Thursday, August 28, 2014

Uniting Analogue and Digital

This week I had the privilege of visiting Taupaki Primary School in a rural area just outside Auckland.  I was invited by a friend who is on the school board, who said, 'you've got to see our 10-12-year olds rapid prototyping and digital printing their own design projects.'  

Wow! It was worth it!

Principal Stephen Lethbridge is a true visionary who has brought technology to the School, but also and perhaps more importantly sees technology's role in uniting parents and children, parents with the School and the school with the community.

Here's how:

The thing that struck me was that the digital innovation was clearly present (Stephen's office looks like a cubicle at IDEO), the 'analogue' world was equally represented and celebrated.  There was a school garden and the workshops were still producing bird houses.  Stephen emphasised that he sees the analogue and digital worlds both very necessary and he works to unite the two.

For example, when I visited what looked like a 'home ec' (home economics) classroom, there were sewing machines that reminded me of similar classrooms from my high schools days many years ago.  But, the teacher, Kim (whom Stephen hired via Twitter) who, having spent time working in London, came home and studied teaching technology.  Kim pulled on a glove that had been sewn by one of her students.  With Stephen applying a battery charge to the leads, the glove lit up with tiny LED lights.  The project these 11-year olds were working on was a bike safety challenge--designing clothing to make riding a bicycle safer (riding a bike is incredibly dangerous in Auckland).  Analogue glove meets digital lighting!

Taupaki School is currently on its third generation of digital printers, whereas I doubt that my Business School owns one digital printer.  That is the scary part of this visit, to think about how we are going to challenge these students when they arrive at the University in a few years' time.

The recurring challenge for educators at all levels is to not lose touch with or appreciation of the physical, analogue world as we embrace the digital frontier.

Updated 23 November 2014

Here's what management consulting firm BCG says about the intertwinement between the physical/analogue and digital worlds in their fascinating project called, Now is The Time.  In their 4-dimensional report, BCG walks their talk by presenting analysts' commentary in text juxtaposed with photographic imagery.

"The Two Sides of Connectivity. Companies live in a multichannel world of bits and bricks, and they need to be masters of both. The physical world is being remade through massive spending on infrastructure. About $40 trillion in infrastructure spending will be required over the next two decades – rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure of mature markets and constructing new roads, railways, airports, shipping stock and telecommunications networks in emerging markets.
Digital technologies, meanwhile, are becoming embedded in everyday objects, everything from refrigerators and televisions, to roads and buildings. The “Internet of everything” is fundamentally blurring the hard distinctions between the physical and digital worlds."
You can find some more of Stephen's thinking on his blog at or follow him on twitter  @stephen_tpk

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