Over the last few months, we have looked at various ways to reuse and recycle your tech and the different tips you can use to save energy and be sustainable with digital signage. We’re now delving deeper into the educational ways and innovative techniques that you can use to repurpose your technology. Let’s discover the many aspects of reducing tech waste that can make a positive impact on the environment whilst involving students by learning within the classroom.
We recently spoke with Flickernet’s Phillip Anley, an IT Teacher and creator of Flickernet Tinker, who is dedicated to repurposing and reusing tech whilst incorporating that into hands-on learning. Phillip told us about how incorporating old technology into teaching can be fun and educational,
“Teachers love to reuse old materials. That can take the form of previous lesson plans, tinsel or posters with curled-up edges rolled up in the back of a cupboard for the next time a topic is visited. Computer teachers are no exception. We also need to cover the same learning objectives each year. Livening up that old familiar content adds fun and presents an opportunity. The Computer Science curriculum requires pupils to be taught and more importantly to understand what is inside a computer and how it works. Most schools that teach computer science and some that don’t, retain a cupboard of old computer parts. These vary from the impressively ancient to the almost-current.”
Mass production of technology
“So many PCs were produced in the years that followed the “dot-com” bubble, that there will not be a shortage of such demonstration parts for a very long time. Billions of computers scattered throughout the dusty offices, bedrooms and garages of untold millions of IT practitioners has resulted in a deluge of PC technology. Those of us who are old enough, remember the 1990s when PCs cost more; were bigger; slower and less common. Even some of those still survive (full disclosure: I keep one running!)
Yet once the Pentium 3 era arrived, with DVDs and the newly accessible Internet – the explosion in take-up was rapid. Suddenly everyone wanted a PC (or a translucent iMac) to multitask their day. Only the arrival of mobile phones – also conveniently boasting the Internet, but with easier-to-operate apps in place of unwieldy applications – could begin to slow the traditional boxy PC dominance. Cue mountains of discarded mobile phones, many of them hundreds of times more powerful than the PCs that came before.”
“Much has been written about the eWaste situation on our planet. It is now understood more widely that rare Earth resources are being wasted; that poorer nations are being used as dumping grounds and that the health of many is threatened by environmental pollutants stemming from the toxic chemicals contained within these devices.”
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“From a teaching perspective, it might be thought that educating the next generation about the situation: stark facts and worrying maps, is all that can be done at this stage. That and using up some old PC components to explain the inner workings of personal computers. In fact there is more that could be done. Physical computing is an idea whose time has come. It describes a range of methods that bring teaching to life through connectivity and practical use of existing technology.
Children engage with learning by doing; problem-solving; applying their skills and their own resourcefulness to accomplish a given task. Headteachers these days are on the lookout for targeted questioning; retrieval practice and above all, interested pupils. Teachers, for their part, want to deliver fun and interesting lessons. It is not enjoyable or rewarding to be stuck in front of thirty eager faces all of whom expect the next hour to be an interesting, productive and worthwhile endeavour – if the materials on which that lesson is based are flat, tired and uninspiring.”
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
“Old, sometimes broken, junk can make for great lessons. To be clear, I am not just talking about Computing here, not just IT or Computer Science lessons either. Every subject can benefit from hands-on, connected equipment. This is the very same mass of wires, screens, buttons and batteries that would otherwise be heading to landfill or another untimely end: branded as ‘junk’, ‘worthless’ or ‘defunct’. There is an abundance of old technology just waiting to be deployed in schools, if the leadership of those schools are willing to be bold and adventurous with what is already freely available to them.”
“School CPD improves the skills base for teachers in many subjects. Physical Computing skills are value-added because they cross departmental boundaries.Providing our teaching workforce with these new skills is to empower them for cross-curricular resourcing. Great teacher support organisations such as STEM and the NCCE exist to provide and promote new approaches to learning, with low-cost resourcing and the opportunity is surely a welcome enhancement for teachers.”
Safety & other considerations
“It is important to emphasise that only low voltages – which pose no danger – are ever used. Although the equipment may once have been mains voltage powered ( ie 240 volts), to use it again in a classroom environment it must be kept within a safe voltage. I use four types of kit for connecting, and thus being able to code, the recycled equipment: Micro:Bit, MakeyMakey, Crumble, Raspberry Pi. The latter of these, Raspberry Pi, is the most expensive but also has the greatest potential. The others cost in the region of £20.”
“We teach our pupils to code using visual coding systems such as Scratch / MakeCode or using text level, for example, Python. All of these interfacing kits work with all of those coding options. Each creates a link: conductivity then code. The difference is concrete over abstract. Rather than looking at a screen for the output, pupils can see something much more exciting happen: Science experiments incorporate sensors, materials and outdoor-capable structures that would otherwise not have featured in the laboratory stores.”
“If it conducts, then it can be connected. If it can be connected then it can be coded. If it can be coded then it has a new potential existence. All that is needed is a new vision for that old tech – an awareness of how it can be brought into a fresh classroom context. Teachers are imaginative. They like to explore new options. There is an opportunity for Physical Computing to re-energise our lessons where progressive teaching can be matched by innovation in the ways that technology, old and new alike, is leveraged for maximum pupil benefit. The missing link here is an understanding of how to connect these devices so that they can be programmed anew. It is not that difficult and once shown how, teachers can apply the same skill to any number of educational scenarios.”
“PE races can be triggered and recorded through ingenious contraptions on the playing field, History comes more alive with Roman soldiers waving spears and flashing angry red eyes. I feel so privileged to be teaching at a time of technological plenty, those old iPads can still do wondrous things. The motors in that toy car can move a robot, meters, gauges and dials can record information in new ways.”
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“Let’s use the excess ‘junk’ to inspire pupils and in so doing let’s avoid waste. For more information about Physical Computing, or to become involved in the ‘Space To Learn’ and ‘Tinker’ initiatives then please visit www.flickernet.net/join.”
It was great to hear from Phillip and discover all of the exciting ways that old tech can be reused and incorporated into lessons whilst having fun in the classroom. If there are any ways that you incorporate old technology into your teaching and want to share your experiences with sustainability, get in touch to let us know. If you’re interested in discovering more about TrilbyTV sign up for a 30 day trial or find out even more by booking in for a free demo.