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Education

Peter Dalmaris interview on the Sentral Station podcast: Maker Education 

 February 20, 2021

By  Peter

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being Colin Klupiec’s guest on the Sentral Station Podcast (Apple Podcasts, Spotify).

Sentral is Australia’s leading cloud-based school management platform trusted by more than 3,000 Schools.

Colin and I had an excellent discussion, where I had the opportunity to present my view on some of Education’s most important challenges.

For example, Colin challenged me to explain what do I mean by my statement that STEM is not a curriculum, but an approach to education. Or, are we focusing too much on STEM, and if yes, what about other subjects? What can we learn from Star Trek (and why Star Trek should be required viewing and discussed in schools)?

You can listen to the two parts of the interview by clicking on the links below. You can also read the full transcript.

If you want to discuss any of the topics we touch, please feel free to leave a comment.

Full transcript:

Part 1

Colin:

This podcast is brought to you by Sentral. Helping schools work smart.

Peter:

That’s why, I use Maker Education instead of STEM education to describe the project-based or broader type of educational approach to learning that I think is necessary in order for the current generation growing up to be able to deal with problems in 2050 and beyond.

Colin:

That’s Peter Damaris reflecting on some of the deeper issues surrounding STEM education. And my guest today on Sentral Station. Hello, Colin Klupiec.

Peter Damaris is an online educator, engineer and electronics hobbyist. Peter has a diverse background as an educator and learner. He’s been an academic for over 15 years and has been involved in education in various capacities for over 30 years.

Peter talks with me today about STEM education and why he thinks it’s more than just a curriculum and rather that it’s an approach to learning. To understand this approach, we talk about a wide range of things which go beyond the technical details and get right into the philosophy of why we should be thinking about this at all.

Peter is truly passionate about what he does and even has a dog named Einstein. In fact, we got so deep on some issues that we’ve split this interview into two parts. When talking about things as diverse as how to become a chef and Startrek, it just seemed appropriate.

I started by asking Peter just how he starts the conversation when talking about STEM as an approach to learning.

Peter, you’ve been involved in education, mainly technology-based education for a long time, a couple of decades now, and you’ve also been a technology academic.

And so you would have seen or had plenty of opportunities to see curricula develop over the decades. And STEM is just one of those. You say on your website, though, that STEM is not just a curriculum, it’s an approach to learning.

When I read that, I thought, okay, there’s a very wide statement. Some people might go, well, okay, what do you mean by that?

How do you start that conversation with teachers, you know, about the approach?

Peter:

Yeah. Well, thanks for having me on, Colin, first of all.

It’s a good question.

As you probably guessed, it is one that I receive relatively frequently.

STEM is an acronym. It began as STEM, with individual letters, meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. And that meant that there are four core “traditional” subjects that come together and create a new kind of curriculum.

But over the years this has evolved.

I come from an engineering background. As a kid, I always tinkered with machines, usually breaking them apart. Almost always, I had failed in and putting them back together.

I never took time, really, to think about the individual components of knowledge that came together by whichever engineering mind or team came together to build those things. I just saw the end result as being something that works, which has a particular purpose, perhaps solves a problem or it has something useful.

That led me to what people refer to as “Maker education”, which is itself an approach to learning and to teaching.

If you think about Maker Education, unlike STEM, it’s not an acronym.

According to Maker Education, education should combine whatever knowledge needs to be combined in order to create something. That something could be like a VHS video recorder, like those that I broke apart when in my younger days.

That they could be a mobile phone or it could be a satellite or a spaceship, and they are created as a project. In order for whatever we want to build to be built, we need to combine a lot of different kinds of knowledge.

I was listening to another podcast this morning when I took Einstein, the dog, out for a walk.

Colin:

Wait a second. Your dog’s name is Einstein?

Peter:

Yes, we have a dog called Einstein. There’s a story behind it, but let’s leave that discussion for another time. The podcast I was listening to was about a habitat in Hawaii, about 5,000 or 6,000 meters above sea level, on a volcano. NASA uses this facility to simulate Mars conditions.

The objective here is to learn how to train people who will need to spend a lot of time – like months and years – in isolated conditions. These astronauts can’t take a walk outside without a spacesuit. They’re stuck with five people (their crewmates), and that’s it.

