I was reminded of our conversation and also the main points of his keynote presentation as I read an article on the plane back from #BETT2017. The article was written by Professor Resnick in the new 'hello world' and was a tribute to his late mentor Seymour Papert (more about Seymour later).
Anyway, Mitch is a personal education hero of mine and most importantly he also likes cycling (he has even cycled in Scotland!).
Now, if you have not heard about Mitch you should know that he is a LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research (how cool a title is that) and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab which explores how new technologies can engage people (particularly children) in creative learning experiences.
Professor Resnick's research group developed the "programmable brick" technology that inspired the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit. He co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a worldwide network of after-school centers where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies. His team also developed Scratch, an online community where children program and share interactive stories, games, and animations.
Mitch’s achievements speak for themselves but the thing I want to stress here is the fact that he was a thoroughly nice guy. For all he has done there was no ego or arrogance. Just deep and unquestionable enthusiasm to make a difference. I loved chatting to him over Ice cream as we talked about the development of Scratch and other MIT projects. We even had a great chat about the Picocricket (which was just years ahead of its time in STEAM related maker activities).
Mitch gave the opening Keynote on the first morning of the 2016 Intel Education Visionaries conference and he didn’t disappoint.
He started talking about some of the very early ‘maker’ projects he was involved in with young people such as the construction of gerbil traps, roller balde speedometers and diary security cameras. He emphasised the importance of these projects. Not because they were necessarily important you society or the economy but because they were so important (passionately important) to the young people who had designed and constructed them. He stressed that, “education needs to build on interests and by doing this develop deep ideas,” that, “Making and coding a great way to share with others,” and that, “sharing is the best way to develop creative thinking”.
Next Mitch went on to explain the four Ps of Creative Learning Projects, Passion, Peers and Play.
Mitch quoted Dale Dougherty the founder of make Magazine who said, ‘The Project is the basic unit of making’. I quite agree. Far too many ‘maker’ activities are about following a set of instructions to make product that may or may not solve a problem. Rather than students finding a problem and then deciding on who they will solve that problem through the trial and error of a project based approach.
A good example might be code.org where students follow the turotial to make the sprite move rather than working out how to move them themsleves or better still allowing creativity to flow and allowing the learning to decide how they want the sprite to move or dance or spin around?
When Mitch talked about passion he warned the audience of the dangers of badges rewards and points. Rightly he described this as extrinsic motivation which the research shows can make you more efficient (because you want to get a short term reward) but it won’t make you more creative.
Referring back to Scratch Mitch suggested that the diversity of the projects in the Scratch community which include games, drawings, animations and videos demonstrate that many of the people within the Scratch community are indeed following their passions. The ability for people to be able to follow their passions in return is one of the things that makes the community a success.
One of the most well know Scratch users is Ipzy and she is a great example of someone who is following their passions.
Peer based learning is still one of the most powerful ways for everyone to learn.
On of the reasons that Scratch is special is because it is a programming language and an online community. The two have always co-existed and shouldn’t be separated.
Everything Mitch said on Play resonated with me. I dropped the term Games Based Learning years ago, instead preferring the term ‘playful learning’.
Seymour Papert (one of Professor Resnick’s mentors and author of the book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas) uses the term ’hard fun’ and the challenge that Mitch set was ‘how do you create hard fun?’. He also encouraged us to explore tinkering suggesting that in his experience there wasn’t many things better to help you discover and create a playful spirit. One of my favorite books ‘The Art of Tinkering’ also got a mention.
In the Question and Answer Session that followed the presentation lots of good questions came up. Including the need to also teach knowledge and how you can then build on this knowledge through the use of projects and discovery. Tony Wagner supports this idea in his own research on transforming education and creating innovators.
Other links mentioned:
- Brightworks School, San Francisco - A school that uses real tools, real materials, and real problems to encourage students’ love of learning and curiosity about the world.
- ScratchED - the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide
- Build in Progress - A website that lets you share what you build as you build it.
BTW - I'm slowly moving all my content over to a new server and a new version of olliebray.com (watch this space...).