Magazine article Technology & Learning

Scratch That: MIT's Mitchel Resnick Says Kids Should Do It for Themselves. Here's How

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Scratch That: MIT's Mitchel Resnick Says Kids Should Do It for Themselves. Here's How

Article excerpt

Mitchel Resnick is a researcher, inventor, and professor at HIT's Media Laboratory in Cambrige, HA, and the founder of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at HIT. He is the lead innovator behind many cutting-edge learning technologies and projects for children, including the Computer Clubhouse, PicoCrickets, and the wildly successful consumer product, Lego Mindstorms. His latest innovations surround a product he calls Scratch, a digital creativity tool that helps facilitate expression, communication, concepts in interactivity and programming, presentation development, and community-based learning. We asked Resnick for his thoughts on his latest project and what effect technology should have on the way we teach and learn. Here are some highlights. For the full transcript or to listen to an audio podcast, go to techlearning.com and search on Resnick.

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T&L: What does "Lifelong Kindergarten" mean?

MR: The Lifelong Kindergarten Group has been the name of my research group for maybe ten or fifteen years now. We've

worked on many different projects under that banner. By looking at the way children learn in kindergarten, we developed what I call the "creative learning spiral." In many of the best creative thinking experiences, you start with imagination, you come up with an idea, you create something based on your idea, you play and experiment with that idea, you share it with others, you talk about it with them, they try it out, and they give you feedback. Based on that experience, you reflect upon your ideas, you think about what happened, and that gives you new ideas. Then you're right back again at the beginning with imagining--at which point, you keep on spiraling out with new ideas based on this concept of "imagine, create, play, share, reflect, and imagine." We can see this spiraling concept working really well in most kindergartens. So we ask ourselves, "Why can't we take this same approach to learning and bring it to learners of all ages?"

T&L: What are the concepts behind Scratch and its attempts to make technology more personable, more meaningful, and more accessible to kids?

MR: The first thing is to make sure we think of technology in terms of a material that kids can do things with. Too often today, a lot of technology delivers something to the kid. I think too many technologies are trying to create an experience for kids or deliver information to kids. The more that you give kids control over the technology and allow kids to shape the direction of the technology, the easier it becomes to connect with their personal interests and passions.

T&L: What has been the reaction?

MR: It had a rocky start at the very beginning because there was so much demand. On the first day, our server crashed. But the problem was stabilized quickly and we've been able to support the community well since then. The things I'm happiest with and most surprised about have been the sophistication of the projects people have created with Scratch--things beyond what I imagined could be created with the language we developed. Even more so, I've been impressed with and pleased by the diversity of projects kids have created.

One example that comes to mind--there is a girl in Ireland who instead of making a game, started to make some animated characters. She put these characters online with a message that said, "1 like making animated characters. …

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