The Digital Workshops

Five workshops were designed to prove that low-cost digital project-based learning is feasible. The process involved was first curating materials that were easily accessible to most classrooms. Inexpensive materials and tools meant children are free to iterate; the workshops can be scaled and conducted multiple times. Thus, creating an opportunity for long-term exploration and reflection.

How low can you go!

Digital workshops can be expensive to run, and private digital workshops are out of reach of most children. Digital project-based learning can quickly add up in cost for schools and community centers with small budgets. We explored using low-cost materials and readily available crafting tools to conduct digital play-based workshops. It also encourages co-learning in circumstances where trained professionals are unavailable.

Why does digital learning matter?

Our lives are intertwined with technology, and that is true at all levels. Children born in the last decade have had mobile computing and digital media part of their daily lives. To them, there is nothing '"new" about new media; it just media. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, schools have had to flip a switch and offer digital learning resources as an alternative to full-time schooling. As a result of which project-based homeschooling has become the new normal for this time.

The Workshops:

Following is a brief overview of the workshops and the variable material cost per child. Fixed one time cost like buying a pasta maker or microcontrollers are not included. The variable material cost per child for each workshop was less than $1 CAD.

  • The first workshop introduced the participants to circuits and conductivity. The task was to wire a cardboard house and get the LED to light up. It used tin-foil, a pasta maker to make conductive foil strips, a gumdrop LED and a 3V battery. 
  • The second workshop built on the first and introduced a kid friendly microcontroller(Makey Makey). The participants built a game controller using tin-foil and the Makey Makey to control games in Scratch. They used craft paper cutters to cut out buttons and make their circuits.
  • The third and fourth workshops built on the skills previously learnt. In the first part the participants built a contraption to launch a ball into a cup and later linked it up to a wireless microcontroller(Microbit) to keep score. 
  • The last workshop was not based on physical computing. The participants used an old iPhone 5 and a small light box to create stop motion animations. This had the participants collaborate on ideas and design animation shorts. This workshop was implemented as an ongoing solution for kids at the community center to engage in digital media creation.

Some of the outcomes from the workshops:

  • The facilitators were non-experts and we participated alongside the children, problem solving as we created the projects.
  • The facilitators felt they will be able to conduct these kinds of digital workshops in the future and were interested in broadening their skills sets to support the children.
  • The children asked questions like "Why is foil conductive" and "how can we make our own game in scratch"
  • They made unexpected circuits with foam balls.
  • The community centre is now going to continue offering digital workshops and has ten stop motion stations in their computer lab.

To see some of the outcomes and tools created to conduct the workshops please see the tools section of the website.

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