Sowing the seeds for a more creative society
"In today’s rapidly-changing society, nothing is more important than the ability to think and act creatively. But many activities in children's lives, whether these be lessons in the classroom or games in the living room, are not designed to help children develop as creative thinkers".
So says Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab. He and two Media Lab colleagues, Research Scientist Natalie Rusk and Project Manager Amos Blanton, came to Billund in August to discuss how new technologies and activities can engage children in creative learning experiences.
The three researchers organised a workshop for teachers at the International School of Billund (ISB), introducing them to ScratchJr, a newly launched programming app for young children. Later that day, Mitch made a presentation for the parents of ISB students. Mitch mentioned several great European inventions, including Johann Gutenberg’s printing press and James Watt’s steam engine, but he said that the greatest European invention was the kindergarten, created by Friedrich Fröbel in Germany in 1837.
“In kindergarten, children spend time playfully creating things in collaboration with one another. After kindergarten, students spend too much time listening to lectures and filling out worksheets. To help young people prepare for life in today’s fast-changing society, we need to extend the kindergarten approach to learners of all ages, so that they can continue to develop as creative thinkers,” Mitch Resnick said.
The new ScratchJr app makes computer programming (or coding) accessible to even younger children, so that children can learn to code at the same age they are learning to tie their shoes. The app was developed Mitch’s team at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Tufts University and the Playful Invention Company (PICO). With ScratchJr (scratchjr.org), children ages five to seven can programme their own interactive stories and games. In the process, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just interact with it.
Mitch and his Lifelong Kindergarten research group have developed many new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and crayons of Kindergarten, help young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. The group collaborated with the LEGO Group on the development of the LEGO MINDSTORMS and LEGO Education WeDo robotics kits. In 2007, the group launched Scratch, a programming language that enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations — and share their creations in an online community (scratch.mit.edu). Millions of children around the world have programmed Scratch projects.