Sunday, 17 February 2013

MIT Course: Learning Creative Learning - Make life more like kindergarten

I've recently signed up for a free MIT course called Learning Creative Learning. So far we've had a introductory lecture, some recommended reading, and a challenge.

Introduction

The introductory lecture sounded very inspiring. The tag-line that keeps cropping up is to 'make all learning and even life more like kindergarten'. By this, they mean to focus on play as an edifying, creative and interest-driven activity. In kindergarten this sort of open play is actively encouraged, with staff taking more of a facilitating role rather than a teaching one. Image of this process:

Education beyond this point, though, becomes formal - with lectures, problem sets, single correct methods, rigid homework and tests - and play becomes a mostly maligned activity. This very much reminded me of Dan Meyer's response to Sal Khan about learning to ride a bike.
The course seems to be heavily influenced by their own experiences creating Scratch (which is great by the way). I do wonder, though, whether this will mean that the ideas they present will be more applicable to technology education. Programming is much easier (in my view) to teach in an interest-driven way, as at the end of it you have an interactive object which YOU made and it is very easy to add your own personal touches to those programs.
There were two emphases that really grabbed me though. One was that very idea that creating interest (or using an interest) is an essential step in
motivating learning. The other was the talk about creating open sandbox opportunities for people to try things out, play, create, tinker and share.
At the moment, I am a little sceptical as to how much I will be able to apply the ideas in the course, but excited about the general premise and happy with how the course is set up.

The Marshmellow Challenge

The way the course is set-up by the way, is fairly experimental. To encourage collaboration and interaction, we have been split in to smaller discussion groups and have been given physical tasks as well as the reading materials. First task is to create a free-standing structure with only marshmellows and spaghetti: