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Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play (MIT Press) Hardcover – August 25, 2017
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This is the book I have been waiting for. Lifelong Kindergarten is filled with gems -- thoughts about what learning in the 21st century needs to be like, brought to life through evocative and nuanced examples that fire up our own imaginations. Many of us have danced around this topic but no one has hit the bull's-eye like Mitch Resnick has done.(John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist of Xerox and Director of Palo Alto Research Center (PARC))
Whether you are a parent, educator, or academic researcher, you will delight in this book. As founder of MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten research group and creator of the programming language Scratch, Mitch Resnick not only illuminates the rich history of scholarship on creative thinking but succeeds in bringing it to life through the experiences and practices of young people around the world.(Margaret Honey, President & CEO, New York Hall of Science)
Mitchel Resnick has long been an inspiration to those of us who study the roots of innovative thinking. Lifelong Kindergarten is not only essential reading for educators trying to cultivate 21st century skills in the classroom; it's also a vital resource for anyone -- parents, entrepreneurs, artists -- interested in the creative mind at work and at play.(Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From and How We Got to Now)
About the Author
Mitchel Resnick, an expert in educational technologies, is Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab. He has worked closely with the LEGO toy company for thirty years, collaborating with them on such innovative projects as the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits, and he holds the LEGO endowed chair at MIT. He leads the team developing the Scratch programming software and online community, and he is cofounder of the Computer Clubhouse project, a network of after-school learning centers for youth from low-income communities.
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Scratch combines programming logic and principles with a friendly drag-and-drop interface, and is actually used in the first weeks of Harvard's CS50. Resnick disperses interviews throughout his book with people - especially children - who've used it, as well as former members of the Computer Clubhouse, a network (he started) of successful after-school learning programs.
In today's increasingly automated world, Resnick thoughts on creativity are extremely timely: according to Dell 85% of jobs in 2030 haven't been invented yet. Although 85% is most likely an exaggeration, the underlying conclusion that tomorrow's workforce needs to be prepared for an uncertain future should not be ignored. And with regards to this, Resnick surmises that we are woefully unprepared.
Though technology (an interesting definition of it being 'anything invented after you are born') can be a great enabler of teaching, it often hasn't been used in the right way. For example, when Seymour Papert, a pioneer in the field of computer-aided instruction, created a programming language for children, Logo, thousands of schools throughout the 80s taught millions of students how to program with it. However, they taught students Logo as an end in itself (i.e. by testing, and therefore rewarding, proficiency -- an experience that painfully mirrors my own experience in formal Computer Science classes), and "not as a way for students to express themselves and to explore what Seymour called 'powerful ideas'" (39).
At this point, Resnick's thesis of what learning should look like becomes clearly illuminated: Creative Learning is a process grounded in 4 principles: (1) Projects, (2) Passion, (3) Peers, and (4) Play, which aims to engage participants in the Creative Learning Spiral, an iterative spiral of imagine>create>play>share>reflect
And his thesis is unmistakably close to the truth (or as close as it gets) because it relies on two powerful principles, those of iteration and intrinsic motivation.
Iteration: in both Ryan Holiday's Ego is the Enemy and Philip Tetlock's Superforecasting, iteration is the key process that the authors conclude enabled historical figures and successful forecasters respectively to succeed
Intrinsic motivation: as research has shown, we quickly become inured to extrinsic motivators (see Daniel Pink's book Drive), and so developing intrinsic motivation is the only way to sustainably maintain any habit
And the habit in consideration is that of creative thinking, a lifelong skill that very closely resembles that of tinkering, a principle Nassim Taleb references in Antifragile and attributes to many inventions. It's a skill that Resnick writes is mostly about persistence. (Another thing that the modern education system doesn't motivate very well)
Persistence is difficult to nurture because it inherently involves permitting failure, something (pre-)modern parenting books with their emphasis on developing self-esteem in children abhorred. This societal perspective is self-perpetuating, however, and Resnick finds particular fault with modern children's toys which encourage consumption and not production -- he's a big fan of Lego though.
"Ask not what your toy can do for your child; ask what your child can do with the toy." (41)
Case in point, when asked to speak at a conference, Resnick changed his presentation after a presenter from an educational publishing company presented on the immersive online world they were developing and described the user experience thus: "... you will consume these narrative missions ..." (44). Resnick, instead showed other conference attendees the immersive worlds (same fictional universe) that users of Scratch created.
These are the two approaches to storytelling: (1) children participate in other stories, (2) children create their own stories. The same two approaches can be seen in personalized learning: (1) children consume information thrown at them until they achieve somebody else's standards of proficiency, (2) children find the information that interests them about the projects that interest them to share with the members of their community that they respect.
FYI, This latter model of education is something, Sal Khan is trying to foster at his new physical school, the Khan Lab School.
In brief, Resnick suggests that education should be 'close-started' and 'open-ended', have a low floor and high ceiling, encourage strong community, be centered around self-motivated projects, and if you're lucky you will raise a generation of lifelong learners, or kindergarteners.