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.


TalentLab: React with the environment session I

On November 23rd, we began the second TalentLab workshop “React with the environment” at the Institute for Environmental Diagnostics and Water Research (CSIC). First of all, we adapted the seminar room to our needs: the chairs with a built-in table (to take notes) were replaced by a pair of tables and some extra space. Instead of a speaker, we had some researchers and some teachers willing to work, following the instructions and activities proposed by Irene Lapuente from la Mandarina de Newton S.L.

Participants were divided into two groups. Following a similar pattern as we did in the first workshop, the groups were introduced to co-creation dynamics through various techniques to generate discussion within each group. This time, the main topic to work on was environmental chemistry.


The first activity, the creation of collages, was used to inspire an initial discussion. The participants showed their main interests and concerns about the environmental chemistry and, from there, the groups established some lines of interest. The first group presented a “chemistry balance” which plays an important role in the issue of risks versus benefits. They put the following example: the use of DDT and malaria. The second group linked water contaminants (mercury, tin, cosmetics, etc.)  and the need to stimulate curiosity and emotions to deal with this problem.

Then, both groups performed an exercise to anticipate how would be the future and what woulb be the goals for 2030. The first group presented the newspaper called “Now & Today”. They highlighted problems in water, energy and food in the context of a city. The newspaper of the second group was “TalentNews”. They highlighted the following issues: energy, water and climate change. Interestingly, both newspapers had only scientific news and none of them talk about politics, culture or sports.

When they defined the profile of the final users of the educational resources (mostly secondary students), they presented not very motivated or active students.

Once we had done these three activities, we proceeded to make an affinity diagram. The different groups were asked to identify the most rellevant concepts and words that had come up during the session. Both groups stressed that research and action were two of the most important requirements to develop an educational resource.

After the affinity diagram, each participant in each group was asked to propose three activities that followed all we had talked about. Then the participants voted the proposals they liked the most. At the end of the session, each group agreed to pick just one of all the proposals. The first group chose a resource about carrying a research on an environmental problems around the school. They gave priority to the scientific method. Next step would be to choose one problem to be studied more closely and propose some solutions or actions. The second group proposed the creation of a research project related to current research using video to record it.

At the end of the session, we had a very interesting and rich debate. Next session will be on the 30th of November. From now until then, participants will go on thinking on these topics and they will work in an online platform.


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

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