Open Prototyping for schools: a presentation

One of the topics I work with as part of my research, is the creation of prototyping tools for education and how they help the creation of new businesses around them. I find very important the use of open source tools as part of anything that has to do with the creation of new educational experiences. This is -in a way- in conflict with traditional business strategies. Protecting IP via copyright or patents is the basic way of getting revenues for many companies.

Electronic tools
(CC) 2009 D. Cuartielles, Tools for electronics prototyping

When it comes to education, and I mean pre-university education at schools and alternative centers, the curriculum is fixed by ministries at the different countries. At the same time, schools work with a series of certified suppliers that can provide them with materials for teaching. This makes really hard applying the viral-economy that supports projects like Arduino to the school system. Only some teachers with initiative will embrace the teaching approach we created for the blue-board-based educational tool. Some will finance equipment from their own pocket, some will convince their bosses to invest in new tools … but Arduino will have a hard time coming into play if the traditional supply chain is not getting interested in Arduino as a product.

Personally I think that Arduino has to move into secondary and high school education. First, the size it will get (we are talking to change from manufacturing hundreds of thousands to millions of boards) will make it cheaper. There is a rule in the electronics world: multiplying the production by ten divides the cost by two. Second, it will generate the biggest think tank in the creation of new electronic appliances ever, just imagine hundreds of thousands of kids prototyping with electronics. Third, the online tools it will need to work, will help us understanding the nature of the Web 3.0 where work, social, and embedded meet up.

I am going to be working with this at a conceptual level, as well as in the production of tools to make it happen. I will meet with big actors trying to understand which is the kind of infrastructure that is needed to make this vision happen. I am going to try to catch up with suppliers trying to make them see the potential of tools like Arduino and Processing. At last I will do my best to meet politicians to help them understand the value of learning about digital technology in a hands-on open way.

I have always said that the innovation investments by governments, when it comes to education, should be made into the open source field. Education has to survive companies. The chance for our kids to get the best education ever should not be undermined by the access to either technology or educational materials. If, when it comes to education, governments were demanding from companies to make things open source and creative commons, every kid would have the same chances to learn the best way possible.