You can imagine all the knowledge that must be brought together for a project like that to succeed. You obviously need a whole psychology team to help out with people and the relations in an enclosed environment. But you’ve got a lot of technical engineering problems. You’ve got a lot of project management problems. You’ve got the science that these people need to do, which could be geology, for example, it could be electronics, communications. It could be the management of the management team. It’s a huge effort.

Of course, you can’t strictly call this a STEM project, even though very often NASA projects are seen as STEM projects. The acronym STEM would need to be much, much bigger if you wanted to be more accurate. And that’s why I use the term “Maker Education” instead of “STEM Education” to describe the project-based or broader type of educational approach to learning that, I think, is necessary in order for the current generation growing up to be able to deal with problems in 2050 and beyond.

Colin:

Would you say that it’s more like your approach is something that you do rather than something that you know, as in STEM education or Maker Education is something that you’re involved in and it’s something that creates things and you do rather than attending a class and learning about something, saying, I know about that?

Peter:

Yes, I think that’s correct.

It’s not about what you know even right now. It’s your mindset. Your mindset that, “yes”, I can learn whatever is needed in order to deal with a future situation that, perhaps, I cannot even suspect or imagine right now.

I want to give an analogy here.

Let’s say that you are interested in becoming a chef.

So, you go to a chef school or cooking school – I’m not sure what the appropriate name for that is. You want to become a chef, so you go to the school, and you learn how to make, I guess, a Neapolitan pizza, particular types of cake, baked foods, maybe various types of bread.

You can see each of those as individual subjects, either in a strict STEM curriculum or in a traditional 20th-century type of education where you do your mathematics, you do your geography, you do your history, your English, physical education, et cetera.

Each one of those is the equivalent to the pizza Neapolitan dish for the chef, types of bread, baked dishes, et cetera.

Now, let’s say that you learned those individual types of dishes. Would you call yourself a chef?

I wouldn’t.

Because what you know at that point are specific types of dishes. You need to start making connections between what you’ve learned in order to understand at a deeper level what it is to be cooking an amazing meal.

The same thing applies to a student.

In order for a student to come out of school and say that “I’m educated”, they need to be able to make connections between all the different things that they have learned in school. They can’t just say that “I know mathematics, therefore I am educated.”

And there’s a lot of contention about – that’s something that, very often, teachers argue is that society is very complicated today. Which means that every other year, we need to introduce new subjects in order to make sure that we cover all our bases. And, again, that is not in the spirit of what STEM education, in particular, would make education all about.

Because the fact is that, we don’t really know what kind of subjects will be needed in the future.

And, therefore, my radical proposal is to not have subjects anymore.

Colin:

Well, it sounds to me like you’re almost suggesting that we need to consider what kind of a person someone becomes after they’ve, in inverted commas, completed their education or as they go through their education rather than what their test scores are and what they know.

And we’re going to talk a little bit more about that in just a moment, because I think that’s that’s a very deep question to ask. Straight away, though, I would imagine that you’d get some pushback. So when you speak to teachers, oh, here’s my approach to learning. They go, hang on a second. I’ve been teaching for decades. I’ve got an approach to learning. I get my grades.

You must get that sort of pushback, right?

Peter:

Look, in most cases, teachers that I speak with, they tell me about the difficulties they are facing at a technical level. The difficulties of applying this new thing, STEM education. The fact that they need to learn new tools, they need to learn new subjects – as the word is, new subjects – to deliver them in a way that it will combine those four subjects that make up the STEM curricula.

That is non-traditional, to begin with. Because, you know, teachers are trained to deliver one or two subjects at a time in the school. They put four of them together, so the difficulty here has to do with what do I do first? How do I train myself first? How do I become confident enough to be able to transmit that knowledge to my students? How do I know whether I’ve done a good job? How do I assess a STEM curricula if I don’t use the traditional methodology of grades and exams?

So, all those things are mentioned to me as problems by teachers.

What do I think the response should be to those questions?

My answer stems from my experiences as an educator, and I’m not claiming that what I’m suggesting is the only right approach. The approach depends on the person that is doing the teaching and the circumstances and the resources.

