This week let's look at a couple of technological resources, since my creativity at the moment seems to be focused in the online/computer area.
First, Scratch — the computer language site from MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten project. I encountered Scratch in Michael Resnick's book, Lifelong Kindergarten: cultivating creativity through projects, passion, peers, and play, although to be honest I stumbled across the website rather than seeking it out.
Resnick's book is very good: he gets a lot of the issues of creativity and education right, but I was put off by his presumption that his high-end technological playground was appropriate or even available to everyone who might want to implement his concepts. I would have preferred a chapter on How To Do It with cardboard boxes and Crayola markers. In fact, I emailed him about it, but never heard back.
Be that as it may, the site is a gold mine for anyone wanting to create their own games, interactive stories, and animations in a supportive and collaborative environment.
The other resource is AirTable.com, an online database similar to my beloved FileMaker Pro. It's free, and while I've just begun exploring its capabilities, it looks to be a more than adequate substitute for those who need a database and can't afford FMP.
Who needs a database? YOU DO. You're using a spreadsheet to keep track of data, aren't you? Yes you are, admit it.
Well, stop it. Spreadsheets are for tabular data, math things, not for storing and retrieving information. With a database, you can not only sort your data (like a spreadsheet can do), but you can rearrange it and link it and reformat the appearance: do you need mailing labels? Personalized letters? Printed lists of just one kind of group member?
I won't be playing with Scratch any time soon, probably not until the summer, but I'll be working through AirTable the next week or two as I develop a sign-in form for Backstreet Arts that dumps into a database. This will allow us to track first-time visitors as well as the arc of our artists as they come and go. It will also allow us to provide data to grant organizations about the impact of our services.
I like creating databases, so I'll probably share here my progress. ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS, and all that.