But it makes for a much more meaningful, valuable, and empowering learning experience. It simply means that within those constraints the child should have freedom to explore and develop their own ideas. The best general evidence of room for agency is diversity of outcomes -- when each child uses an activity to create something unique based on their interests and skills.
Another sign of agency is when a learner creates something that breaks the normal frame of an activity. Playful learning is both fun and engaging. Sometimes it looks like intense focus while designing and building, and sometimes it looks like laughter and joking while playing with friends. Both show that the participants care about and are engaged with the experience they are having. Engagement in children looks like focus and fun, with movements between different aspects of the experience. Apathy looks like a retreat to the perimeter of the activity without returning for another try, or otherwise being reluctant to or uninterested in diving in.
Designing for open-ended play is a meta process, because it puts us in the role of designing for the learner as a designer. All design depends on iteration and feedback. Iteration based on feedback is crucial to the success of a creative learning experience. The structure of school tends to discourage iteration because students usually submit a writing assignment once and then receive a grade.
A rich creative play experience should strive for iteration counts in the range of per hour. Iteration is a process of refinement, thus the first attempts at something are often crude or rough.
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In an experience building vehicles that drive down ramps, most iteration is in response to objective feedback: The child tests the car on the ramp, observes what happens, and then makes changes to their design. For an experience that depends on subjective feedback, iteration looks like brief pauses while building, during which the learner looks carefully at their creation, and then continues refining it. Reflection allows the learner to integrate their experiences into their mental model of the world. As this model becomes more refined and accurate, it begins to shed light on the relationships between things, which leads to new insights and new ideas.
Reflection can occur within the feedback iteration loop or after the play experience is over. Designers should include time for reflection in the experience and try to stimulate it afterwards. Show and tell is an invitation for group reflection. Some people reflect while staring at things with vacant expressions. Some people scratch their heads or purse their lips.
Learning and play are deeply complex. There are many more things to be aware of when designing and facilitating creative learning experiences. These guidelines can help orient one to areas that are especially important to focus on. But ultimately the only way to make and maintain great playful learning experiences is to set up an ongoing process of creative iteration and reflection.
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When I was in 7th grade, I roasted in my social studies classroom, especially during the Winter. The teacher would leave the windows open and that would help, a little. But the radiators in the room never stopped pouring out heat. When I asked her why she didn't turn the thermostat down, she explained that it was because the thermostat was in the school district administrative building, some 20 miles away. She'd already called to ask them to adjust it, but from the look on her face and the heat in the room, the result wasn't satisfying.
The policy that led to the boiling classrooom - and the infrastructure that implemented it - was created by people we never met, and couldn't effectively appeal to. But the principles of their design, explicit or otherwise, were easy to guess. They, or the system they created, was judged to be the correct arbiter of temperature in the classroom.
Context, like the actual temperature in the room or the experience of the people in it, was not relevant. In his book Seeing like a State , James C. Scott describes a similar situation in a different realm. The subheading of the book is "How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed," and this is what he spends most of the book describing in great detail. From the forced collectivization of Russian agriculture in the early 20th century, to the displacement and "Villagization" of Tanzanians in the 60s, each example describes a modernist scheme imposed by the state in the name of improving the legibility of its population and resources.
This is in turn used in an attempt to create measurable, controllable outcomes based on modern, industrial principles. The common thread is a state that is willing to radically re-structure the lives of its citizens, usually with the best of intentions, and citizens who are too disempowered to effectively resist. They end up inhabiting structures and systems which are "improvements," but only on paper.
In reality, they are spectacular failures for all parties concerned - both when measured objectively in terms of productivity, and in terms of the subjective experience of the participants. The abstract principles behind the design are judged to be so powerful as to make local context, like actual soil conditions to name one example, irrelevant. As I read the book, I was reminded of my own experiences in public school, and the ones I hear about today.
Teachers are charged with fulfilling a curriculum that is devoid of any local context, made by people they've never met and have no channel to appeal to. In this role they are more like technicians than educators: their job is to implement what the experts have proven is best. Driven by high stakes testing, they have little to no agency with which to modify the agenda in order to address the context in the classroom.
