Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mindstorms Thinglab

Mindstorms Thinglab Is a constructionist learning lab developed on the principles of inspireNshare Thinglab and inspired by the visionary ideas of Seymour Papert in Mindstorms, Constructionism and his Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab

InspireNshare Thinglab
Inspired by Maker culture, the "The Web We Lost", "Web Squared", constructionism and Connectivism inspireNshare Thinglabs explore new approaches with education and technology - emphasising open, social, informal, "freestyle" and experimental methods ...... "where web meets world" we surf and learn.

InspireNshare Thinglabs are not just about ideas - that would be "Thinklab". InspireNshare Thinglabs are about ideas and experiences .... doing things .... Heads On Hands On (HOHO) to enjoy and have some fun :)

InspireNshare Thinglabs are not just about digital - that would be "Digilab". While digital technology is important, InspireNshare Thinglabs are about 'things" .... artefacts, paper, hand-tools, analogue, art, craft ... even magic .... as well as digital.

Seymour Papert’s research convinced him that children learned more efficiently if they could see a tangible result and that  "kids (and adults, for that matter) are motivated and inspired to learn when they are using that learning to make something they care about, that a teacher’s most important role is to provide them with the tools and freedom to make those things, and that the computer is an especially powerful tool when kids get to use it for creation."

Mindstorms has two central themes: that children can learn to use computers in a masterful way and that learning to use computers can change the way they learn everything else ... even outside the classroom. 

Papert’s Mindstorms, is both a manifesto and a blueprint for EdTech. Few books explain so lucidly the transformative potential of computers in promoting student-centred learning. Fewer still provide practical steps for realising this potential. His research in the 1970s convinced him that children learned more efficiently if they could see a tangible result and for educational computing he developed the turtle - an "object to think with" - a robot that could be programmed by Logo commands to move around with a pen and draw shapes.

“In the LOGO environment … the child, even at preschool ages, is in control: The child programs the computer” 

In Mindstorms Papert writes about his ideas that computers have the potential to change not only the way we educate, but also what we are able to teach to children. Papert considered programming the turtle a tangible example of George Polya's heuristics and principles of problem solving in action - understanding the problem, making a plan, carrying out the plan and reflecting.

"The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they themselves think."

Papert developed his ideas in the learning theory of Constructionism which advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge. Students learn through participation in project-based learning where they make connections between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching rather than using lectures or step-by-step guidance. Further, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making tangible objects in the real world.

Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab
Seymour Papert wrote "Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab" for internal use in a research project - it was published in Gary Stager's doctoral thesis "An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center" in 2007.

1. Learning by doing. 
We all learn better when learning is part of doing something we find really interesting. We learn best of all when we use what we learn to make something we really want.

2. Technology as building material.
If you can use technology to make things you can make a lot more interesting things. And you can learn a lot more by making them. This is especially true of digital technology: computers of all sorts including the computer-controlled Lego in our Lab.

3. Hard fun. 
We learn best and we work best if we enjoy what we are doing. But fun and enjoying doesn’t mean “easy.” The best fun is hard fun. Our sports heroes work very hard at getting better at their sports. 

4. Learning to learn. 
Many students get the idea that “the only way to learn is by being taught.” This is what makes them fail in school and in life. Nobody can teach you everything you need to know. You have to take charge of your own learning.

5. Taking time – the proper time for the job.
Many students at school get used to being told every five minutes or every hour: do this, then do that, now do the next thing. If someone isn’t telling them what to do they get bored. Life is not like that. To do anything important you have to learn to manage time for yourself. This is the hardest lesson for many of our students.

6. You can’t get it right without getting it wrong.
Nothing important works the first time. The only way to get it right is to look carefully at what happened when it went wrong. To succeed you need the freedom to goof on the way.

7. Do unto ourselves what we do unto our students.
We are learning all the time. We have a lot of experience of other similar projects but each one is different. We do not have a pre-conceived idea of exactly how this will work out. We enjoy what we are doing but we expect it to be hard. We expect to take the time we need to get this right. Every difficulty we run into is an opportunity to learn. The best lesson we can give our students is to let them see us struggle to learn.

8. Digital world 
We are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing. So learning about computers is essential for our students’ futures BUT the most important purpose is using them NOW to learn about everything else.

Mindstorms Thinglab and programming to learn
Programming is often misunderstood as a purely intellectual and academic type of activity but it's really quite practical, its about making and building things and learning the real value of programming is that it helps people develop a useful life-wide and life-lifelong way of thinking and set of practical transferable skills.

Mindstorms Thinglab is not just about learning to program - its about programming to learn.
Programming to learn is about: 

* Looking for the essence of things to make them simpler and improve understanding. 

*Approaching big problems in a scientific way and breaking them down into smaller more manageable bits to help us organise, plan and get on and do things. 

* Recognising the importance of understanding things ourselves and being aware of the other person to help us communicate better. 

* Adapting and continuously improving to help us keep learning through our lives.

Mindstorms Thinglab and Tangible Programming
Seymour Papert saw computers and technology as "objects to think with rather than dispensers of information" and that "It’s not what you know about the computer that’s important, but your ability to do things with it."

Mindstorms Thinglab uses technology as "objects to think with". We are developing tangible programming projects as a way to learn not just about programming but about learning.

The nature of computing is changing - we are at the very start of the information revolution proper and what could be new era of computing. Communication interfaces with computers and machines are likely to change with developments in artificial intelligence deep learning will radically change the ways we interact with technology and soon we won’t program computers ... we’ll train them like dogs - this is one reason we are so interested in developing fully physical or tangible computing and computer interfaces, not just as an effective way of introducing programming today but as a way of preparing for the future.

Lego named its programmable technical construction kit "Mindstorms" in honour of Seymour Papert and his ideas in "Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas" and it is with Lego Mindstorms that we have developed our first tangible programming projects Pavlov and Nemo. Each project has three "modes" or phases

* Play and discovery 
Play with the object to get to know about it - find out what it responds to and how it reacts. 

* Training (programming or learning)
Start thinking with and about the object to program it to do things and solve problems.

* Performance (program execution)
Watch the object carry out your program and think about how you might fix anything that went wrong, improved on what you did or what else you might be able to do.

Pavlov and Nemo are just a toe tip in the water of tangible computing - we will be developing many more activities and projects with the "Cambrian explosion" of technology emerging today including nano computing, virtual reality, augmented reality, IoT, robotics, 3D printing and wearable tech to name just a few and in the near future are looking forward to adding AI In The Making.

There has never been a more exciting time with technology.

There has never been a more exciting time to learn.

Thank you to
CCS Libraries for support with Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

No comments:

Post a Comment