Learning Creative Learning

Image representing Scratch as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I have just started a MOOC run by the MIT Media Lab called “Learning Creative Learning”. This course is the first “MOOC” that the Media Lab has tried and so far we have been divided up into small groups based on similar time-zones. My group is therefore made up of people from the U.K., Ireland and Portugal.

The groups run through Google Plus and my group LC-380 have all introduced ourselves to each other and joined the online community.

Yesterday (Monday 11th February) I watched the opening lecture of the course given by Professor Mitchell Resnick
assisted by Philipp Schmidt and Natalie Rusk.It was a live lecture on Google Plus Hangouts.

I have been a longtime fan of the MIT Media Lab which was co-founded by one of my all-time educational heroes, Seymour Papert.They are still using Papert’s “Constructionist” philosophy which I read about many years ago in his book “Mindstorms“.

Mitchell Resnick, the leader of the course, was a student and disciple of Papert’s and he supervised the introduction of an exciting development of Papert’s “Logo” computer language called “Scratch” which I have written about in an earlier post.

In this course we will be looking at exciting developments at the Media Lab such as “Scratch” and “Makey Makey” . We will be focussing on “learning” throughout and seeing how a “Constructionist” approach really works.

This is my third MOOC and so far the one I am most excited about. I will report what I learned at the end of the course…I expect it could be a long post!


Moonshot Thinking: Solve For X

I follow Larry Page on Google Plus. Yesterday he posted this:

Larry Page  –  Yesterday 17:59  –  Public
Last week we hosted the first ever “Solve for X” — a forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and teamwork. The site has just gone up and there are a number of cool talks including Neal Stephenson on “Getting Big Stuff Done” with more to come soon!


I went to the site and then watched the Neal Stephenson video. Frankly, he is not one of the most inspiring speakers that I have seen. He did though come up with some challenging thoughts and one big idea.
His talk asked us why we have lost the ability to imagine big ideas in the way that the 60’s saw us get  to the Moon when many had believed that it would not be possible for many many years to come. He asked why today’s innovative thinkers are designing better apps for mobile phones or even more exciting interactive video games! They are not solving the world’s water shortage, or developing powerful technology which can be used to aid the 100 million children in the world who are currently without any form of education.
His big idea was to build a tower that was 15 Km tall. Supposedly this is technologically possible… the question would then be what uses could this tower be put to?
I went onto the site today and noticed that their promise of uploading more of the talks from the Solve For X Conference  had materialised. I watched the following talk by Nicholas Negroponte:
This is a powerful talk by a pioneer of making laptops accessible for the masses. In the later part of his talk he discusses his project to give laptops to communities which have no literacy whatsoever and then see if children can teach themselves to read! It reminded me very much of Sugata Mitra‘s “Hole In The Wall” experiment that he discussed in his TED Talk of 2008.
This is the kind of thing that Solve For X is about. I am really pleased to see that Google have sponsored this project and that there are already a number of interesting ideas to discuss and think about. It is important that technology is used to help humanity and help solve the many problems that we face now and in the future. Maybe this website might encourage some of our brighter young thinkers to think big about issues relating to our survival because there isn’t an App for that yet and there’s no point in playing an interactive game which sees our world crash and burn at the end!

YouTube For Schools

At long last YouTube have taken note of the concerns about unlimited access to their total content in schools. They have now come out with “YouTube For Schools”which will have vetted videos which can be accessed safely in schools without any comments or advertisements.

Surely this will answer those who have used the “safety” argument for banning YouTube videos in schools. There is, as the well-made video above shows, so  many things that students can get from having the ability to access the wealth of material that is available on YouTube.

This has got to be a step in the right direction of getting wider use of technology into schools. Maybe it might convert some die-hard technology doubting teachers out there that there is something in all this new technology stuff!

Eric Schmidt: How education needs to handle a world of information

I did a YouTube search on “Children talk about using digital technology in school” and found a really interesting link that was not about children as such, or having them talk about their use of different forms of technology (which was the intention of my search) but which was valuable nonetheless.

This was the link:

Eric Schmidt at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning

in education and learning, is technology doing all it can to help us? Is technology on the cutting edge? Is technology delivering its promise? 

Start playing at search term (40:44)

What I found really interesting about this link was that it actually led me to a specific part of a long video (over an hour) that contained a section where Eric Schmidt (now Executive chairman of Google) talked about the importance of technology.

This idea of starting in a long video at a specific part which relates to a search term was really powerful to me. It made me think about the wider idea of how technology can be used to further learning. It related very much to Schmidt’s point in the video that schools haven’t come to terms with a world of information that is instantly accessible and which can be accessed by technology that is becoming cheaper and more powerful by the year (in an exponential growth).

I would recommend that you access the video at the point of the search term and watch Schmidt as he explains how technology has made the old forms of teaching and learning redundant and how we all need to adapt to a changed world of information that grows by huge amounts on a daily basis (even this blog is adding one tiny segment to today’s input to our well of knowledge!).


How Google + has extended my PLN

I loved the format of G+ from the minute I experienced it. It has recently been opened to the wider world of Googlers and I am finding that I am getting followed in circles by more and more interesting people. I have taken the plunge myself and have added a number of new people to my existing circles.

What really sells this format to me are the extended posts. I am a fervent Tweeter but am often frustrated by having the character ticker count down towards the 140 mark. I know that the 140 limit is good for careful wording but would really like to be able to read more. With G+ I get this and so much more.

The links are there and so are the videos and photos but the range is so good. I have specialised in education and technology and find that I am getting cutting edge information in these areas by people who really know what they are talking about.

It is in the developments of technology that I have really benefited from G+. The search facility is wonderful (as you might expect from Google) and the suggestions of new people to add to your circles has allowed me to find people who are deeply involved with the development of new ideas or writing about the innovators. I have picked up more people to follow by looking at the linked names in posts.

Unlike Facebook I do not have to seek permission to follow.These people can choose not to follow me back but I can see their public posts. The separation of public as against limited or private postings has been a particular innovation of G+. I have tried to make most of my new blog post announcements public so that it can get to  a wider audience (this post will soon be advertised in a posting on G+).

I used to look at Facebook and then Twitter first when I wanted to see what was happening “out there”. I am increasingly starting with G+ which has produced some brilliant follow up things for me in the past few weeks. Long may it continue!

The innovation of “Circles”: a reflection on Google +

I have just read a very good post in “Teach Paperless” by John T. Spencer which discussed what education could learn from Google +
I feel that it outlines very well the user friendliness of Google + and the way that it has learnt from the past mistakes of both Facebook and Twitter, particularly in regard to the creation of “Circles” which I believe is the masterstroke in allowing for the true use of social media.
For myself it has been the ability to extend and learn from my PLN that has been really useful. Yesterday I posted the following on +:
malcolm bellamy's profile photo

malcolm bellamy  –  Yesterday 23:01  –  Public
In defence of G+ following the BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14202981
I see the whole thing as a means to extend the learning process that I enjoy online. I am not seeking “friends” as such, but knowledge, leads, ideas and ways to navigate the ocean of information that is out there. The Circles allow me to keep my real “friends” in a tight network along with my family… my largest Circle is my PLN and I have learnt loads already from these people call them “friends” (In the “Facebook” way) or “acquaintances”…the denotation is really irrelevant.

The much-hyped arrival of the Google+ social networking site throws open the debate on the difference between friends and acquaintances.
  –  Comment  –  Share
In the end, I believe it is “Circles” that will be the real innovation of + and a way forward for social interaction on the net for us all.