse Museum was the completely delightful Paper Planet hybrid theatre-piece/installation/playspace/makerspace. Paper Planet is one of the pieces in Polyglot’s repertoire, and it sure hit the Museum’s mission to be a catalyst for creative expression and curious minds.

For me, and clearly for the record numbers of Museum visitors who participated in it, Paper Planet is an immersive intergenerational meeting point for lo-tech and high-creativity. This same mix is represented in the approach to the live and spontaneous sung and spoken word and musical elements, in which the Paper Planet ‘maker-audience’ contribute to the soundscape using the microphone inputs and makey-makey ‘keyboard’.

Former Polyglot performer, and current musician in residence Glen, was kind enough to speak to me about the technical aspects of his ‘music booth’ set in a corner grotto of the evolving primordial paper planet forrest environment. The music booth was an Ableton rig, incorporating synth, keyboard/trigger pad controller, acoustic and electric guitar and effects, and two microphones: one for the participants and one for the resident musician, and an Arduino powered ‘makey-makey’ style keyboard.

Listen to our conversation here.

Paper Planet sound booth sign

The sound booth in Polyglot’s Paper Planet

The sound booth equipment in Polyglot's Paper Planet

The sound booth equipment in Polyglot’s Paper Planet

A moment in the life of a museum educator.

20 03 2015

This week I had the privilege of presenting to 187 year 9’s, and 10 educators and supervisors, from a comprehensive Sydney High School on the topic of how to design an exhibition. The presentation was on request, and its actually not always possible to respond to school requests, even though in an ideal world we would love to deliver completely bespoke experiences every time. The young people had been set the project to develop and mount an exhibition at school as an assessment task. The entire year 9 cohort will be the “visitors”.

Its probably important for me to put it right out there up front, that I do not consider myself, or profess to be, an expert in exhibition design. Still, it may be reasonable to expect that twenty years into my accidental museum career, I might know something about it.

The particular day the school were in our part of town, combining a visit with us and IMAX, was already a very busy day. Over 500 other school kids, corporate functions occupying almost all the spaces, including perfectly suited theatres and teched up meeting rooms, meant the kids were accommodated in 4 banks of 5 rows of 9 seats in a massive 5-story high ceiling ‘turbine hall’. Not exactly conducive to informal and interactive dialogue based presentations, my preferred style.

As this was the 3rd consecutive year the school had attended for this specific content, I was provided a slide deck developed for a previous year by a colleague. This deck was fine, although I have a way of thinking through, refining and scripting my presentations as I design the images. The content was also not my preferred story, so in typical verge of peril fashion I started building How to make an exhibition PM v2 the evening before, at home, sitting on the couch, tv and family evening backdrop.

In the end I was happy with the “pop-up exhibition” story as it came together, even though I wasn’t completely sure how well it would deliver practical benefit to the kids. I hadn’t done a run through for time, but at 20x slides, I was pretty confident I could do it in less than 30 minutes, and easily develop aspects if there were specific interests and questions. The group arrived pretty on time, but of course, it takes a while to get 180 15 year olds bags away and settled into seats. As the last few were being ushered to the last spots by their teachers, I began with introducing myself and acknowledging country.

I then, a little bravely (?) it seemed at the time, showed a full screen image and proceeded into a see-think-wonder. I did this for a number of reasons: It is the current primary strategy for activating interactions and dialogue between visitors and staff throughout the museum’s galleries and spaces, and I am asking all of my team, and other colleagues to experiment with it, so I want to be sure I model finding opportunities for it, and dealing with the reality of what happens next, the dynamics of group styles and responses. I also happen to think it is an excellent “tool-kit” for appreciating exhibitions, artworks and other interesting things.
And it can be fun. It didn’t feel like fun, and maybe I didn’t quite land the value proposition in this case. Hmmm.

The see-think-wonder image d’jour was a ‘cabinet of curiosity’, as my story started back in the Enlightenment, with the idea of rare, wondrous and “exotic” things collected from far-flung places as talking points in the drawing rooms of the European bourgeois. As I kind of whipped through the see-think-wonder the excursion coordinators words of advice ringing in my ears “They get restless pretty quickly and can lose concentration”. In fact my final briefing notes were “They should be OK for 15 minutes”. I negotiated 20 with the supervisors and set the timer on my phone. In the event, I finished up, delivered the required housekeeping advice and released the group to their supervisors with 3 minutes to spare.

Although I was left feeling a little shell-shocked, I did notice quite a few kids dashing out notes as I covered terrain such as Nina Simon’s focus on and brilliant ideas around participation, and a provocation “What type of experience do you want the visitors to have?”, outlining Michelle DelCarlo’s fab pop-up museum models which is perfect for school and classroom exhibits, looking at a professional museum’s exhibition development process, and finishing up with the idea that a single object can embody multiple stories and interpretations. This early typewriter is currently being displayed in Interface and was most recently in the Oopsatoreum exhibition conceived and developed by the amazing Helen Whitty in collaboration with artist, writer, filmmaker Shaun Tan and the sublime Sydney Children’s Choir.

