As you might know, a group of us are here in the US to attend the ISTE Conference and Expo in Chicago. The sheer scale of the conference means that we had to divide and conquer the sessions (even then we’d have only covered a fraction of it). But there was one talk that all four of us showed up and scored front row seats – a session by Mitch Resnick, founder of Scratch and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab. Saturday Kids started 6 years ago as a side project running Scratch classes for kids, and in John’s words ‘without Mitch Resnick, there probably will be no Saturday Kids.”
Short of sharing a full recording (which we don’t have), here’s a few notable excerpts from his talk.
On creative thinking
“We’re living in a world where creative thinking is more important than ever before. Kids are going to be confronted with a number of unknown and unpredictable situations and the ability to come up with creative, innovative solutions, to new problems is critical to all kids regardless of what they grow up to be and work on. And it is important for all parts of life, not just the work life, but the way they interact in their community and personal lives. If you go to a lot of kindergartens these days, you see a lot of kids filling up phonics worksheets, and flashcards, kindergartens are becoming more like the rest of schools. But what we (at MIT lab) want to do is the exact opposite, and to make the rest of schools more like kindergartens.”
On the 4 guiding principles at MIT Lifelong Kindergarten
“We always want to be supporting kids working on projects, based on their passion, in collaboration with peers, in a playful spirit. We know that kids, and adults as well, will work harder and are more persistent in facing challenges when they work on things that they care about, and they also make deeper connections to the ideas when they work on meaningful projects. When we talk about connecting to kid passions, some kids will be passionate about building robots, but not all kids. We want to make sure that all kids have ways to connect with their passions, so we are always trying to develop technology and activities, where there’s many pathways where different kids can use them in their own ways, to connect with it with things they’re really interested in. I think a lot of the best learning experience happen when you start with something you’re comfortable with, and then you reach out to try something new.”
On the new Scratch 3.0 (new and exciting development)
“Today’s kids are brought up in a world where there’s a lot more devices that responds to voice. We don’t want kids to only be using those devices, we want them to be able to create devices like that, and we want to expand Scratch to have those capabilities where kids can make their own projects that respond to voice commands. We want to make Scratch into a hub where we connect things to the physical world. A big part of what we do with Scratch is to make it as intuitive as possible for kids to use, and to be creative in the physical world as well as the online world.”
On ‘new’ technology
“We try not to be driven by what’s the new technology of the day. We always want to make sure that it’s something that’s going to connect with the kids’ passion, that they can use it in collaboration with peers, and used to create their own projects.”
If you want to learn more, get a copy of his book “Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play” (and let us know what you think!).