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  • Mitch: As I said, its great to have Joi Ito and Mimi Ito here to join us for focusing on interest based learning.

  • But before including them, just want to give an update for the online participants in the course.

  • We've been really excited by the activity on the Google + Community this past week.

  • I know someone in the community said that watching the Google + community for this course had usurped all their twitter time.

  • But actually they felt it was a good trade off, so we're happy that we are providing people some new ways of spending their online time.

  • For those of us here, we found it really interesting seeing all the communication going on by the thousands of online participants.

  • I did just want to mention for the online participants, a few things. We still get questions about where to find certain information.

  • And encourage people in the left column in the Google + community, theres a staff announcements link. And the announcements there

  • are the ones that we are providing from MIT, so there have been announcements this week for example if you want to post questions

  • to be asked to Joi and Mimi, we gave the information there how to do it. So you should check the staff announcements for information about how to participate

  • actively in the course. I put up an announcement which was how to deal with the readings in the spirit of interest based learning that we are talking about

  • this week. I encourage people if you find some readings you are more interested in, dive more deeply, search for other things on related topics.

  • If something is less interesting to you, its fine to skim, find the parts that are greatest interest to you. We put the readings out there to try to capture your interest

  • but look at it and dive into the things that you find most interesting. Also, the weekly prompts to engage you in discussions in your small groups

  • is also in the left column there. We have the weekly emails are there so thats another place to look to find out about some of the ways of engaging

  • with your smaller groups. We also know that some of the small groups have been very active this week, other groups there has been less activity

  • There's some randomness of when we assign people to groups, some groups more active than others. In the staff announcements we have some tips of how

  • if your group isn't active how to switch to other groups, to find other ways to participate. So take a look at those announcements if you want to find out more.

  • We've also been really happy how people in the community have been adding new elements to the community. I think we mentioned briefly last week

  • that Adriano in the community had created a google map of the participants. Here's how it looked, I grabbed it last night, so there's a, it really is a

  • pretty global community. We've seen people from all over the world. But in addition to this map of the overall online participation, we've seen some where

  • individual groups are also setting up so they can keep track of where the people in the small groups are. I liked this one where, this was after there were just

  • two markers, one in Boston, one in Peru. Then there was a comment that said, those two little markers on the map make the world feel a lot more connected already.

  • So again, people starting to see how they connect within their groups. We've seen lots of different ways that groups are connecting.

  • I got this photo from a school here in Cambridge, Shady Hill School, where twenty-five of the educators and administrators all signed up for the course.

  • They are watching together and doing this as part of their ongoing professional development for the educators there.

  • But its also around the world. Here are some images from Ethiopia where an educator there, John Iglar, organized the marshmallow challenge that we did

  • that we talked about last week and invited some parents and kids both to do the marshmallow challenge. And then engaged in reflection upon

  • the different learning styles between the kids and the parents. But they also went a step further. They took some of the readings from the first week at this

  • session in Ethiopia and made little cut out words and remixed the readings into their own statements about the way they were thinking about learning.

  • So its just been great to see the ways people are taking what we are putting out there, remixing, suggesting activities for other people in the online community.

  • Its nice to see that some people are really resonating with the ideas that are in the readings and are being discussed. Here was one quote that I grabbed

  • from the community. "I just read the reading on formal v informal education. Joi Ito's experience with formal education is so similiar to my own." So it's great that

  • people are resonating and then discussing their own personal experiences. But we also see a lot of people are confronting with the challenges and theres a lot

  • of discussion in the online community about what they see as challenges. Like, here's one, says, "I love the whole premise of interest based learning but as

  • a public school teacher I'm struggling with how to integrate this with the common core standards." Or one from a parent, from a parent's view

  • "I don't see how any schools in my area could incorporate innovative child lead interest based learning when the state is forcing kids into

  • standards based box." So people are resonating but also seeing the challenges and i think those are the things that we want to continue the discussion during the

  • semester. Providing a vision and a better understanding of the vision but also trying to see how we deal with the challenges in bringing these to light.

  • Reading through the Google + community was great to see many people responding to the prompt about writing about a childhood object in the spirit of

  • Seymour Papert's Gears. And I just grabbed a few of them. From Maria who talked about getting the watercolor kit from her childhood in Russia but then

  • emigrating and bring it with her as she came to the United States and about her experiences with the watercolor kit. Or Rosa talking about moving as a

  • child from Puerto Rico and then her grandmother in the South Bronx giving her a Nintendo system and how that sort of gave her a new entry point into her

  • new life, of getting engaged and learning a participation in new ways. Others like Helen talking about her love of books and creating separate worlds

  • through the books of her childhood. One of my favorite inventions was from Jeff whose parents, he wanted to get a typewriter that he saw in the Sears catalog and

  • his parents wouldn't get it for him so he invented his own typewriter and he says today he now works as a paper engineer, I'm not exactly sure what that means

  • but it grows out of this early experience of inventing his own typewriter. Then even the presentation, this beautiful poster collecting a variety of different ideas

  • about Julia's different childhood objects presenting the role that the different childhood objects played with her. And then some people did recognize as we saw

  • in this quote, how rich it is to ask about childhood objects but to get so much about process. Miriam was sharing. And I do think thats one of the things we most

  • appreciated although we asked people to share about childhood objects, really what comes out from that is learning about the process of learning and the

  • relationships of learning. And I think we see this if you go through the community and you see all of these stories, you see so much of it is about the

  • relationships related to learning, the connections that are a part of learning, the process of learning. But focusing on objects helps bring a lot of that to light.

  • I think thats another theme of this course, we'll be seeing how focusing on the objects and the concrete can open up to the explorations of the networks that

  • people are a part of. So with that as background, I thought it might be a good way to start in talking with Joi and Mimi on the topic of interest based learning.

