Learning Creative Learning: kindergarten learning

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The first week of learning creative learning (learn.medialab.mit.edu) is almost over. The course content consisted of just one paper and a google hangout, so not much to take in. I’ve not had time to watch the hangout: the format doesn’t really suit me, so i’ll probably miss it most weeks. I found some visual notes via twitter update from @ikbenjulie – https://twitter.com/ikbenjulie/status/301014444358643712. From this, it looks like the hangout talks through the paper and introduced the course.

Anyway, onto the paper: Mitchel Resnick (2007). All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten. ACM Creativity & Cognition conference. [PDF]. I liked this paper, nice and simple, and thought provoking. The core idea of the paper is that the learning we encourage in kindergarten promotes exploration and creativity, but subsequent learning environments, at school and beyond are too focused on facts and measurement. Resnick argues that promoting learning approaches which focus on creativity should be extend to all ages, a simple cycle is presented: imagine, create, play, share and reflect, before a new cycle of imagine … begins.

Resnick then presents a couple of technologies which MIT medialab have designed to promote different aspects of the cycle. Crickets (physical programmable devices) and scratch (a programming toolkit) take a modular approach to promoting the type of free play and creation in kindergarten learning.

Some years ago I was involved in a project/ company / consultancy developing a software toolkit for producing educational simulations (some of the simulations are available from www.jelsim.org). The idea behind the toolkit was to separate the model from its visualisation: so a single model calculating the position of the sun in the sky could be used as the basis to create an interface to help architects decide what blinds to specify for windows (based on how much sunlight might shine through them at what time of day) or a simulation to allow young children to explore how day length varies at different times of year (see the java simulations at JeLSIM.org/applets/solar/). The jelsim tools focused on empowering the teacher (to tailor simulations to educational need), but we recognised the ultimate aim of empowering the learner to create their own simulations: supporting true exploratory learning where a learner could build an interface to test a hypothesise. If we had reached that goal, the JeLSIM tools would have been a good example of kindergarten learning.

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Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

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