What I would say would be to relax, first of all. Very often when we are getting into a new situation, it is confusing and overwhelming. And that means that we are not in the best, I guess, mind position – a mindset position to be able to deal with the stress.

So, first of all, relax.

Second, stop thinking about the individual four subjects in STEM or whatever other versions of STEM you want to take into account and implement in your school.

Think about projects.

Change STEM education into project-based education, because now that gives you a new context, a new grounding. Now, you can start thinking about projects.

What is a project?

I’m going to give a very broad description. A project is an exercise by students, ideally, more than one because projects work better when you have a small number of students involved in it.

The purpose of a project is to give students the opportunity to explore.

You can give other definitions of what a project is. You can put on your project management hat on it or your head and then give a different definition.

But in my opinion, as an educator, a project is an opportunity for a group of students to explore and, in a way, eventually, discover themselves, discover what they’re good at.

We don’t really get that opportunity in the traditional education system. Certainly, when I was a student, primary, secondary, even at university, my project is whatever my professor or my teacher would assign me. It would involve doing a little experiment, collecting literature, and writing a report, and that’s it. There is a little bit of exploration there, but there is almost zero discovery. I never was able to figure out who I am, what is it that I like to do through those projects.

What I’m suggesting to teachers is that, instead of thinking of STEM as you got to teach students these four subjects and combine them as much as possible, the point there is not about the combination, it’s about the opportunity for students to explore.

Colin:

It sounds to me like you’re trying to reinvent the notion of the project because I think if you look at the way education is now, the seeds of project-based learning have certainly grown in the last couple of years and it seems to be quite popular.

I’ve seen that in classrooms, classrooms that I visited just recently. But I guess what you’re trying to get across is for people to realize the full potential of what this might be and to ask deeper questions about the outcomes within the students because sometimes it almost seems like the project is more important than the outcome that it brings in the student.

Not that teachers, would actually actively think that, I’m sure that they would like to think that there was some greater value, but it’s good to keep this front of mind.

What other subjects, though, might take a different approach to this?

Because, for example, music might say, well, look, we’ve got an approach to learning and, you know, music is not a project or some people might think it is, but music might have an entirely different construct.

Is it fair to place that sort of a burden on STEM?

Peter:

I don’t know what “fair” means in this context.

Colin:

Well, let me just explain that a bit further because there’s so much attention in the media about the importance of STEM. You know that governments are talking about it. Universities are talking about it.

Schools are talking about it. People are doing all sorts of stuff about it.

And it seems to be enormously important.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, is music, for example, also enormously important?

Peter:

Yeah, I got it. I think you are referring to neglect – a neglect issue there, right? So, if we put a lot emphasis or attention to STEM – and, again, STEM in the narrow sense, not the project-based sense. But those four subjects, maybe plus one, a lot of people put STEAM, and add the Arts there as well. I guess music is part of that. But I still think that STEAM is just still a very narrow description of what we’re talking about here.

So, my answer to that is, it really doesn’t matter. When you stop talking about STEM and you start talking about either Maker education or project-based education, then you’re not confined by any classic subjects or subjects in the classic sense of the word. I’ll give you an example. So, I am not a musical person, instead I’m an engineer.

I like listening to music.

But I don’t know how to read music or I don’t really understand the mechanics behind it in terms of a written note in a musical canvas, how does it translate to a key on a piano.

But I was playing around with an Arduino project, and its purpose was to actually play a musical note. So, I did have to understand some of the fundamental concepts of music and notes because I wanted to translate a musical piece. I think it was just like a jingle, a musical piece written in musical notation, I needed to translate that into a program.

So, I need to figure out frequencies versus musical notation and how does it apply on the piezo buzzer that I will use to make the noise.

So, I did jump into the world of music for, maybe, one or two hours, which is the longest that I have ever done. So, you could call that STEAM, but again, I call it a project, because that allowed me to explore another dimension of human knowledge, which I didn’t have the opportunity to do so before.

I did have the opportunity now. It made sense to me to go over a bit of Googling, because it’s the other thing that, growing up, we never had the opportunity to have the human knowledge in our fingertips just a search away. Now, we do.

So, again, if you look at Google, Google does not allow you to search based on the category. I want to search mathematics on Google, and then you click on the drop down menu, select the human knowledge component that you are researching, and you just search.

