Thanks to Students - been a fascinating experience. Some budding Scientists out there.
Favourite Thing: Rapid prototyping – making things quickly to test ideas
Godalming 6th Form College (1992-1994), then 3 universities: Birmingham (1994-1997), Surrey (2000) and Nottingham (2006-2009)
A doctorate in Psychology, a Masters in Health Psychology, a degree in Psychology, A levels in Maths and Economics.
Infant Teacher and Special Education teacher in various schools. Researcher in various universities.
I am a Research Fellow (a researcher)
University of Edinburgh
Me and my work
I look at how children use technology to see if it changes how they learn
I look at how children communicate their ideas, for example ideas about numbers, when they use different learning materials. These materials could be small plastic blocks (Unifix), or they could be digital squares that children move on an iPad or Nintendo wii. As well as investigating what children say, I look at what children’s hands are doing. Is it easier moving plastic blocks around on a table than sliding squares on an iPad? What happens when children can make big hand movements when they move squares using a Nintendo wii? Is it more fun? Does it change how they describe their ideas? Does it change how they work with other children? Does it help them learn? What do you think?
I then use this work to make new digital learning materials. This is the fun bit. I made some maths squares that you can Youtube watch or download free if you have an iPad (Called Digicubes).
The more fun bit is I get to play with, I mean test, new types of technology. One type is called Tangible Technology. This is where you have digital technology inside something like a plastic block. By understanding how different materials change learning, I can help people decide whether it is worth using these new technologies in classrooms.
I say classrooms, but another line of my work is thinking about technologies for very young children. Babies even. Do you think children this young should use technology?
My Typical Day
I work with children in school, return to my office, write some things, then test some technologies.
I think you could say I have about four different types of day. I can have a ‘investigating day‘ where I visit a school and work with children to see how different technologies change how they think and learn.
I have a ‘writing day‘, when I write down and use pictures to say what I found out in schools. I used to hate writing, but with practice and wanting to share some ideas, I now enjoy it.
I have a ‘presenting day’. This is where I tell people face to face about my work. It may be a conference in another county, it may be a talk in a local school. It’s my way to make sure people know what I find out, and let it help them in their work.
Finally, I have a ‘making day’. For me, this is designing, creating, or testing technologies for children’s learning. Look up something like ‘arduino toys‘ in google images to give you an idea of what I mean.
What I'd do with the money
I want to create a Digital Making day: children, teachers and researchers building together
I would use the money to buy some things to have a Making day using different bit of digital technology.Making things is going to be very important in the future. It is becoming easier to learn how to use technology, and we have some important new inventions on their way, like 3D printing – where you can print a real object. I would like to host a day where children, teachers and researchers get to have a play with some of these digital materials to help them make things.
The day will involve a bit of learning to program, using things like Scratch and Lego NXT (Google if you not sure what these are). But most importantly, it will involve getting messy: cutting and sticking with different materials like paper, cardboard, fabric, to design and make prototypes. A prototype is a design that may not fully work but is enough to share your ideas of what you could make with someone else.
Prototyping is an important part of becoming an entrepreneur. If this day goes well, it will be much easier to get money to do more with more children and more teachers. Then hopefully, this type of thing will start to happen more in schools.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Messy, easily-bored, genius
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Muse; James Blake.
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Err. Didn’t have a clue. Paid cinema critic?
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Often. Never my fault.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Maths. I loved that you knew when you had got it. And CDT – making stuff from wood.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Designed a learning toy for young children. Build it. And now sell it.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Seeing that scientists are involved in designing new digital learning toys
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
A professional harmonica player
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
My little boy stays safe, I change what happens in classrooms, obviously 3 more wishes
Tell us a joke.
What do you do if you see a spaceman? Park in it man. (Oldest are best apparently)
My office table
The type of technology I am designing (this one is from America)