The Maker Movement Isn’t Just About Making and Electronics

[Mitch Resnick, MIT Professor and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab,  has been a leader in the world of student voice and computational thinking. Here’s an interview with him as part of an Edsurge article.]

By Mary Jo Madda May 23, 2016

Photo of educators at Play - PAEYC unconference - Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo of educators at Play – PAEYC unconference – Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Mitchel Resnick (or Mitch, for short) knows his making—from a lot of different angles. And he’s not too bought into the whole “electronics and gadgets” side of the maker movement.

Resnick has been in this business for more than 30 years, and it’s safe to say that he’s seen the maker movement—and the state of STEM education, in general—go through its phases, its ups and downs. He’s currently the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, where he and his team have developed products familiar to many a science educator: the “programmable brick” technology that inspired the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit, andScratch, an online computing environment for students to learn about computer science.

Is making something that every school should be doing—and are all interpretations of “making” of equitable value? EdSurge sat down with Resnick in his office at the MIT Media Lab to learn more, and to find out how he and his team are working to bring more creativity into the learning process.

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MITx u.lab: Education As Activating Social Fields

Until last year, the number of students in my classes at MIT numbered 50 or so. Less than twelve months later, I have just completed my first class with 50,000 registered participants. They came from 185 countries, and together they co-generated:
• >400 prototype (action learning) initiatives
• >560 self-organized hubs in a vibrant global eco-system
• >1,000 self-organized coaching circles.

What explains the growth in group size from 50 to 50,000? It’s moving my class at MIT Sloan to the edX platform, making it a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Designed to blend open access with deep learning, the u.lab was first launched in early 2015 with 26,000 registered participants. When we offered it for a second time, in September, we had 50,000 registered participants. According to the exit survey, 93% found their experience “inspiring” (60%) or “life changing” (33%); and 62% of those who came into the u.lab without any contemplative practice have one now.

Inverting the 21st-Century University

One-third of the participants had “life changing” experiences? How is that possible in a mere seven-week online course? The answer is: it’s not. The u.lab isn’t just an online course. It’s an o2o (online-to-offline) blended learning environment that provides participants with quality spaces for reflection, dialogue, and collaborative action.

From the perspective of the course co-facilitation team, the whole u.lab experience felt like a journey of profound personal, relational, and institutional inversion. To invert something means to turn it inside-out or outside-in. In the case of the u.lab, not only was the classroom experience inverted, but so was the conversation among learners and the learners’ cognitive experience. Unlike traditional classrooms, the u.lab is characterized by:

distributed organizing: opening up the classroom to many self-organized hubsaround the world;
generative dialogue: opening up the conversation from teacher-centric downloading to student-centric generative dialogue;
collective governance: opening up the institution to a global innovation context while cultivating spaces that help the system sense and see itself;
prototyping practices: opening up the learning modes through hands-on action learning methodologies;
self-transformation: opening up the deeper sources of human intelligence by activating the open mind, open heart, and open will.

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Engaging Students in Creative Learning Experiences

Here’s an interview with Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten at the MIT Media Lab, on 28 April 2015, 10:00am published in Innovate My School| Social Media

[As seen in the October 2014 edition of Innovate My School]

Mitchel Resnick is a LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and the head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. He led the research group that developed the ‘programmable brick’, and we’re delighted to welcome him to our Twinterview to explore how new technologies can engage people in creative learning experiences.

Mitchel – it’s the start of a new academic year, and the excitement around implementing technology in the classroom continues to grow. In your opinion, what’s the biggest technology to change learning in the last year?

I’m excited about new “coding tools” that make it easier for kids to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations.

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