by Dr Shen Li Lee
There is a really interesting article I read recently by Mitchel Resnick promoting the idea that education should be one Lifelong Kindergarten. The logic for his argument goes like this…
Education Must Change to Prepare Children for an Unpredictable Future
The world is changing so rapidly that we cannot possibly imagine what it will be like when our children are grown. They will face issues and challenges in a future that we cannot possibly predict. What we believe is important for them to learn today is likely to be irrelevant by the time they are ready to make their way in the world. The only way we can adequately prepare them for this unknown future is to teach them how to think and act creatively. It is not enough to know things – they must be able to use their knowledge in creative ways.
The Kindergarten Education Model is the Key
The only model of education that currently promotes this kind of thinking and creativity is the Kindergarten Model. It’s the one where children are encouraged to physically create the ideas in their heads. When they have a physical model of their ideas, they can play with the ideas, test them out, get feedback from others – these allow them to review, modify and improve their ideas. And on and on it goes, feeding a positive feedback loop that opens the doors for more ideas and more creations.
What is the Kindergarten Education Model?
In one corner of the room, a group of children is building a series of towers with wooden blocks. In another corner, a group is creating a large mural with finger paint. In the process, children are exploring important ideas: What makes a tower stand up or fall down? How do colors mix together?
These activities encourage children to develop their creative thinking. As they work together, they learn about the creative process: how to imagine new ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get feedback from others, and generate new ideas based on their experiences.
At the heart of the kindergarten education model is the opportunity to create – and that’s the real key to education.
The Kindergarten Model for Older Students
The idea sounds great in theory but how do you apply it to older students? Blocks, crayons, and finger paints will only take you so far. That’s where technology comes in… Mitchel Resnick talks about educational products like LEGO Mindstorms that encourage students to create.
The rest of this article is based on my interpretation of Resnick’s article. The main point I took home is essentially this: encourage children to create. Therefore any tool that allows children to create and express their ideas in physical form should work for the Kindergarten model. Here are a couple more tools that the children can use to create with…
Little Bits have been dubbed LEGO for the iPad generation because they connect as easily as LEGO but they let you create a lot more. Here are just a few examples of what you can create with Little Bits Smart Home Kit – smart fridge, smart AC, wireless lamp, remote pet feeder, and more…
The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video.
“Grandpa is getting pretty old. Out there all alone on that farm, he has no one to look in on him, just to see if he’s ok. He’ll use the landline, but he’s beyond of the range of mobile, and he’s never been really great with computers. No Skype or emails. Grandpa does have internet. So I built this for him.”
The girl points down to a small box with a few wires coming out.
“I can bring up a web browser, and take photos inside grandpa’s house. Has he moved his coffee cup today? Is the telly on? At least then we’ll know he’s okay. And I can even type messages” – she changes focus to a textbox inside a web form – “that show up on top. We used ImageMagick for that part… here, you can see it in our code.” – The Register
The Raspberry Pi Magic Mirror is also pretty cool – it can tell you the time, the weather, and the headlines for the day as you’re getting ready for work.
Good Tools are not Enough
LEGO Mindstorms, Little Bits, and Raspberry Pi may offer some terrific avenues for our kids to create some really amazing things but we must remember that, at the end of the day, that’s all they really are – just tools. Like all tools, they can be used well and they can be used poorly. Simply having access to them changes nothing if our kids aren’t using them to create.
If all our children are doing is taking these kits and copying ideas already in existence (i.e. following instruction manuals on how to create cool things), there is no creative element. Copying ideas and following instructions may initially be a way to learn how things work, but after that, we should be encouraging our kids to make changes to it – fix it, modify it, extend it, and come up with better ideas. How can we modify it to make it work better? How can we add to it to make it more useful? What else can we make with these tools? Give our kids real world problems to solve with these tools like the girl and her Raspberry Pi project for her grandfather.
I want to make this clear – following the instructions is not a bad thing as long as the kids are learning something from the process. If following instructions teaches a child how to use the tool in a new way that he’s never thought of then that’s great because he can borrow the idea and apply it to a completely new project of his own creation. That’s the real goal we are after – raising children who can take what they know, change it in some way, and come up with something new.
Skills for the Kindergarten Model
If the fundamental goal of the kindergarten model is to encourage children to create, then there are many other ways to promote this creative process. Encouraging our kids to pursue the arts is one way.
- Music lessons can help children learn how to create their own music.
- Art classes teach children artistic techniques they can employ as they create their own masterpieces.
- Drama and musical theatre foster creative expression.
Teaching children the arts is akin to giving them skills that will enhance their creative process.
The Bottom Line
If the goal is to encourage children to create, then anything that encourages that creative process is a good thing. They can be tools that facilitate the creative process, like Raspberry Pi, or skills that enhance the creative process, like music. I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll discover that there are many ways we can encourage this.