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And when they cannot succesfully implement that agenda, they are held "accountable. There is a perfectly good thermostat controlling the temperature, in the school district headquarters, miles and miles away from the classroom. Our world is built on the notion that we can make choices and do things in ways that yield predictable outcomes, according to formulas of the kind you might use to map the trajectory of a cannonball, or a spaceship traveling to the moon. There is evidence for this in the ongoing public dialogue about education itself. Currently the talk is about charter schools and breaking up teachers unions.
In the early years after the turn of the century, it was about evidence based approaches, and running schools like businesses. The rate at which these solutions are born, adopted, and fall away suggests the desperation of gamblers convinced that they will get lucky the next round, in spite of the evidence that they have been steadily losing for years. We have good reasons for this kind of thinking: it has allowed us to become fantastically successful in technological realms over the past century.
Theories that allow us to predict and control physical outcomes are what made it possible for us to put a man on the moon, among other great and not so great achievements of recent history. What I am saying is that the kind of thinking that got them there and back again will not work to educate our children. A global, context-free calculus of education does not and will not exist. Continuing to search for it is to spend our resources on a fantasy, and distract ourselves from the work of education in context. In his book Making Things Work , Yaneer Bar-Yam suggests that in order to be effective, systems must match their complexity to the scale of the environment in which they are designed to operate.
Their ability to perform their function successfully depends on this relationship to their context. A car is designed for relatively large scale movement, and depends on a relatively low complexity environment: a well paved road.
As the complexity of the environment increases, the scale at which the car can move decreases. A dirt road is more complex than a paved one, and so the car must move more slowly. A Formula One racecar requires an extremely smooth surface; a jeep can handle greater environmental complexity at the expense of speed. Like all environments, these influence their inhabitants in essentially Darwinian ways: in large part they determine what actions and ways of thinking are successful, and which are not. Both are human social settings, and therefore necessarily complex.
It is common shorthand in a scientifically industrialised capitalist society to think of nature in terms of base elements, fuel and resources that can be utilised.
Of course the irony is that the LEGO brick reduces all representations of nature to reusable elements. But in doing so, it not only allows us to feel something about the way nature exceeds our technical comprehension, it also exposes the limits of human understanding that seeks mastery through the application of productivity-validated systems over living things. There is no doubt that science and technical understanding have done much good.
Our medical mastery of ourselves, and our material mastery of our environment, has made life safer, easier and longer. Understanding and mastery of nature is one thing, but how to deploy these skills ethically another. Thinking about how and why LEGO artists continue to seek to build and represent nature, the answer is perhaps a simple one? The medium is so ill suited to capturing the sophistication of nature that it cannot help but present the impossible challenge of such a task in every built attempt.
LEGO representations of nature reveal a necessary human deference towards our world, through the willingness to fail, to make our representations of nature, just that, representations and not explanations of living things. They have the potential to temper the modern proclivity for the technical reduction of things to resource, and as such stand to remind us what might be lost in every failed representational attempt.
Photograph by smow blog flic. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. The first volume was published in by No Starch Press. Louisville, KY: Motes Books, Even before the popular LEGO websites picked up on the model, comments and likes were multiplying faster than I could keep track of. Although competently made there were hundreds of better built LEGO marvels at the exhibition. Even the aesthetic design, whilst polished, borrowed heavily from familiar tropes and other recognisable franchises. What made them a hit was the simple fact that dinosaurs are pretty cool.
Mix this with space age robotics and a splash of nostalgia and the wining formula was complete. Reflecting on the events of the show I dug a little deeper into what I build and why? One is linked to the part of me who went to Art College and now works for a university, teaching art theory from time to time. His creations reference Ancient Greek art and folk traditions such as needlecraft and paper cuts. The other has unfinished business with the important task of a ten year-old who is still trying to build the most amazing spaceship possible!
Each year the new catalogue was released and my brother and I would quickly turn to the Space page.
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We would point out the models we wanted, earmarking birthday presents and Christmas gifts in January. Our free building activities followed in the same vein. Spaceships, rovers, robots and lunar bases were our staples. Where I favoured the idiosyncratic look of science fiction models, which had scant regard for practicality as long as they looked beautiful, my brother focused on engineering challenges and functions.
