Future tools

Our challenge is to rewire neighbourhoods to take care of teenagers tending to the specific needs of their age, addressing the formation of social emotions, vocation and self knowledge.

Europe’s population decline must be addressed not only regarding maternity and natural population decrease, but also promoting the dynamic and innovative qualities the younger generations always contribute to society. Making young people relevant, inviting them to our social life, giving them a frame to belong in a European future is the necessary counterbalance for our aging and shrinking population.

The rate of cultural change linked to technology has been constantly increasing and initiatives to educate our people must overcome institutional slowing down, if our societies are to participate significantly in the future.

Education, learning & the value of teenagers

Traditional educational systems are failing to take social changes into account. The inertia of national states behind educational institutions is failing to answer to the reality of communities that are experiencing social change at a faster than ever rate. The future we imagine cannot be reached following old pathways.

Teenagers are left out of social life, with no appropriate spaces or other activities expected from them, apart from attending compulsory school until an age that keeps rising as the human life cycle prospers. In a phase of life characterized by passion and vocation, loads of energy and bluntness, teenagers in Europe find themselves institutionalized and irrelevant.

«Future Tools» project is an acknowledgment of the value teenagers have for society: they hold our future in their hands. «Future Tools» is a space designed with caring attention to fit the needs of our young generation, aiming to connect them to a new world of opportunities by inviting them to work, to collaborate, to participate and to have a voice in their own community. We can now apply our knowledge about adolescence to provide a comprehensive environment in which teenagers can develop healthy social emotions, autonomous and egalitarian participation.

Provide an alternative to corporate uses of technology through the culture of the commons; spread collaborative habits in neighborhoods; build activities rooted in intrinsic motivation that bloom in communal benefit are some of the ways «Future Tools» will engage people in fostering a society with greater equality, solidarity and sustainability.

«Future Tools» is a common learning lab for teenagers. By offering youngster a place to gather and pursue their interests while promoting their autonomy, we aim to empower them to work for a better future. Sharing resources and interests in an alternative learning space, the culture of collaboration and the democratizing possibilities of technology, this place will have its roots in the neighborhood’s daily activities and funnel the parents’ interest in social promotion for their kids towards a more inclusive society.

The abundance of open resources that can be freely accessed through personal learning environments to learn digital skills —such as computational thinking, governance software, UX design, in fact any skills that we may need to implement our projects in the world— is an opportunity, never known before to such a widespread extent, to empower our youngsters to build a better future.

Neighboring environment

The neighborhood as a community comes to relevance in the task of «helping grow adults». The age group that most closely matches the Secondary Education stage in our culture has in the neighborhood its spatial range of freedom, just one step away from the wide world they will live in as adults. Connecting these neighboring communities to the global emergence of the digital culture as makers and participants through their own teenagers is a pertinent, strengthening link between local and broader communities.

It is urgent for these generations of parents and offspring to leap forward over institutional stagnancy and give ourselves the shared resources we can provide for our own borough, in every neighborhood, nurturing our tribe-prone teens from the gang to the team, by building around them the common ground for community.

It is sometimes sad hear stating that what is being promoted for innovation in the field of education —on the basis of empathic personal exchange, attention to the tempo, sensibility for intrinsic motivations, in short: the wisdom of caring for each other— are outdated methodologies. Digital tools offers a new breeze to these methodologies, an opportunity to enhance the soft aspects of learning and allow us to cast aside production-line techniques when it comes to our kids: lecturing, memorizing, exams, ringing bell schedules, curriculums and subjects. We can now afford those luxuries our industrialized schools didn’t plan for and, dragged by institutional inertia, won’t anytime soon.

Already up and running?

Hello again, @Altamirula . Your ideas about the future of learning seem more than reasonable to me, and in fact just yesterday I was at a conference where an educational policy maker kept referencing the idea of schools as learning hubs - questioning how to get there. Those of us in the room thought there’s little hope for  a radical makeover, except maybe through public-private partnerships - if you do like TOPIO in Greece - the girls in Thessaloniki do neighborhood youth empowerment through artistic expression, pretty beautiful it seems, hav a look?

What stage is Future Tools at, can we help in any way? Are you in Spain now? I can’t tell from the post…

Changes in educational methods

I like this idea of neighborhood driven education. In my home town we are also planning a project in this direction, so I will follow these stories with interest :).

