I was (at last) able to listen to Dr. Mitchel Resnick’s keynote address from BLC 2007, thanks to Bob Sprankle’s podcast recording. I’ve heard Bob, Queyen Arana, and a few others mention what a fantastic message Mitch shared in the past few weeks, and as a result was eager to hear the presentation myself. These are my notes, paraphrases, and reflections from Mitch’s keynote. (I’m copying these from my hand scrawled notes!)

Rather than talk about us moving into or being in an “information society,” it is more helpful to say we are moving into and in a “creative society.” Focusing on “information” tends to support (even unconsciously) a pedagogical framework or learning paradigm for School of content transmission rather than knowledge construction.

In designing software and creative environments for learners, Seymour Papert often emphasized the goal of having “a low floor and a high ceiling.” This means technologies and learning environments should have minimal barriers to entry, and permit learners to grow into rich, diverse and complex activities.

Mitch also said they emphasize the idea of “wide walls.” This supports the idea of diverse learning pathways, multiple options for knowledge construction as well as assessment.

Mitch discussed the PicoCricket construction kits, which are linked along with many of his other projects and interests from his MIT website. When learners create with crickets, they are often able to engage in systemic thinking about design issues– patterns of thought which go beyond mere “chatter” and get to the heart of the creative design process. This is one of the goals of Mitch and many other learning designers at MIT.

Here is probably my biggest “takeaway” from Mitch’s entire presentation and message, and the reason for this blog post’s title: Merely consuming and interacting with media is not enough for authentic and meaningful learning. Often we see young people (as well as older folks) consuming and interacting with media, but the processes of thinking and learning which they generally experience when they remain in a consume/interact mode are far more shallow than those learners often have when they are actively creating, constructing, building, designing, and reflecting about this as an iterative process rich with feedback and conversations.

Many of the toys we see in the marketplace today, which may be marketed to develop student thinking and criticial thinking skills, really just permit interaction rather than empowering creation. The software, design, programming and robotics environments Mitch advocates for learners invite them to become developers and designers, not just interactors pushing buttons for algorithms created by someone else.

I think this is a rich idea in the context of digital storytelling as well. Sure it can be “entralling” to watch a great video on television or the web, but it is not necessarily engaging in the way Mitch is recommending. These ideas provide a good framework for thinking about the ways learners interact with, consume and create media, and help make a stronger case for the active CREATION of digital stories by learners. I am seeing the media choices learners have as a continuum:

Consumption – Interaction – Creation/Construction

Mitch emphasized the complex mathematical thinking which is possible when students use tools and environments like Scratch and Picocricket. The complex play and learning in which students can become engaged can build on interests and help students make connections not only with pre-existing schema/background knowledge, but also develop new schema and make new connections.

CREATE is the root word of creativity.
– the inventor of kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, was a designer who created learning environments so they would naturally encourage an inquiry driven, iterative process of creation and learning for students.

Consuming and interacting is NOT creating

Scratch permits students to start using numbers in meaningful ways to change things in the real world
– as an example, students can learn about the concept of a variable by adding scoring to a game they’ve designed

Computer programming should be like putting together blocks
– the focus should be on the task at hand
– learners should be empowered not to focus or worry on very superfulous details, like semicolons [THIS MAKES ME THINK OF MY OWN PROGRAMMING EXPERIENCES, ESPECIALLY DOING SOME RUDIMENTARY MODIFICATIONS OF SOME PERL SCRIPTS TO MAKE SOME CGI FORMS WORK. YUK!]

Kids need a supportive community to keep moving forward in their learning [MAKES ME THINK OF THE GREAT MOVIE “MEET THE ROBINSONS! I CAN’T WAIT TILL THAT COMES OUT ON DVD SO I CAN USE CLIPS FROM IT IN WORKSHOPS. THAT IS THE SLOGAN OF THE COMPANY THE HERO CREATES LATER IN LIFE: “KEEP MOVING FORWARD!” THEIR FOCUS IS ALL ABOUT INVENTION AND CULTIVATING A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR CREATION, LEARNING FAILURE, EXPERIMENTATION, ETC.]

Sometimes in Schools with educational technologies, we seek people trying to “put a sugar layer of entertainment on the bitter medicine of School”
– our focus should not just be edutainment according to that recipe or formula
– kids should be encouraged in school and outside school to do far more than build something according to a set of predefined instructions [THIS REMINDS ME OF ROGER SHANK’S BOOK, “COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES”]

We want the learning experience itself to involve constant playful experimenting
– that is where the real important learning is, and that shouldn’t be a rare experience or opportunity for students

The social context of learning is critical
– in social interactions, we have a lot of chatter but we also have meaningful interactions
– we want to focus on connecting the CREATION/CONSTRUCTION of things to social interaction, this leads to the meaningful interactions we want to support and emphasize
– in the first few months the Scratch website went public over 18,000 projects were posted, about 10% of those were remixes of project ideas shared by others [SHOWS THE NATURE OF CREATIVITY, REMINDS ME OF SOME OF THE VIDEOS ABOUT CREATIVE COMMONS]

Having an audience for feedback is essential to the creative process, also feeds into inspiration
– the most important sharing learners do typically takes place around acts of CREATING

Reflecting on your own experiences and the design process is KEY for learning
– talk about the spiral of design
– the advice kids share with others (tips) about how they recommend others approach the design and invention process are key demonstrators/indicators of learning

The most important learning takes place when things don’t go well, and based on thinking and feedback you change what you are doing

MIT is constantly interating tools and strategies for supporting learning
– students should also model this iterative learning and creative process
– this requires TIME

How can kids continue to go through the kindergarten style of learning throughout their schooling experiences? That is an essential question.

Overall, a GREAT presentation and SUPER ideas. Much to think about and reflect upon here.

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