/ Cory Doctorow / 3 am Wed, Oct 4 2017
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  • Lifelong Kindergarten: how to learn like a kid, by the co-creator of Scratch

    Lifelong Kindergarten: how to learn like a kid, by the co-creator of Scratch

    Mitchel Resnick is one of the most humane, accomplished and prolific creators of educational technology in the world, one of the co-creators of Logo and Lego Mindstorms, and founder the MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten group, where the open source, kid-friendly, open-ended Scratch software development tool was born; in a new book (also called "Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play") Resnick analyzes the extraordinary successes that have emerged from his kid-centered view of learning with technology, sketching out a future in which kids program their classroom computers, not the other way around.

    Scratch predates the widespread adoption of networks and computers that kids could freely use, but from the start it was designed to be a collaborative tool, taught through a network of "Computer Clubhouses" around the world where kids gathered to engage in open-ended technological play that involved solving mathematical problems, making art, imaginative play, building working programmable robots, and mentoring and tutoring each other.

    After thirty years of this kind of wonderful hands-on experience, Resnick has distilled his approach and that of his mentors and peers (notably Seymour Papert) into four principles: "Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play." Resnick urges us to move past the debates over "screen time" and the default assumption that computers are a way to pour knowledge into our kids, focusing instead on creating open sandboxes with "low floors" (easy ways to get started), "high ceilings" (ways to chain together tools tools to make sophisticated projects), and "wide walls" (lots of paths to expertise to accommodate many learning styles).

    Scratch is a project that evokes real passion from its users, who amaze their teachers and parents by throwing themselves into complex, multi-day projects that rope in peers and strangers from the Scratch network in a way that is both ambitious and intensely satisfying. Rather than learning subjects through an orderly progression from basics to advanced material, Scratchers pick up knowledge -- from algebra to animation -- as needed to slot them into their projects, in a way that panics curriculum designers but produces integrated understandings that go deeper and are more useful than any linear progression.

    "Lifelong Kindergarten" -- filled with interviews with Scratchers, stories from Resnick's lab, and reports from his grad students' dissertations studying Scratch and its outcomes -- is a hopeful and irrefutable alternative to the current mania for standardized curriculum, flashcards, standardized testing, and "accountability" systems that substitute rote learning and measurement for real passion and engagement.

    Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play [Mitchel Resnick/MIT Press]


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