I am a friend, on Facebook, of Professor Mitch Resnick who is “LEGO Papert Professor of Learning
Research at the MIT Media Lab.”
The title of his professorship says it all, he has overseen the creative use of Lego in developing children’s ability to use technology in a playful and creative way. He is also the direct protégé of the ideas of Seymour Papert.
I first came across Papert as a young teacher watching a Horizon T.V. programme called “Talking Turtle” in 1983. Below is a video showing a part of the programme and giving you a feel for Papert’s visionary views and the limitations of the expensive technology of the time:
In many ways the vision of children creating things using technology and using programming as a means of facilitating this has not come about. Resnick explains the reasons for this in his recent article in the magazine “Educational Technology”: “Reviving Papert’s Dream”.
He talks about the way that the Media Lab at MIT have developed a new and powerful programming language based on Paper’s original program “LOGO”. This program is called “Scratch”, it uses simple to use tools to get children (or adults) to create powerful graphics, games, presentations (the uses are almost endless). It has also made every uploaded effort available to everyone else and can be used as a basis for further development.
It is creative, fun and most importantly gets children to become writers of programs and not just readers. Schools and individuals all over the world have participated. But it is still just “scratching the surface” (excuse the very weak pun).
To get a feel for the power and potential of Scratch see their website. If you haven’t tried it before then you can freely download it. If you are a teacher (particularly in a Primary school) I strongly recommend that you try it and most importantly let your children try it. Let them play and learn and develop their powerful ideas. In this way, as Resnick says, Papert’s great vision of the early 1980’s will not only be revived but will hopefully lead to great programming and use of technology in the future.