The next day I sent the slides and this note to the school:

Just wanted to send through yesterday’s presentation for your and the young people’s reference. As we discussed I did move through the material at a rapid pace and saw many people taking notes.
As the young people begin to develop their projects they or you are welcome to contact me by email if questions arise at that point.
Should it be appropriate, please do let me know about any opportunity for me or other museum staff to view the exhibit.
I look forward to seeing you back in the museum in the future.
Best regards, 

The ladder of science engagement

12 03 2015

As we are developing about a new curriculum linked science show for school groups here, it is interesting to consider this  CSIRO research. Can the experience of what will hopefully be fascinating and spectacular (though not just blowing things up!) assist in the progres up this ladder? Perhaps if we check using an exit ticket device such as “I-Used-to-Think-But-Now-I-Think..” we could find out? Hmmmm

Engaging the disengaged with science

By Craig Cormick, CSIRO and Suzette Searle, Australian National University

Just as we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences for football codes or teams – or even genres of music or flavours of ice cream – so too we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences when it comes to science.

Last year the CSIRO released the results of a major survey into public attitudes towards science and technology, and found four key segments of the population that view science in very different ways:

A: Fan Boys and Fan Girls. This group is about 23% of the population and they are very enthusiastic about science and technology. Science is a big part of their lives and they think everyone should take an interest in it.

B: The Cautiously Keen make up about 28% of the public. They are interested in science and technology, but can be a little wary of it. They tend to believe that the benefits of science must be greater than any harmful effects.

C: The Risk Averse represent about 23% of the population. They are much more concerned about the risks of science and technology, including issues such as equality of access. Most of their values about science are framed in terms of risk.

D: The Concerned and Disengaged make up 20% of the population. They are the least enthusiastic and least interested in science and technology. Many of them don’t much trust it. They believe the pace of science and technology is too fast to keep up with and that science and technology create more problems than they solve.

Segment A are further away from the community average than any other segment

If you are reading this article you are probably an A – and have self-selected to read the article as something you are interested in. But that is one of the problems: most audiences of science communications activities self-select from the As.

Interesting the disinterested

The research builds upon several other earlier surveys and its findings complement a 2014 survey designed by the Australian National University and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the Inspiring Australia program.

This survey segmented Australians on the basis of how frequently they interacted with information about science and technology. It found that only half of the population could recall listening to, watching or reading something to do with science and technology, or even searching for science and technology information, at least once a fortnight. Also, 14% had much less frequent interactions with science and technology information.

So, while Merlin Crossley is quite right that we are increasingly well served by high-quality science communication activities, rather than simply needing even more, we believe we need a broader spread of activities, designed for different audiences who have different attitudes to science.

With science communication activities growing, the Fan Boys and Fan Girls have never had it so good. There are great science stories almost everywhere you turn, if you’re interested in those stories, of course.

But the CSIRO data showed that as many as 40% of the Australian public were unengaged, disinterested or wary of science – little changed since a similar Victorian government study in 2011.

So the growth in science communication is not necessarily growing its audience. To do that we need to align our science communication messages and channels with those that the disengaged and disinterested value.

Think of the football analogy mentioned above. A diehard AFL fan is not likely to seek out a rugby union match of their own volition. However, if you want to get them interested in rugby union, you might consider holding a demonstration match at an AFL game. Or even better, recruit AFL players to join one of the teams playing in the rugby union demo match.

More than blowing stuff up

There are many ways to get exciting science communication activities out of the existing channels and onto the Footy Shows and Today Shows of the world. Science communicators could show up at music and folk festivals and other community activities. They could get sports stars and TV personalities and musicians talking about science, much as the Inspiring Australia initiative has sought to do.

And they should think beyond BSU (blowing stuff up) approaches where the “wow” factor is high but longer term engagement is often quite low.

Bangs and stinks can be fun, but they don’t necessarily leave a lasting message.
Sean Stayte/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

One of the other key findings of the CSIRO study was that the Fan Boys and Fan Girls are further away from the average point of community values than any other segment of the population. This means that Fan Boys or Girls probably have the least idea of what might appeal to the other segments. They know what turns them on, but they are probably only guessing what will work for the other segments.

So they need to recruit members of the other non-science fan segments to help devise science communication activities that appeal to them. For no one is going to understand the Bs, Cs and Ds like they understand themselves (even if they don’t much understand As!).

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Great presentation by @cpaterso to M ed course at Syd uni

11 03 2015


So many great links here I had to post so as not to lose them. Includes my hero Ron Berger and the legendary Austin’s Butterfly example of excellence through revision and feedback, and description of feedback etiquette: Be Kind, Be Specific, Be Helpful, and links to Project Zero (HGSE). Am currently utilising See-Think-Wonder as the primary strategy to (re)activate spaces at the museum: A platform for dialogue rather than lecture. Flexible as the visitors interests. Respectful of what prior knowledge may exit and may be fueling that interest. Preferences listening skills rather than remembering skills.

Build Your Own School?

28 02 2014

REALM charter school – X-space project

I am intrigued by this Kikstarter. Kids design their own learning space, then run a kikstarter to try and raise the $75k. One of my inspirations is Ron L Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence . One of the case studies he describes is the collaborative design of a new school building – a library? – which the school community including the young people, then build. (Ron is a qualified carpenter as well as a teacher).

Not sure how many new school buildings will end up paid for through crowdfunding, but I really love the agency aspects, as well the learning opportunities which are embedded in doing real world projects. Another positive aspect arises from the legacy – for the young people coming after those who achieved it (assuming they do), its a powerful statement of what’s possible; and for the group who achieved it, their ties to the place and attending values will likely be enduring.

Why PBL?

24 02 2014

A list like this can be really useful, both as a memory refresher, and also as a model. The task is still primarily about awareness building, while pbl remains closer to the periphery, despite being “in transit” to the centre of the teaching and learning universe…

Buck Institute of Education