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I attend a lot of technology conferences. I attend a lot of education events. At both sorts, we talk a lot about new tools, about the future. But there's often (at least) one thing missing from either: kids.

It isn't just that these events aren't "family friendly" (whatever that means). It's that all too often, we're so caught up in the tools and the future that we forget the key verbs that should precede both: the building and the making. Moreover, we often overlook the importance of involving children in that very construction.

I spent the weekend at Maker Faire, one of the most amazing -- and I'd say most important -- education/technology events I've ever attended.

We are quite adapt in this society of preparing children to buy technology. And while we still struggle preparing them to use technology, I think we're recognizing the importance of that more and more -- the necessity of tech skills for future academic and job success. However we fail to do our parts if we don't prepare children to build and tinker and make.

The various projects and crafts and hacks on display at Maker Faire exemplified the creativity and innovation that I fear we neglect -- in technology and in education. In the case of the latter, it's because we emphasize linear thinking and problem solving (not to mention multiple choice testing). In the case of the former, it's because we value tools that will generate sales and profits.

I saw some of the most amazing things this weekend. I saw metal, mechanized, mobile giraffes. I saw fire-breathing trilobytes. I saw kids in awe, kids asking questions, kids making and building.

And contrary to a lot of the tech events I attend, where there are very few women present, I saw a lot of girls deeply involved in Maker Faire today. We need more of this.

This is what (STEM) education should look like. And this is how we build the future.

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Audrey Watters


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