A particularly interesting aspect of being part of the Fablearn Fellows group is to have first-hand experiences of activities that we could offer to our children.
Last month’s project was to make a collaborative quilt, in which each component has to make one or more frames. The design of each frame has to be written with Lynx. Lynx is a cloud-based programming environment derived from Logo. I had never used this platform before and I did not know the syntax. The programming space at first approach was quite spartan but over time I was able to discover its potential and I really appreciated it.
When I start learning new software or a new language I always prefer to use a part of code already made from which to start and that I can modify. This allows me to understand the syntax rules and to find out which part of the code does what by analyzing different outputs depending on the changes I make.
For this reason, when I introduce a new project in the classroom, I always try to propose to kids some already built inspirations whether it is software, such as scratch projects that can be modified or used only as inspiration, or construction projects. I noticed that initially, the guys rely a lot on the suggested products but once they become familiar they tend to discard the prototype and build something completely different and that more reflects their tastes and abilities.
This approach was also useful on this occasion, I started from a piece of code created by another fellow to modify it gradually and try to create my frame.
The next step was to join the different frames and create a quilt. I particularly like this aspect because even if at a distance, distributed all over the world, we were able to create something together, I felt part of a community-led by a project that unites us. It is a very topical issue, that of remote collaboration, which teachers have heard particularly in the last year and a half. I believe that projects of this type can involve and make students collaborate even if they are not physically close.
In developing the activity, cooperation between peers was also born spontaneously, several times someone shared their code in which they asked for support to find an error that they could not identify and the group supported them avoiding the frustration of failing. I analyzed a peer’s code, and that has made me acquire a greater knowledge of the tool and led me to reflect on how different people have built codes with different characteristics.
The works of others have inspired further ideas for other frames and I believe that this “contamination” is very positive because even if someone initially does not feel able to design or build their own project, thanks to the projects of their companions they can find their own dimension. Often, when we work face to face, I find it very useful to let mates pass between the tables to find opportunities or to help those in difficulty.
The final step is to show your work to the group, which is fundamental for two reasons: Firstly, sharing generates greater self-confidence and leads to reflect and find inspiration from the work of others, secondly, to tell what happened and how, activate the metacognitive functions that lead to a greater awareness of self, of logical and creative processes that are triggered. Mitch Resnick inserts sharing as one of the phases of the creative learning spiral followed just after by the reflection phase.
Just like my students I had an initial phase of disorientation in which I did not know the platform and still had no ideas on what to do. There was a period of latency, of searching for inspiration, and then I started to build something. The comparison drawn from the works of the other fellows was fundamental to be able to finish my project.
RESNICK, M. Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play. The MIT Press, 2017.