16 February 2007

scotland... an overview

ok. i know david is itching to have some sort of more concise thoughts from scotland. seeing as i've managed to come down with a cold and am having trouble organizing my thoughts as a result, this has been slow to come. but it's friday. and worth a shot, even though my nose is runny and my throat sore. it will be informal. forgive me.

one of the things i found really interesting from these two weeks in scotland was the observation that pretty much every group had some story to tell about their machines. here's the bunny running away from a poacher with the gun who's trying to get the easter basket. or here's a guy crossing a road who gets hit by a car over and over. albeit, short stories. but stories nonetheless. which gave me the thought that an interesting direction to take this involving a longer workshop and with more sensor/programming is to make an interactive story. and, i know, david, that you've been mentioning 3-D animation. and, yeah. i think it's a great idea and direction to go in. it's something that the teachers can also get their heads around as a way to bring english/writing skills into something technical and artistic and mathematic. multi-disciplinary. it's something that i think the kids would really get. whether it's a non-fiction or fiction story... doesn't matter.

and this kinda ties in with david nye's assertation in "technology matters" that it's impossible to determine which came first: story or technology. because technology is dependent on story telling... e.g. "i need to do this and maybe if i turn this and use it like this i will get what i want." rudimentary story... but still story. the more complex the technology, the more complex the story, in some sense.

anyway. that was one observation. the other, regarding gender, is that not only are the girls fully involved, even at an age (13/14) where a lot of girls lose interest to science/math/technology, sometimes the girls work better than the guys. especially when it comes to group work. there seems to be a better division of the tasks and less arguing. whether in mixed groups or just girl groups. and having them create something of their own design means that even though the girls may be making a pink ballerina... they're still making a pink ballerina who has to stand up and whose legs move. still technical. but something they care about.

so. other thoughts. lots of kids didn't know how to use pliers or wire cutters. and in the groups where i didn't introduce this to them, it was interesting to see them trying to cut wire at the base of a pair of pliers that has no wire cutters there. like... they got the idea that the wire goes in and that you squeeze, but they missed the fact that it needs to have the cutting part there. so... in terms of introducing kids to building things, it's amazing just how basic you have to be. and something i would've taken for granted at their age is something that i need to remember to explain.

and they really enjoy being trusted to work with the tools. which is good, i think, for building a sense of confidence. this confidence is an important part of me wanting to do this.

that's all for now. a more in-depth look later on.

1 comment:

  1. i think you are onto something here. nothing like concrete experience to guide thinking.

    the storytelling side is key, although also not *new* from the media lab point of view. but the 3-d animation would be.

    it speaks to the flexibility of wire + found materials to enable kids to make stories and be more open. the flexibility and inclusion of the materials help more kids make more meaningful stories, as opposed to the limits on stories by more fixed materials (e.g. lego).

    of course it is a dialog between story and material, especially when building with less familiar materials (wire) since the story emerges and changes as one constructs.

    the gender aspect is critical and should form a large part of your work. this is truly new and important.

    representation also becomes key. the thoughts one can express with different materials.

    the pliers story is nice as well. we have simpler models of how things work until we need to do it. leverage will undoubtedly be another lesson. the math of construction must also get in there.

    make sure you pound your reviewers over the head with what is new since they didn't discover it themselves. it all gets glossed over into a big abstraction (construction) without realizing what new ideas you are adding.