by composer and project leader Casper Hernández Cordes
Six days at an innovation camp, sleeping on the floor in a former hospital, eating in a cold tent outdoors (November is a cold acquaintance at these latitudes!), and we can now talk about “the prize winning project” Fonokolab!
Which is a great thing!! With this award, the project will have a huge advantage in the coming time, and it will definitely help us open doors to take it much further! We had not expected to win a price, and it is fantastic. It is however far from being the only good thing we bring from the innovation camp.
The mere fact of participating, being selected as one of 23 projects out of 116 applicants, has given the project a complete boost. Participating in the camp has driven the project from being a one man project, the one man being …. me, to a project that has attracted a team of highly skilled people, working closely with a school class and their dedicated teachers, Betti and Martin.
The project has been exposed to very diverse situations, each of which has helped us getting a clearer idea about the potential and possible weaknesses of Fonokolab. One of the central questions has been how people can actually learn using Fonokolab. Here, I would like to invite you to hear about the different actors, that have been into play in our story, and what we have learned from them.
The first actor entering the stage: The crew!
In the three weeks where we have been preparing and facilitating workshops for the 6th graders, the crew has played a tremendous role in developing concepts and ideas. My own prioritization has been to go step wise, introducing parts of the concept of Fonokolab in a way, where the work with the tool itself was taking place at the camp. This meant that the crew members – and the pupils – were actually not introduced to what I myself consider the core of Fonokolab, until the very end of the project….: the tool, with sound, animation and movement, using smartphones etc. “So THIS is what it’s about!!” was the reaction from the crew.
Why didn’t I introduce the core before? Does it make sense to progress step wise, – linearly – when working with a concept that is fundamentally cyclic? Was I nervous that the concept wouldn’t work? Whatever the reason: the reaction from crew members was positive. To an extent where I can now say WE, and it actually makes sense. The crew members, Joanne, Sorin and Kristine have seen a project and have gained a sense of ownership to it. They have been the first ones to try and understand how Fonokolab can be used, and how this can be communicated to others.
Lesson learned: GO FOR THE CORE. Stop beating around the bush, and show what the project is fundamentally about. Fonokolab is about learning through sound.
The second actor at the stage:
The pupils!! At numerous occasions we have experienced how working with these young people has been a generator for new ideas and ways of doing.
This is a photo from the camp, where I am working with a group of 4 pupils. After introducing Fonokolab, showing the mechanics of the digital tool, I suggest to the group that we start making a game, using the theme of a mouth, teeth, tongue etc. These two boys being “teeth”, however, interrupts me, saying that they are going to fence. Two teeth banging together? A new game, illustrating a part of digestion has been created: teeth biting, cake trying to avoid being bitten, going back and forth, “saliva” moving around teeth in figure eight.
At another point, a group of 5 kids moving on the floor each one with a smartphone controlling an animation and it’s sound. One boy suggests that all close their eyes. Me thinking, without saying: it will never work, they are going to bang their heads on the walls!! The group tried the suggestion, and we discovered a new thing: We were actually able to guide our movements according to the sound space created by the sounds in Fonokolab. The distance and position vis-a-vis the loudspeakers was a fully functional system of sustaining the group within a defined space, – and avoiding collisions!
Lesson learned: Wiring the brains of school kids to problem solving processes ads some completely new and unexpected solutions. The spontaneity and I-don’t-give-a-damn-attitude of the pupils helped us go places we wouldn’t have gone mostly because of our tendency to think in totalities and being too risk aware.
Let’s give them an applause!!
Now for our next actor on stage: The audience!!
Presenting Fonokolab at the innovation camp meant meeting various people from all kinds of backgrounds. Although there were not an enormous amount of audience, we definitely did learn a few lessons from those who came. For example there was a sound engineer, a father to an eight year old boy, and though the latter scolded his father saying, “you are NOT at work”, we got a very useful hint. Our way of creating a 2d sound space had so far been using volume an panning. Which is actually not working perfectly. This sound engineer suggested we look at fase as a parameter instead of volume. This should create an illusion of distance, and we could keep volume at a neutral level. There is certainly a path to follow there!
We also had a doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a school headmaster, and a lot of different kinds of people visiting our exhibition. All of them were able to contribute with valuable suggestions, about possible target groups, topics, and learning methods.
Lesson learned: Exposing your project to a great variety of professions will add new perspectives, and enhance different aspects of the project, both regarding form, content and design.
Applause for the audience!
Next actor: The coaches!
At AFSNIT I we had the opportunity to meet with to groups of coaches, and adding the two juries who visited us, we had a lot of exposure to critical and competent eyes. Our first coaching session helped us clarifying a very central point: Is Fonokolab a product or a service. During the session it became clear, that what Fonokolab does is so far from the reality of the standard class room, that even if we made a material that would explain everything, and even if we developed the digital interfaces, carefully embedding the concepts, so the user would be guided to make “the right choices”, the way of working that Fonokolab suggests is so foreign that the teachers definitely will need our facilitation.
The next coaching session led us in a surprising direction. So far, we had had the idea that Fonokolab would be used with what ever topic the class worked with. And it would involve any kind of learning. Through the coaches’ critical questions we came to see that this approach really didn’t make sense. Our focus has been sharpened and we are now able to see that we need to find 1-3 specific topics to work with. At this moment, we are considering the topic “Natur og Teknik” (science) to be a possible primary candidate. And what about learning? Does Fonokolab help in any kind of learning? No of course not. The second thing we learned was to ask in which situations Fonokolab does facilitate learning.
Lesson learned: Well actually, I had expected that we were going to be dragged through the usual stuff about how to make a business plan, and where to find the money, but what happened was the focus was on our basic concepts, and this is actually the most relevant place to put the focus. This happened, apparently, since the moment that it became clear that Fonokolab is not a scalable product, but a service..
Applause for the coaches and the juries!!
Next stage to enter: Collaborations with Danish schools, with researchers, with cultural and educational organisations!