2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Meeting Up with Their Inner Child

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Mitch Resnick

Mitch Resnick

Members of MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group Visit TC to Talk Scratch

By Siddhartha Mitter

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all tap into the kind of uninhibited creativity we possessed as young children?

That’s the premise of the Lifelong Kindergarten group, a research team based at the MIT Media Lab that created the Scratch programming environment and is dedicated to “helping children grow as creative thinkers.”  

On a Wednesday evening in April, a group of TC students and faculty from a wide-range of disciplines gathered to hear Karen Brennan, a visiting guest lecturer from MIT, talk about how Lifelong Kindergarten incorporates design and creativity into different learning experiences. Brennan described an approach that, beyond using technology to create video games, “helps young people to become designers of interactive media.” In one example Brennan cited, a student wanted to create “flashy shoes,” inspired by sneakers that light up. Within an hour, she’d installed lights on her boots that blinked. Brennan pointed out how “personally and culturally resonant” this project was with the student.

Brennan’s presentation, “Designing, Personalizing, Collaborating, Reflecting: Supporting Young People as Designers of Interactive Media,” was part of a five-part series on recent trends in human development and technology that was coordinated by Cameron Fadjo. The entire series was captured by TC’s Media Services for remote users enrolled in the online course ‘Technology and Human Development,’ taught by Fadjo, an Instructor in the Department of Human Development. The guest lectures were captured using Tegrity, a web-based system that allows users to watch the presentations on their own time.

Brennan’s visit to TC as a guest speaker for Fadjo’s online course developed into a larger institutional collaboration between the Institute for Learning Technologies at TC and the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Media Lab. That following Thursday, TC hosted the inaugural Scratch Educators Meetup in New York City, arranged by Fadjo, Brennan, Michelle Chung, the Scratch team project coordinator, and Mitch Resnick, who is the Academic Head of MIT’s Media Arts and Sciences program, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group, and the Lego Professor of Learning Sciences at MIT. The Meetup offered some 45 classroom teachers, after school coordinators, researchers and museum staff, hailing from New Jersey, Philadelphia and Connecticut, hands-on experience and training using Scratch.

“It was phenomenal to have Mitch Resnick and Karen Brennan join us,” Fadjo said. “Together they have shaped the trajectory Scratch is taking in educational circles and they continue to significantly influence the different ways Scratch is being used by teachers and technology coordinators to foster creative thinking and learning.”

At the Meetup, Brennan led a discussion on getting started on a first project. Fadjo explored computational thinking as means of exploring theoretical ideas applied to an actual classroom setting. Resnick spoke of interactivity and ways to make projects interactive. John Santiago, of H-TINK, an event coordination company that seeks to spread technical learning and creative-problem solving skills to as many people as possible, facilitated a dialogue on making video games and Scratch.

After the Meetup, the participants ate dinner together, and the teachers shared best practices with the group.

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