It’s just one single search bar, musical notes. That’s it. And that same page contained scripts, and it contained frequency charts, and it contained other bunch of things that I found very useful.

So, again, just to go back to your original question, I don’t think that there is a risk of neglecting any part of human knowledge when we are really interested in implementing a project-based curriculum or a Maker-type education.

Colin:

Let’s just take you for a moment, because if we’re talking about projects, problem-solving, et cetera, we’re assuming then that someone is the beneficiary of the solved problem, which means that someone is either very relieved or consuming a product that has just been created, which previously didn’t exist.

So moving more to kind of a philosophical argument here, are we just creating a world of problem solvers and consumers?

Where to citizenship, for example, where citizenship play a role, and we were talking about this earlier, as in what kind of a person does someone become if they are a good maker and they’re good at making projects and solving problems?

What kind of a person do they become?

Peter:

Yeah. Well, first of all, I don’t see any problem with consumption and being a problem solver, especially being a problem solver. I think it’s a really, really good thing to have going forward. In the past, we had problems solved for us.

We were very good at a very narrow type of problem solving.

So, we’d have the same job for, like, 50 years. I actually still know people that are in the same job straight out of university. And that is becoming less and less prevalent these days. So, most people don’t even have a job. They have lots of jobs at the same time.

They are like contractors on Fiverr or online, you know, doing a little bit of this and that. But then, I guess it helped push us towards that with communications technologies.

But anyway, yeah, first of all, I think we need all kinds of people and especially citizens. So, we need problem solvers. We need consumers. We need makers.

Maker is a word that I use interchangeably to mean a creator, like, someone who creates something new. It could be a work of art. It could be a new gadget. It could be a software application. It could be a Mars habitat or technology that we need to get there. But we need even more diversity today as compared to the past, because the world is a more complicated place.

So, now, just to touch on the question of citizenship for a moment, because I think that is important. The days that we live, we just witnessed around the world quite a few challenges to the democracy.

Colin:

Yes, I think our friends and I think our friends in America are asking themselves what citizenship is all about.

Peter:

Is it over valued?

Well, you can’t really have democracy without citizenship.

And what citizenship means is to be able to understand the world around you and to also be mindful of the challenges in the way that information is shared and provided.

Technology is a big part of that.

We all know Donald Trump with his Twitter feed and how much havoc something like that can bring about.

Now, imagine in 2050 what Twitter is going to be like, what Facebook is going to be like, and what the technologies. We have no idea about what they’re going to be like that allow us to connect brain to brain and spread all kinds of information.

If we don’t understand how those things work today, imagine what the situation is going to be like in 2050 in terms of being a true citizen. Again, mean, being involved in public political discourse, to be able to discuss ideas, and to be able to identify sources of information, to be able to write them according to the risk profile, truthfulness profile, and all that.

So, that takes us into a territory where information itself becomes extremely powerful, even more powerful than what it is today. It used to be gold. In the olden days, it used to be gold, it used to be water, it used to be stuff, physical stuff.

It’s now information.

And if the next generations are not able to somehow discern the truthfulness of different sources of information, then, obviously, citizenship is not going to be possible.

Colin:

Wow, that’s a bold statement to find out what happens next. Make sure you listen to the following episode where I dive a bit deeper by exploring how the writers of Star Trek provide a window into how this emerging reality will affect our next generations.

You’ve been listening to Central Station. If you’ve enjoyed this story, who would like to hear insight from other inspiring educators? Make sure you subscribe to Central Station on your favourite podcast app or wherever you get your podcasts. This podcast is brought to you by Sentral. To find out more, visit the website Sentral.com.au.

Part 2

Colin:

This podcast is brought to you by Sentral. Helping schools work smart.

Peter:

What I’m suggesting to teachers is that instead of thinking of STEM as “I’ve go teach students these four subjects” to combine them as much as possible. The point here is not about the combination, it’s about the opportunity for students to explore.

Colin:

That’s Peter Damaris reflecting on the need for students to explore. And my guest today on Sentral Station.

Hello, I’m Colin Klupiec.

Peter Damaris is an online educator, engineer and electronics hobbyist. In this second part of my conversation with Peter, we begin with the notion of students exploring when it comes to STEM and Maker Education. It’s not so much about the combination of subjects but exploring the possibilities of solving problems and making great projects. And we started this part of our conversation by considering how some of our greatest fiction writers have imagined what this might look like.

