Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deja Vu-It just keeps happening....

Yes, for some reason...don't know why...I didn't blog in week 11.  The articles are highlighted and marked up, but I never made it to the blog site.  And I had things to say too...I noted them in the margins : -)  But today I'd like to talk about Resnick's comment that really struck home with me since I just filmed my last class session observing the Fine Arts class engaging with CT and yesterday was their computational textile critique session.  Resnick was talking about Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in 1999 when he said: 

"Digital technologies need not be seen in opposition to the physical world. Rather, digital technologies can be integrated with physical objects to create new types of dynamic materials that react and respond to the world around them.  And these new materials, just like more traditional materials, can serve as the basis for new types of craft activities."
For me, his insight was quite profound, because this is how I view computational textiles. There are so many ways to use these sewable/washable microprocessors and some of these I saw at the critique.  The projects ranged from a tennis shoe w/an accelerometer that lights up more LEDs that faster you run, to a bobble head that lit when it bobbled, to a dance glove with a temperature sensor (the hotter you get the more lights come on), to an adorable stuffed fabric star that lit up a constellation pattern when in a dark room and plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, to hugging monkeys responding differently to the type of hug depending on where the hands are placed, a sweatshirt that lights when the arm is moved rapidly and a shirt (and soon pants) used in a performance piece with cloth switches. These projects all fit within Resnick's prediction 10 years ago.  It really makes one wonder what will be available and in use 10 years from now?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Returning to my happy place...

     Okay, I've read as much of Bauerlein as my heart can take and I need to return to my happy place...the Ito et al paper.  (At least this paper encourages me to think about something productive) Reading this piece only strengthened my awareness of the importance of the child/student to be motivated in their learning experience.  
     Like Mike, through out the Bauerlein article I kept thinking this is boring to them, they don't want to learn history, math,'s not important to them.  They can look up facts on the internet, who needs to commit all of this to memory? many times can you be interviewed on the street by Leno?? (Unless you set up camp outside the CBS studios in Burbank) Then I thought of an earlier conversation and how much of this is necessary to learn?  Do we need to learn every fact, since more history is made every single day?  This is a bit insane!  It seems more productive to teach children how to look up and sift through information so they can find it, analyize it for authenticity, than to commit to memory every historical event.  Afterall, they have the world at their fingertips...or through their peers.
    Which leads me to peer-based learning...a topic I'm really interested in that kept reappearing in the article.  In both of my research studies, QA (informal setting) then CT (college setting), I've come across this in both and I'm always amazed at how easily & naturally this can occur and be taken up by all of the participants, yet it seems it's rarely mentioned in studies although it yields wonderful results.  Both of the settings situations could be termed as "geeky", the first had to do with expertise in how to maneuver and explore areas of QA outside the formal storyline and game they were suppose to be playing : -)  The 8-11 year old boys decided it was more fun to create their own clubhouse in Qville above the clouds (where they could fly), and explore Egypt than to stay on task and read the text based storyline.  They set up their own social norms and would share their coordinates with others, tell them where & how to find the secret passage ways, then someone else would make a discovery and share it, they would exclaim when they discovered the moving vehicles or the space ship!  An interesting aspect was the expert changed to whoever made the discovery and alerted others.  This wasn't a competition, just cooperation and fun exploring and learning about the new space and the affordances of the game.  There was more interaction with one another and excitement in the days they could play and explore than in any other time during the observation. When we made them return to the task at hand (the "do this, read this, then this" instructional model), I felt as if we were the ones putting up a barrier to their motivation and enthusiasm.
     The second time, in my current observation project, one of the Fine Arts grad students had experience in Arduino, so he taught other grad students on multiple days about electricity,  sensors, resistors and pure data programming.  This student prepared & presented talks then helped them trouble shoot as they tinkered and explored the program or part. Others would input their expertise and again it was as if everyone was equal, even though one had more expertise.  There were no power plays, no authority figure, just open sharing of information.
     I would have to admit the second experience did learn more "facts" than the first, yet both were learning how to engage with one another socially, explore a medium, both were definately interest-driven and I would guess the club boys may have been more friendship driven. Yet, some would say the first group was wasting time...why?  I have to wonder sometimes if an activity is labeled as "wasted time" if it looks like the children are having too much fun...if they are at play?  Because play means the child is engaged and motivated.  And who can learn anything under those circumstances?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deja Vu it's week 3 again

     Okay...I missed blogging the week I presented, so here we go for those that want to step back with me into the 650 time machine. I really want to talk about the Resnick piece, I'm finding he's one of my favorite authors.  I remember when Tony and I were planning for that week's presentation he asked me Resnick's question: Which of these things doesn't belong: Television. Computer. Paint Brush.  I immediately said television which he seemed surprised at since most people say the last.  I explained my background since I worked in television I know it's a very passive medium, while you can create with computers and paint brushes. (Although I do have a friend who would argue this since he yells at the tv during sporting events like his tv transmits to the athletes ears : )
     So what can we do so children can create and explore?  I went to the toy isles, as I often do, looking for craft ideas for my granddaughters.  My oldest Amelia, just turned four, and needs help with her numbers.  So I saw this peal and stick mosaid kit that would make a flower design if you put the little colored squares on the matching number (e.g. purple=2, red=3, etc.) like a paint by number but with mosaics.  When she picked it out of the bag to work on over Thanksgiving break, she immediately placed the gem like looking flowers on it, and the blue sparkles for the eyes, and one mosaic on the number and she was done.  This was too much like work for had numbers on it and she didn't want to think about numbers. Which reminded me of something Mike told me about the kids at the B&G Club...if it smells anything like school (e.g. homework), they won't do it.  Well my granddaughter has only been to nursery school, so those concepts are unfamiliar to her, yet she knew she didn't like it.  So it could possibly link to Csikszentmihalyi's comment that maybe the activity was overwhelming to her or Papert's finding that if it was difficult, it just didn't connect deeply to her interest/passion.  So we tried the child painting by numbers...she LOVES to paint.  Turns out she only likes to paint when she can decide what color goes where...which I must say I'm a little happy about! So instead she decorated a christmas tree doorhanger placing the decorations anywhere she wanted without numbers ever being mentioned again.
    I'm wondering if these crafts, which weren't really about creating and exploring, were really about?  When I thought about it, they were both more like: do this here, then this there, then this here...the old instructional style disguised as craft materials!  Is this at the root of what even a 4 year old doesn't like?  Yet, instructional style is exactly what Amelia will have to endure for the next 14+ years! (I use the word endure because I don't forsee traditional school as being an option for productive learning experiences in this case) So what can be done?  Ahhhh...the words of Resnick are being channeled: playful learning = (designing + creating + inventing) x (personal interest + variation + familiarity).  None of these were even touched upon in Amelia's two number activities...back to the freestyle painting board, where they are all evident : -)