On Play

calendar_today 20 February 2020

Storing notes for future reference mainly. Attended ‘Creativity, Robots and Research: The power of STEM with Dr Ethan Danahy‘ (from the Institute of Imagination). Photos from Wellcome Collection’s ‘Play Well’ exhibition.

Poster which reads Better a broken bone than a broken spirit
‘Better a broken bone than a broken spirit’ Marjory Allen

Environment dictates behaviour:

  • Dr Danahy begins his talk noting that as soon as we entered the room, we sat down in silence waiting for him to lecture us, which he says is due to the stage format. He asks us to consider how our environments dictate behaviour, so I wonder which environments stimulate education, innovation and invention respectively.
  • When asked what an optimum classroom looks like, he says ‘everything should be on wheels and adaptable‘.
  • The optimum classroom does not have to be ‘full of tech’ and asking ‘What kind of 3D printer do I need?’ is not the right question.
  • A variety of edtech including craft to LEGO to hi-tech is useful in regards to exposure and selecting the best tool to apply.

Acquisition of knowledge:

  • Information is widely available via Google (although not for everyone) - How do I solve this?

Employing scientific method

Image of Scientific Method graph
Scientific Method
  • Dr Danahy gave a good example of how metrics can be irrelevant when giving a task to his university students. He is interested in the method or ‘engineering design’ versus outcome per say.
  • If one student builds a bridge that stands but got there by chance versus another whose bridge took some time but employed design – who would you want as your civil engineer?

LEGO: Low floor, high ceiling

  • Activity: Dahany gave each person 6 lego bricks and asked us to build a hat to wear (an example of a highly constrained issue) on our head as we say hello to three different people. This was a decent ice breaker.
Wellcome Museum 'Play Well'

LEGO: Low floor, high ceiling

  • A client provides conditions/requirements. In design thinking models, this would be an opportunity for empathy.
  • The example given: Dr Dahany asks his students to consider his client, Abby a dachshund. Dachshunds are at risk of spinal injury and disease due to a genetic condition (chondrodystrophy). The back two legs can become paralysed and required surgery. Students go onto discuss problems they identify and build solutions to this.
  • Dr Dahany shares solutions included a food bowl that moved, a device that helps Abby walk, or go to the toilet and so on. His favourite: a student who built a device attached to Abby’s front leg and ear, so he could scratch his ear whenever he wanted too, a ‘problem’ no one ever concerned. Different people see different problems. He uses this to encourage us to allow students to come up with their own real-world opportunities.


  • Someone raised the question of assessment in regards to engineering design. Dr Dahany mentioned the knowledge/use of materials, effort and growth mindset being considerable factors, but no teacher loves to grade.
  • He encouraged peer/self-assessment which prompts metacognition. Sidenote: I think it would be cool to demonstrate this literally in future workshops i.e. an image of the brain, pointing to the paralimbic network. If students understand that our brains are wired for growth [introduce them to research], they can reflect/self-evaluate/question their own opinions.
  • I imagine ‘Learning journals’ would help here but this can be tedious. Maybe post-it notes of ‘Stuff that was hard for me today / new things I never considered’.
Loris Malaguzzi
Loris Malaguzzi