Play! Good news, bad news...

I just finished Lifelong Kindergarten, by Mitchel Resnick, and I've got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Resnick is spot on with his analysis of his/MIT's Scratch programming environment and Computer Clubhouses: if you provide kids — and by extension the rest of us humans — with the opportunity to work on projects that fascinate them, they will learn more deeply and with joy. 

If we want people who can define and solve problems with flexibility and creativity, then we have to provide the means for them to learn how to do that. Resnick focuses on the technology, of course, but he is also adamant that creation is the bedrock of deep learning: Make the Thing That Is Not.

I like his low floor, high ceiling, wide walls metaphors of how to design a learning/making space: give learners an easy entry to the technology, don't limit their trajectory, and don't limit their interests.

I also like the distinction he makes between playpen and playground: one provides a limited set of opportunities for play and exploration, and the other is much more open-ended.

It was also very gratifying as I read through it to be able to mark in the margins all the Precepts of Lichtenbergianism (give or take TASK AVOIDANCE and RITUAL).  As I say in the "Introduction to Lichtenbergianism" chapter, none of this is new or exclusive — and to see the Precepts limned in other people's work gives me a little thrill every time.


It was extremely depressing to me to read these brilliant ideas about learning and remember that I was pushing for the same ideas twenty-five years ago (as were many education gurus). We even had a "secret" group at East Coweta High School in the early 90s, the Curriculum Liberation Front, that worked on implementing as many of these strategies into the classrooms as we could.

But the testing-for-profit corporations rose from the deep like Cthulhu and swamped all efforts to reform our schools in a tidal wave of "accountability," and so here we are a quarter of a century later still writing books about how students learn best when they're engaged in solving problems that interest them.

Alas, I have no solution; I am retired from the game and must content myself with opening up maker spaces in other people's heads via Lichtenbergianism.  But remember that there is a better way to educate our children if only we could embrace it .