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Fabrication Labs as Serious Playgrounds for Meaningful Learning


Playful approaches to work have been suggested for speeding innovation and productivity in organizations (Meisiek & Hatch, 2008). Integrating conceptual frameworks of science and technology through a Play with Purpose paradigm has shown success in primary to adult learning environments (Hargis, 2001). A concurrent development in education is to encourage students to apply stages of design thinking (Brown, 2008) and share evidence of their learning as creators, including as builders and media developers (Kennedy, Boyer, Cavanaugh & Dawson, 2010). Design thinking practices closely mirror the characteristics of a constructivist learning environment (Jonassen, 1999). These trends converge in the fabrication lab (Fab Lab) as a studio for serious and playful design and construction by learners in disciplines including engineering, business, education, and media. Fab Labs offer numerous benefits in higher education including as an interactive studio for practicing professional skills and creating new approaches to problems of the domain not possible elsewhere. This paper explores the foundation for this convergence and proposes an interdisciplinary Fab Lab that supports learning outcomes in a range of professional degree programs.