As computers and all things digital become increasingly more prevalent in our lives one might think that words like “play”, “tinker” and “creativity” would be less important in developing the learners needed to continue to advance and support the complex world of algorithms, coding, computers and robots. Author, Mitchel Resnick (@mres), Professor of Learning Research at MIT and leader of the Scratch Programming team, argues that as computers and digital tools become more complex, we actually need more creative thinkers to meet this technological demand.
We need to decide what is important:
If we truly care about preparing today’s children to thrive in tomorrow’s society…[we need] to focus on what’s most important for children to learn, not what is easiest to measure.” (Lifelong Kindergarten, 153).
In today’s education system we know how to develop the “A” students who can master school and master the content and respond to questions that they most likely already know the answer to. What Resnick argues, is that the world already has these learners, but it also has new, unique, local and global opportunities and challenges that require thinkers that are creative, collaborative, risk-takers who can use a variety of skill sets to approach solutions from a non-standard, non-textbook approach. We need “X” students who are “…are willing to take risks and try new things”(p.2).
Resnick believes that the approach to nurturing these “X” students is found in our littlest learners and the environment they learn in. In Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers and Play, Resnick believes that the approach to learning through play, to letting students re-create their world through their eyes, and allowing kids to be creative, collaborative and passionate “tinkerers” is the approach needed throughout our learners educational and post-education lives.
In Ontario, Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten aligns with Ontario’s primary curriculum and its goals of creating curious, lifelong learners:
“… in the Kindergarten program, inquiry is not a set of processes and skills but a pervasive approach or “stance”, a habit of mind that permeates all thinking and learning throughout the day. It is not limited to a subject area or topic, a project, or a particular time of day. It is not an occasional classroom event, and it is not an approach appropriate for only some children.” (The Kindergarten Program, Ontario 1.2)
In fact, it is this inquiry stance that Resnick advocates for that is embedded throughout the Ontario K-12 curriculum inquiry. Resnick believes that the approach to learning found in our kindergarten classrooms is the model for all learners. Resnick’s Creative Learning Spiral, allows students to direct their learning by identifying problems and seeking out its solution.
The learning is not one size fits all and it is not designed to have on standard, correct answer. By providing these learning opportunities and trusted learning relationships our students can and will be the learners we wish for them to become:
MIT is putting its belief in supporting “X” thinkers into action by changing the way that learners access and participate in education. Students can study at MIT with its Poverty Action Lab . Candidates participate in 5 online courses that do not require any previous academic pre-requisites. Upon successful completion of these courses, students can then apply to MIT to complete a Master’s Degree. The game is changing. What we value in our learners and leaders is changing. Are we preparing them for their future or for our present?
Lifelong Kindergarten is an excellent read that helps educators rethink how the creative learning process can have a profound impact on the lifelong, critical thinking skills our students need. We owe this to our students.