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April 7, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Innovation in K12 Education: Project Based Learning and Play

Mitch Resnik on “Lifelong Kindergarten: Design, Play, Share, Learn” at Stanford. Mitch, in a recent article in Edutopia points out:

If this approach is so well aligned with current societal needs, why do we so rarely support it in classrooms? One reason is that our society and our educational system don’t place enough value on creative thinking.

Another reason is a lack of appropriate media and technologies: Wooden blocks and finger paint are great for learning kindergarten concepts (such as numbers, shapes, sizes, and colors). But as children get older, they want and need to work on more advanced projects and learn more advanced concepts. To do that, they need different types of tools, media, and materials.
This is where I believe digital technologies can play their most important role. If properly designed and used, new technologies can extend the kindergarten approach, allowing “students” of all ages to continue learning in the kindergarten style and, in the process, to keep growing as creative thinkers.

In my research group at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we’ve been developing new technologies specifically to support the kindergarten approach to learning. For example, we’ve collaborated with the Lego Group since 1985 on a collection of robotics construction kits that enable children to imagine and create interactive inventions in the same spirit as kindergartners build towers with blocks.

Recently, we’ve developed a new programming language called Scratch, which brings the kindergarten learning approach to the computer screen. With Scratch (available as a free download), children can create their own interactive stories, games, and animations and then share their creations on the Web. A vibrant online community has developed around Scratch, as users present more than a thousand new projects on the Scratch Web site each day. Some 250,000 people participate in the community, most of them ages 8-16.

He also points out that new technology is only part of the answer. For Resnick and other innovative education leaders like him, its about creating “design, create, and invent” both inside schools and outside.

Core takeaways from MIT Media Labs Lifelong Kindergaden from Mitch Resnik’s talk at Stanford:

Design, create, and invent in the physical world
But in the digital world–they are mostly consuming. We can turn this around. To design, create, and invent in the digital world.

1) focus on project based learning
2) focus on play
3) focus on student-centric learning & passion (applied in both kindergarden and graduate school)
4) focus on practical problem solving
5) focus on the spirit of kindergarden
6) some outside the classroom learning
7) support activities & support structures for facilitating student passions
8] Everyone likes the physical world & experience (not just kids)
9) Can do media & virtual words too, in conjunction with physical world (particularly for modeling of complex systems)
10) Challenge to integrate individual/personal passion into group projects & collaboration (connect similar interests or complementary skills in an “organic way”)
11) There is a distinction between emergent collaboration and the order of “you 3 work together”
12) Scratch can change education–mirroring the use of Logo before it. Also, scratch mirrors snapping Legos together to create “media rich projects and share in an online community” Its programming for novices. Its accessible & tinkerable. Its about meaningful projects (not just generating list of prime #s). Resnick also points to the interesting program of Alice at Carnegie Mellon which is 3-D, but it unfortunately isn’t as meaningful & personal & social as Scratch. They’ve had 1 million projects in 3 years from kids around the world

[You can get some of the core concepts in the first 12 minutes of the video]

Creative Design Spiral from MIT Media Lab: A Key Innovation Process Visualized

One Comment

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  1. compassioninpolitics / Apr 7 2011 4:18 am

    Mitch mentions the work of Mimi Itto on teen online anthropology:

    “Kids today are learning outside the boundaries of formal education,” Ito says. “Technology is allowing them to access information and craft their own identities in unprecedented ways, without interference from parents or teachers.”

    In a recent study, Ito and 28 other researchers interviewed more than 800 teens and spent thousands of hours observing them on social networking sites over a three-year period. Their research forms the basis of a new book, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, which examines the intricate dynamics of youth culture in a digital age.

    Ito’s team found that – contrary to what adults may think – adolescents develop important life skills when using the Internet or such gadgets as iPods and cell phones to play games, socialize with friends or search for information.

    They’re able to grapple with social norms, explore interests, hone technical abilities and experiment with self-expression. And teens have embraced the digital world, Ito says, because it facilitates self-directed learning and independence.

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