I am very grateful for nephews that let me drag them around the city over March Break. This spring we returned to TIFF’s #digiplayspace (one of my favourite outings of the year) and the ROM for their futurology exhibit. There was no shortage of cool, wonderful innovations but two caught my eye.
Feltro: Felt building pieces for all ages
My nephews would have spent the whole day here if I let them. The creator, an OCAD grad, designed these trapezoid building pieces from felt that have magnets along the equilateral triangles within them. I know I am not doing it justice but if you check out their site it will all make sense. What happens is the pieces can then become an art piece on a magnetic wall, a bowling ball, a structure or as my nephews preferred: body armour. I loved the idea of creating a building material that kids of all ages (that means big kids like myself too) could play and create with. There were no end to the possibilities and the two facilitators where great at helping those that needed a push to start and challenging others like my nephews to think of something new. Definitely a new spin on our traditional concept of building blocks.
Pillo: Changing the rules of gaming
Often when I mention games to educators or parents they think isolated kids staring at screens with controllers or iPads in their hands never looking up. They ask themselves if they will ever know how to interact with others? Will they have huge thumbs?
It is one of the reasons I was so drawn to Pillo at digiplayspace. The object of the game: reach the highlighted circles by squeezing your pillow. The catch: one player controls left to right, the other up and down which meant you had to communicate and collaborate to win the game.
Both innovations left me with questions and implications for education.
Sitting in these beds of innovation, with cool gadgets and creations everywhere, I was reflecting on why Feltro and Pillo stood out to me. I think at it’s core I could see how both innovations played with the original definition of the category. It wasn’t just tech for techs sake. It wasn’t creating another version of the same thing. They both redefined my definition and preconceived idea of what a building material or video game could be.
We hear a lot about innovation in education: the need for it, individuals who succeed at it, the lack of it at times. Sometimes I wonder if we equate innovation with breaking the rules. Feltro and Pillo reminded me that perhaps innovation is more bending the rules. We often celebrate those who stand out and break the rules because they are taking risks. Definitely not easy but probably still the easier path. Bending the rules is much harder; taking what you know are rules and transforming them into something new. It has constraints. It challenges beliefs. It requires acceptance from the community and accepting where you are at the moment.
You may say “What’s the big deal: Break the rules, bend the rules, just change.” I feel often in education we equate innovation with the newest toy, the cool tool at the time or company of choice. That gives us excuses of why we can’t innovate. I don’t have this, I need that, you don’t give me this. Bending the rules requires nothing but creativity. We don’t have to wait for permission. Just like Feltro and PIllo it can start with our current definition and evolve as we innovate. Curriculum, structures, beliefs don’t become walls, just hurdles we use in our journey.