So it’s no surprise that Star Trek gets a mention.

Peter:

Again, that’s a whole new discussion, perhaps a whole show.

Colin:

Well, let’s go there briefly because you just mentioned the word “the next generation”.

And of off-mic prior to this interview, we did talk about Star Trek, The Next Generation.

And I think some of our fictional creators have already started to wrestle with these questions.

And I wonder sometimes, I mean, look, you know, I like tech just as much as the next person who likes tech. But sometimes I just wonder, is this world just overly technological? Sometimes I just like to walk away from all of it. And our friends at Star Trek there have, you know, they explore new worlds and they go where no person has gone before. And they encounter worlds, planets, civilizations which have chosen to foster the arts as opposed to technology.

Like they’ll turn up at a planet which, you know, which is full of philosophers and poets and everything seems to be working just fine. People seem to be living life.

And, you know, sure, they don’t fly around the place at warp speed and maybe they don’t just visit their relatives in another star system. But everything seems to be okay.

Why did we go down the technological path and can it be something else?

Peter:

Wow. That’s a really good question.

Okay. So, I’m going to inform myself from the Star Trek science fiction to answer this question. And I think we talked about that earlier as well. I encourage teachers to please select Star Trek episodes in the classrooms and have discussions about them.

Colin:

I think that’s an excellent idea.

Peter:

So, I think it’s worth, I guess, sacrificing one hour of history to play science fiction from the 24th Century.

Remember, you can Google history. I’ve actually learned a lot more history by reading books in the last year than I’ve learned in my 12 years of school study and the curriculum. But it’s, again, a different topic.

So, let’s go to your question. So, there is one episode in Star Trek: Picard, which is one of the new series of Star Trek, where the team goes to a planet where it resembles very much what you said, Colin, it’s like a civilization that looks from the outside.

It looks like it’s stuck in time at a time where, you know, they had wooden houses, and they used fire to heat themselves, and they had a veggie patches outside, and all that. Let’s say, medieval earth.

It turns out that they had a very high tech reactor that was providing energy and protection from other species. And the Star Trek crew had actually – I don’t want to talk too much about this – but the point is that, they were not really stuck. What they were stuck on was a a lifestyle, but they were using extremely high tech in order to support that lifestyle. Not to mention population control.

Seriously, I don’t see – just to go back to the roots of your question, I don’t see a way for humanity to not become an advanced technological civilization unless it disappears because of an asteroid impact, or global war, or a pandemic.

I think it’s a one way road.

Technology has to become better and it has to become even more widespread than it is now, because it is the only way for our species to survive. I don’t see a global agreement for our civilization to stay where we are now.

It’s not possible to go back without war, without a total destruction, a global scale destruction.

We can’t go back even if we say let’s stop here for a moment or for the next 300 years. I don’t see that everyone’s going to agree to that. There’s many reasons. So, we can’t stop, that’s the point.

So, I think the other part of your question was whether it’s an overly technological world. I think it’s not overly technological yet.

Colin:

Really?

Peter:

Not yet. You can go in the outback of Australia and you’re not connected to a network, you’ll be fine. The same thing with – essentially, I was traveling recently to Queensland and there are patches along the freeway up there where a reception is pretty bad and the kids were upset. I can’t get video stream. It’s buffering for too long. Anyway, so it is possible. How long it’s going to last? I don’t know. Now, here’s the thing, is it good or bad? And I don’t like using words like that because I don’t really know what they mean.

Colin:

Well, I guess none of us can really know, because, one, you know, I wanted to also ask, what if STEM not my thing?

You know, what if the only thing that makes me, let’s go back to the music thing. Right. Let’s say that I want to be a concert violinist.

What if that’s really the only thing that I want to do? And I just music is my focus.

And sure, there are technological advances that can help music students and can and have done enormously wonderful things for the production of music, etc.. But sometimes, you know, I’ve been to performances by the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Sydney where there was virtually no technology involved, barely a microphone on the stage, and yet thousands of people utterly captivated by what they were seeing.

Now, what if I was the person on that stage producing that music? And that’s the only thing that I wanted to know about.

