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 her...it 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 : -)