Between the two of us we made good progress in emulating our heroes, the designers of the official LEGO sets. It is with great pride that I remember mastering the tricky art of detailing a Space model with lights, panels and antennae, a task I considered integral to the official sets. My aim was to build in the style of the designers of my childhood sets, but now with the skill and artistic vision of an adult. Where before the ultimate goal was to build as well as the designers, now I had the expertise to match their work, but also the freedom to work outside the conventions of toy design.
Even the most cursory of scans of my builds reveals an obsessional pursuit of this. How many three-wheeled space rovers can I make, what would a pyramid spaceship look like and how do you build a space elephant? It is more than the use of certain colours in particular combinations, which it is often reduced to. Black and yellow stripes in the right order do not make a Classic Space set. New colour combinations were constantly being introduced. In many ways the range portrayed a mismatched oddball collective of scientific space exploration vehicles.
Yet, there is a tangible quality shared by them all. Taking the clunky technology of the 70s and 80s and mixing it with aspirations of an established lived-in future world as portrayed in the Star Wars films. The result is often quirky in its aesthetic rendering of pragmatic function. Space sets looked as if they had a purpose without being explicit what that function was.http://eaglesflightschoollagos.com/scripts/335/1577.php
A great Space design for me is a model with lots of apparent scientific equipment on display without enforcing what any of it does. This way of working leaves builders with several different ways of taking the theme forward. Channeling the sleek spaceship designs of the first wave of Space sets and remodeling them with all the skill of modern building techniques.
Importantly they spliced this with the direction science fiction design has moved in the era of digital design. The result is a wonderful alternative world of space exploration. On discovering their work it felt like finding a couple of kids in the next town who had come up with a different, yet equally brilliant space universe to mine. My own take on Classic Space starts from very different sets though. It is a world where functional design is pushed beyond use into impracticality for the sake of whimsical design.
When I start to build I tend to come up with an interesting exaggeration, a canopy design that pushes the parts further than they are supposed to go, or something as simple as placing radar dishes at certain points to insinuate a face. For me these twists make a Space model infinitely cooler than any deadly armed star fighter will ever be. My kindred spirits are builders like Crismso Geiger, who makes sequences of creations by reusing small selections of Classic Space pieces, and my sometimes Space competition collaborator David Roberts, who mixes, space, whimsy and engineering functions.
Together we seem at odds with the science fiction designs of today remaining resolutely attuned to an eccentric nostalgia for a future that never was.
Once the idea was set, I had a fresh focus for pushing pieces into new design purposes. Panel lines were cut into the sheet styrene, but this technique left the ship looking bare. Hundreds of model kits were purchased and the model department promptly cut apart pieces of the model kits and stuck them, along with more sheet styrene, to the surfaces of the ship.
Greeble - Wikipedia
The ultimate effect was to make the ship appear more believable to the viewer through the addition of these large areas of ancillary details. The greebles themselves served no purpose other than to fill space and individually had no definite function to the design of the ship, although later each greeble was given a specific function by either fans or technical illustrators for fan guides. A plastic soldier was part of the greebling on the Executor. They had great pipes, cranks and knobs that worked perfectly for the outer sides of starships and weapons. When the crew was done they had several submarine "hulls" left over and some were used in the creation of the EF76 Nebulon-B Medical Frigate seen at the end of Return of the Jedi.
George Lucas is quoted as saying the ship reminded him of an outboard motor. Another example of greeble application was the Battlestar Galactica model for the original s series, which featured on its hull pieces from a wide assortment of kits, including Apollo orbiters , Saturn rocket boosters , F fighter jets, and various tanks.
As would be expected, given these origins, greebling is most commonly associated with the particular kind of large city-like spaceships made popular in Star Wars , but has been generalized to refer to any dense covering by different usually mechanical components. Similarly, Borg starships and drones in Star Trek appear heavily "greebled" using leftover sprues from previous kitbashing and photoetched bits. An anecdote from the creation of the first Star Wars movie involves the Tunisian customs enquiring what a part of C-3PO 's costume listed as "assorted greebles" was. Their response was allegedly "Something that looks cool but doesn't actually do anything.
Greebles are also used to enhance the interest of interior sets. In Star Trek, the original series, walls of the corridors were decorated with bits and pieces of things that looked interesting.
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