2nd Edition TalentLab: 'Technologies from the Past' - workshop summary

On wednesday (January 23, 2013) we started the second edition of TalentLab with the workshop ‘Technologies of the Past’ that took place at the Residencia de Investigadores (CSIC-Generalitat de Catalunya). The session had an intensive work program. It began with a visit to the facilities of the Department of Archaeology of the Institución Milá y Fontanals (CSIC), where the in-house scientists had the opportunity to explain their research projects: from the study of organic and stone tools’ production and their georeferencing in collections, to the ethnographic and archaeological analysis of the constructions of the past, including paleobotanical and climate studies.

After the visit, we returned to the Residencia de Investigadores where the workshop activities, guided by Irene Lapuente from La Mandarina de Newton, took place. After a brief introduction to the project and to the structure of the session, the participants divided themselves into three working groups.

The materials (objects and images) that participants had previously selected were the starting-point for the first activity: a ‘warm-up’ to bring out ideas and start discussion within the groups.

The first group highlighted the still entrenched sexist image of prehistory, especially in the textbooks, and also the positive and negative dual side of technology that depends for what it is used for. The second group emphasized the role of technological production in the process of socialization and the emergence of humanity. Finally, the third group brought out the topic of the stereotyped archaeologists seeking treasures, which show up in movies (Indiana Jones, Lara Croft) and that blur the real motivation of an archaeologist: the interest in understanding how societies lived in the past. They also emphasized the need to be aware that archeological heritage belongs to everyone.

From these presentations came out an interesting discussion on the role that movies and TV have in developing people’s vocations. Participants agreed that this distortion of reality by the media could lead to frustration of the young teenagers that decide to venture into archeology.

Then the discussion move on to the importance of bringing students closer to real research and to promote their spirit of inquiry rather than simply transmitting knowledge. For the participants it was clear the need of reminding students, and society in general, that there is still much to learn. Then, the participants focused on the target audience of their educational resource project. From information gathered from interviews with real students, the groups had to identify their main interests and concerns and from here re-think their initial projects. Participants defined th priorities of their resources: the need for reflection and the need to move away from hackneyed subjects and, in contrast, to transmit veracity. Also which topics to avoid: the sexist vision of the past and the presentation of scientific facts as if everything was already known.

After a short break, the groups had to define the format of their educational resources and build a prototype or a scheme.

The first group thought of an activity in which, from object and tools images, the students had to identify and reconstruct the context from which they would have been extracted. These exercise would generate collective reflection about the objects, but also it would be a way to figure out what has been already discovered and what is still a scientific question.

The second group devised a board game, Evolupoly, as an assessment or synthesis activity. It would have the prehistoric eras represented on a concentric timeline and would end with the appearance of the first scriptures (in the centre of the board). The circles would be divided into boxes, each one corresponding to a series of questions that would test the knowledge of the students.

Finally, the third group proposed an educational resource with which the students, from images of ceramic objects, would build replicas and explore and deduce what they were used for. At the same time, this hands-on activity would be supported with information about the origins of the object and its historical context.

In the end, the participants voted for the best of the proposed educational resources. They chose this last project. After an open discussion about all the proposals that had been presented, we considered the possibility of incorporating ideas from the other resources into the winning one. Now, we must work on this educational resource with the collaboration of everyone!

You can find more photos in our Facebook page.

For more information you can also check out the website of TalentLab.

Laura Valls. Unitat de Cultura Científica Delegació del CSIC. 
Irene Lapuente. La Mandarina de Newton S.L.


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