On Thursday November 8, I had the great pleasure to meet one of my education heroes, the great Professor Mitchel Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group, part of the MIT Media Lab in Boston.
The Australian Computer Society and LEGO Education brought Professor Resnick out to Australia to speak in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne as part of their ICT Educators’ Global Leaders’ Series. He first came to Australia in the early 1990s with his Mentor Professor Seymour Papert. These days, Resnick is continuing on and expanding the great work of Papert and the constructionist learning movement.
Professor Resnick began by saying that he believes there is nothing more important in today’s world then helping young people grow up as creative thinkers. He said that in such a rapidly changing world, today’s young people will face a never ending stream of unpredictable situations in their life and to thrive in this type of world, the ability to think and act creatively is more important than ever before. However, unfortunately most school systems around the world were not designed to support and foster a culture of creative thinking.
The topic of his presentation was Cultivating Creativity through Project, Passion, Peers, and Play. This topic is based on four guiding principles that he and his team believes can support the development of creative thinking in young people:
Professor Resnick said the best way to develop students as creative thinkers is to provide them with opportunities to work on projects based on their passions, in collaboration with peers in a playful spirit.
Working on projects is one of the best ways to learn to code (and to learn anything really) but unfortunately that is not the way most students are being taught. Most of the time coding is being taught through a sequential problem by problem or technical syntax based approach rather than learning though projects. Professor Resnick and his team believe that students should start with an idea, create something, experiment, share with others and keep modifying and adapting the solution based on their experiences and feedback.
There are lots of similarities here to the design thinking approach which is well established in the design industry.
Students (and adults as well) are willing to work longer and harder when they work on things they are passionate about and interested in. When they are passionate about a project, they make deeper connections with the ideas they are working on and are willing to invest more time on them. Projects become more meaningful and memorable when they are based on concepts that students care about.
Creative learning is a social process, the most creative things we do come in collaboration with other people.
Play, in this context is more of an attitude than an activity. Having a playful approach means students are willing to take risks, try new things and test boundaries. This is when the most creative work happens. It is important to have a comfortable learning environment where students feel safe to experiment, take risks and try new things. When things go wrong and failure happens, this should be seen as a positive opportunity to learn rather something negative.
Professor Resnick and his team at MIT have developed the programming language Scratch which is designed for students to program interactive stories, games, and animations and share them through an active online community.
Throughout the presentation, Professor Resnick provided us with a number of samples of how Scratch is being used by students all over the world to enhance creativity. He gave us an insight into some of the new developments with Scratch, soon to be released and shared the power of the Scratch creative learning community which now features over 40 million projects.
Profesor Resnick has committed his life’s work to provide students all over the world with the opportunities to think and act creatively. Trying to bring about this type of change in education and open up these types of opportunities for students to work with projects, passion, peers and play is going to take a concerted effort and he calls all educators everywhere to help create a global movement where students are encouraged to design, create, experiment and explore with new technologies so they can be full and active contributors to tomorrow’s society.
I was delighted to be able to invite two members of the Adobe Education Leadership Community from Victoria (Joel Aarons and Michelle Dennis) to the Melbourne presentation with me and was delighted that there were able to meet the great man.
Here is the full presentation recorded at the Sydney event …