Can I live my life successfully without exposure to STEM or is it can I just not escape it?

Peter:

It’s always possible.

Again, I say that the society that we live in is extremely complex and there are always niches that are possible to provide the opportunity for people to live in almost any way that they want, including in conditions that were available to us in the 15th and 16th century.

So, I can’t say no.

But I will say that it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be able to live a fulfilling life.

Fulfilling is a word that I use to say a life that I’m happy with, right? And that my social circle is also happy with because we don’t live in isolation. So, while it is possible to just say I’m just going to live a life with zero technology, it is very unlikely.

I’ll say that the concept that you attended may not have had any apparent technology on stage, but it was supported by a lot of technology.

Just a booking system, I guess it didn’t just show up, “Here’s a booking system.”

All of the musicians probably have a banking and credit cards and mobile phones in their pockets.

Oh, yeah. It happens.

Like, I decided to explore my guitar again. My kids got a guitar and then I thought, “Maybe it’s about time for me to play guitar.” So, I didn’t look up a human teacher.

There are applications that actually listen to me playing the guitar. And then, on the iPad screen, it’s showing me whether I hit the wrong string and how to fix it. And in real time, it gives me feedback on my timing and how I’m playing the notes.

This is an artificial intelligence teacher now. And I guess any any child today that wants to perform music at the top level will need to be using technology of some sort to complement the teacher.

So, again, I don’t think it is likely that, at least at the top level of human performance, you’ll be able to avoid using technology. You have no choice but to use it.

And just to conclude with this question, I would say that, just like up to the 20th century, it was possible to live a life that was fulfilled by knowing how to read and write.

Now, my grandfather lived a happy life.

He finished, I think, third year of elementary school. He was able to read and write.

But he would not live a fulfilled life in the 21st or 22nd century because those skills are just insufficient.

Like being a citizen, for example. if everything is online and you only are able to read and write, you can’t use a computer, how are you going to get the news?

How can you choose the source? How can you assess that the source is good enough?

So, there needs to be some kind of effort from teachers and from parents, actually, especially inside the house, to help students, help people or the future citizens, I guess, to be able to use technology.

Not necessarily dominate their lives, but they need to be technologically literate to be able to have a fulfilling life.

There’s no turning back.

Colin:

I think you’ve defended that very well.

And I think the struggle is just an indicator of my own existential frustration and pondering something that I’m going to have to back. So we said at the beginning that STEM is not just a curriculum.

Do you think that there’s a risk of having created some kind of a silo problem by formalizing it as a curriculum?

And I mean, let me ask it to you this way, because talking about silos is a very popular thing to do.

Let’s rephrase it. Did we just bypass or miss out on an opportunity to talk about a thing without making it into a curriculum?

Like is it possible to talk about math at a really crazy high level at school without having to call it something like math extension two or three?

You know, can we do STEM things, can we do certain things without having to say that we’ve had to formalize a STEM curriculum?

Peter:

Yes. I don’t see why not.

To tackle this one, I would say, first of all, in a way, talk about STEM education reminds me of subjects of the 20th century – just more of them. So, now we had the math silo in the 20th century.

Now, we have math alongside a couple of other things, a couple of other subjects. So, STEM is now the subject. And if you do a Google search online, you’ll find STEM curricula. Not just mathematics curricula, you get STEM curricula.

Now, you got math and then you’ve got, say, programing in there, the technology part where you apply the math in a computer program.

So, yes, we do have a new type of silo. Again, that is not a bad thing necessarily. It’s part of the evolution of education.

Whoever is in charge of the various education systems in any country, top-down, bottom-up, they are suspecting that things are changing. That we need to intervene in the way that we are teaching students because our society and technology is changing. But we are, in a way, grounded to the things that we are familiar with from 20th century education. So, back then, we had subjects.

Now, we’ve got subjects again.

But it’s just that these subjects are kind of different. And because we don’t want to be reinventing the wheel constantly, we just bundle them together and we’ve got like a soup of subjects called STEM.

Again, I think it’s just a necessary step of our evolution as educators and as education system to the next step where we’re going to say, you know, “This can’t keep happening.

The acronym STEM gets getting bigger and bigger and bigger as we’re introducing more subjects.