The correlation between how you teach and what a child learns and ultimately which kind of person it becomes is a hard one. There’s so many different opinions on what is the best way of educating and each seems to have its merits. In practise there’s already quite some alternatives - at least in Belgium - like Steiner and Freinet schools. My experience with those schools is limited and I have not seen miracles. How does your philospophy relate to the existing alternatives?

Like @Noemi says, it’s a hard case for radical changes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There needs to be room for experiment, but education is important enough that we should prevent major failures, even for a small group. The norm will shift slowly as educators themselves learn. I think it’s that learning aspect that makes the difference. I hear the saddest stories while working with children. Usually it’s educators lacking insight in themselves and their practise, as well as a very static approach to their profession. They are factory workers: follow the protocol, complete the checklist, get good numbers.

However, more and more teachers accept change in the form of technological innovation because of this cult-like movement of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education that is now taking over. I shouldn’t complain, I am surfing that wave, but STEM has become a goal in itself. The A of Art is also too often left out of STEAM. The general idea of technological disruption is already rooted in many people’s heads, so it’s a small jump for people in the educational system to apply it to their field. Lots of schools in Belgium are implementing smart boards, apps, school fablabs etc. without much thought. Just new shiny tools, which in the end are not optimally used because there is no change in mindset. The teachers, the schools etc. rely on technology to avoid changing their behavior. Ironic, because reality is the opposite.

We do new biology education and that is our trojan horse: we can hide a new method in the new technological content that we bring. This also means that these changes to the methods won’t be too radical. What we do is accepted as a technological innovation, but hopefully the changes in method will add to the slow collective learning process on different methods.

Teachers or newcomers into teaching?

Enlightening take on technology education, I may be quoting you on twitter here and there, just a heads up :slight_smile:

@Big_Bang_Schools might add something to this and what Alberto writes - given that they have experience hacking “normal” educational institutions but have also gone on to found a new educational platform with its own type of schools and comprehensive framework. Angelos, I’m curious: which one did you find to be most needed or more effective?

The currency of attention

I may have a nihilistic view, but it seems to me that there is no conclusive evidence for any educational method to be inherently superior to others. The typical story is this: young, smart, charismatic teacher becomes dissatisfied with how things are done in schools. He or she proceeds to start a new school that immediately outperforms the average existing school on all relevant parameters.

Maybe the methodology really did the trick. This, however, does not explain why all methodologies seem to work so well: Montessori, Steiner, Ecole 42, home schooling… So, here’s another possibility: young, smart, charismatic people who care so much about teaching to leave a secure job to invent their own way of doing it are likely to be better than average teachers. They would do well with any methodology.

This would explain at least one case: that of the abandonment of the “notionist” paradigm in the West, supported by solid research results. Children schooled in the new way, more attentive to developing creativity and social skills, outperformed their traditionally schooled peers. But sure enough, 30 years later Western universities were flooded by graduates from very traditional Asian schools, and they kicked the Westerner’s asses to kingdom come.

It does not make sense that creativity-oriented schooling is both superior and inferior to traditional cramming-oriented schooling. What’s going on here could be regression to the mean. If you generalize any methodology to the mainstream you are going to get no more than average results, because this is what happens with average teachers teaching to average learners. I expect that the same will happen to generalized Arduinos in schools.

totally agree!

I don’t find what you say nihilist at all @Alberto , and I agree with your observations. Education is above all a human relationship, in fact a proxy of parental relationships. And it works better when the involved humans are intrinsically motivated to pursue it. But there’s one more aspect I would like to introduce in my mix: when dealing with teenageers peers are very important, from a world where family and parents are the center they have to evolve to another adult disposition where partners and friends are the center and family can be grown. Socialization is the elephant in the room and teenagers are in no mans land, we are not attending to their needs in this regard.

Hard to argue with that

Socialization is the elephant in the room and teenagers are in no mans land

Well, this is for sure. I guess our school system was designed in a context where socialization happened outside the school and peer structures were robust. And maybe they are not that robust anymore, and anyway teenagers have very little time. This, by the way, is danah boyd’s take on teens and social media in It’s complicated: families saturate teenagers time with what she calls adult-approved activities, and they escape into social media to Just Hang Out.