It’s time to just let it go and call it a project-based education.” Or, just call it education, where instead of treating human knowledge as a collection of siloed individual components for knowledge, let’s call it human knowledge. I could say education is, at least – I came up with another definition of what education is.

But let’s say that education is a lifelong pursuit for all of us to achieve a number of things.

Those could be technical things, like, “I want to get a better job,” for example, “make a living, have a house with a pool.” It could be as existential as, “I want to find my spot in the world.” And even deeper, “I want to find out who I am.

What am I doing here?” And, again, this is something necessary as we get into a world where artificial intelligence is starting to question what the hell are humans supposed to be doing here. Like, it’s crazy.

You talked about music earlier.

There’s someone, a researcher, who has created artificial intelligence that builds original music to a Beethoven level.

So, they put other musicians, accomplished musicians, to try and discern which piece of music was created by Beethoven and which one was created by the artificial intelligence. And the results are just pure chance, 50-50. They get it half of the time.

Which means that, the artificial intelligence has taken over something that was uniquely human.

Not to talk about chess, for example, or other types of games or strategy games that required some kind of human spontaneity.

So, we are going to have to figure out what it means to be human. And I can’t see how else we could do that without lifelong education. Not about subjects, but really exploration of ourselves, and our world, and our place in the world.

Colin:

I can just see your school being developed now where STEM is a mandatory subject.

And the mandatory prerequisite for that mandatory subject is Philosophy 101 and philosophy 102.

You can’t come into STEM unless you’ve done those two subjects.

Peter:

You know what I would do?

I would just say, “Come in for a STEM curriculum. I’ve got the best STEM curriculum on the planet.”

But that would be just pretended curriculum.

It’s like a cult, when they come in, it’s totally different. It’s not what I expected.

Actually, we don’t do any STEM here at all. We just do projects and we just let – yeah. We just make projects that have meaning for ourselves. And we use projects as an excuse to explore.

Colin:

So can we.

Now to just a practical issue here and I think we’ll finish with this concept.

How do you then help people do that at schools?

Peter:

Well, I’ve got to say that I’ve got my own online school, so my opportunity to talk with teachers and help them are not many.

I did talk to teachers as one-on-one, essentially, random situation. But what I can do, if anyone is interested, is to have a chat and explore what your, I guess, STEM difficulties are.

We talked about some of them a bit earlier, and I’m happy to have similar discussions with anyone who wants to talk to me. I am not a STEM consultant for schools. I’m an educator.

I’m happy to share my experiences and, I guess, my methods and my approaches to education with anyone who is interested. And I think that’s what I can offer.

Colin:

Have you found that network to be growing over the years?

Do you find that there’s a growing interest in this in this way of thinking, if I can put it that way?

Peter:

Oh, yeah. Definitely. Across the world. I’ve seen that growing.

I’ve done – I call it – a STEM education summit earlier last year, 2021 – I’m sorry – 2020 as a response to the pandemic.

And we had people from all around the world, educators and teachers from all around the world, who were exchanging ideas.

Now, I don’t think I’d be able to do something like that three or four years ago. But it’s something that it’s in the forefront of teacher’s attention right now.

So, yes, I think it is something that is growing, and I think that it is in the right direction.

The first step to dealing with big change, whether it is climate change or education change, is to identify that there is a need for that.

There is a need for change. And then, for people to start digging and exploring and, eventually, they will find the right way forward.

Colin:

Well, it’s been a real inspiration and also very entertaining to talk with you this morning. Peter, thank you so much.

Peter:

Thank you, Colin. Okay.

Colin:

Sounds like a very interesting future indeed. You’ve been listening to Sentral Station.

If you’ve enjoyed this story and would like to know more about Peter’s work in Maker Education and STEM then check out the links in the description for this episode and you’ll find details on how to get in touch with Peter there as well. I’m sure he’d welcome questions from anyone interested in getting a major education or STEM program up and running in their school. If you’d like to hear more insight and great stories from other inspiring educators. Make sure you subscribe to Central Station on your favorite podcast app or wherever you get your podcasts. This podcast is brought to you by Central.

To find out more, visit the website sentral.com.au.

I’m Colin Klupiec.

Thanks for listening.


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Interview, Poscast, Sentral


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