  • In thinking about, and we have here the picture of Joi and Mimi, again thanks to Mimi for sharing this lovely photo from their childhood. Mimi, to start off by

  • talking to them about objects of their childhood that interested them, influenced them and as they look back what role those objects played in their childhood

  • and subsequently. Mimi, do you want to start? Mimi: Oh, either way, sure I'm happy to start because I'm going to implicate Joi and its a little bit hard to talk about

  • childhood objects and not implicate your brother in that. You know, I was thinking about it, and I loved the stories, i looked a little bit online and I liked the image

  • of gears but I'm going to go with a girlie example which is the play with stuffed animals that I did when I was a kid. I think that one kind of childhood remixing and

  • tinkering object that doesn't get enough play because some of the gender dynamics of these discussions are things like doll play. And for me I didn't like the

  • plastic girl dolls, but I loved stuffed animals and had a big collection. And we would, with my friends and I would drag my brother into this too, create these huge

  • sort of fantasy narratives and rearrange our living rooms and basements to create these cities that our animals would populate and I think whats interesting

  • about that is not just sort of the obvious sort of fantasy life that was tied to popular culture and other things that kids can get into through doll play but just all of

  • the social negotiations and the politics that go into creating shared narratives together with friends and siblings. So I think that was a huge part of early

  • learning experience that related to interest in things like character and narrative and popular culture but also in a lot of the interests that ended up animating

  • my learning and professional life subsequently which really had to do with those kinds of social negotiations, how cultures built collectively, how you have to

  • navigate these complicated relationships and hierarchies like which characters are going to have power in the scenario. So I think it was a really

  • formative set of experiences for me that is probably, it feels different in important ways too to the idea of tinkering with objects in a more solitary vein.

  • Mitch: Although in some ways could you say you were tinkering with relationships? It was still a type of tinkering but tinkering with relationships?

  • Mimi: Oh yeah, absolutely, I mean it was definitely a tinkering and kind of as a side effect of it we would do a lot of construction, we would make these forts and

  • construct a ton of things but it was all in the service of story and narrative and character development and political negotiation and so the building of things was

  • around that as opposed to building forts for the sake of building forts. I think that was, its a different process and I think different kids are probably

  • attracted to the building and making through different entry points. Mitch: Joi? Joi: I kind of struggled because I couldn't remember anything as interesting as gears

  • that fundamentally changed my cognitive models and I'll just use two different things. The one object that I was very obsessed with when I was very very little

  • were keys. I collected keys. And to me that wasn't so much, it was more about a philosophy than a cognitive model because to me locked doors were things that

  • were, was authority in the way of my getting through things and keys were the way that I would get through it. It was kind of whether I had to steal the key from

  • my dad or whatever, it was a way for me to hack the system that was preventing me from having access. It probably is why I like badges and you don't. I don't

  • think it really changed the way I thought about the way the world was constructed. Mitch: I'm very struck when you say there wasnt anything as profound as gears.

  • To me, it does seem profound, I hear you talking about keys and I think of Creative Commons. Joi: Yes Mitch: wanting things to be open. Joi: Yes, there definitely is

  • a key that is tied to the openness and wanting access and things like that but the other thing that actually wasn't my object but that I remember very clearly was I worked at a company

  • that was run by a physics-chemist genius named Stan Ovshinsky, he was a high school dropout but he invented the field of amorphous materials, he made

  • the first amorphous threshold switch, he was a genius, he had thousands of patents and Noble Laureates as friends and he would have these pipe cleaners and

  • styrofoam balls and he'd sit there and he'd put together molecules and he'd shake them and he'd say, "See these dangling bonds? I bet if we put germanium

  • there it would increase the proficiency of the photovoltaics." And then you'd have these Noble Laureates scribbling things down saying, " well this

  • is what it means when you write it in math." But he didn't speak in math, he talked about science by shaking these physical objects and to me that was

  • why I wanted to become a scientist because I thought science was about this intuitive understanding of things as if molecules were styrofoam and pipe cleaners

  • That was why university was such a big shock because that wasn't how physics teachers explained things to me and that was how my mentor had explained things to me.

  • was always physical objects like did the ice cream, making ice cream, he explained how crystals and things like that. So to me the objects of science were

  • how I was learning about science and then I learned later that that wasn't how it was taught in schools. So that actually to me was very important in my

  • cognitive development because I thought very early on that all science and technology could be explained intuitively through physical models. And that,

  • understanding that was how you understood science and I didn't realize that you had to learn it through words and numbers. I still sort of believe that.

  • Mitch: That really resonates for me. In college, I was a physics major but didn't go on. And what turned me off was in the earlier stages, I could have an intuitive grasp

  • of everything we were learning and by the time I got into the later years in being a physics major, I could still manipulate the formulas and I could still get the

  • right answers but I didn't have an intuitive feel and it lost it's appeal to me. Joi: But I would kind of blame the teachers because when you watch the Feynman lectures

  • and even if you talk to, and even later in life, I was also a physics major that stopped, when I would get really frustrated I remember calling David Adler who was

  • the head of physics at MIT when I was in high school and said my physics teacher can't explain this to me but I really think this is how it relatively works. And he

  • would explain it to me in an intuitive way. I think that unless you really understand it, you can explain it in an intuitive way. And what happens is, I think, we have

  • a teaching system where we scale up to a point where the people teaching don't really have an intuitive grasp so you fall back onto formulae and structure. But I think

  • the people who actually invent new stuff in physics do have an intuitive model of everything. Mitch: Mimi, this discussion is about intuitive ways outside of the classroom

  • and how it sometimes conflicts with inside the classroom. Maybe if you could then move forward from your early childhood experiences to classroom experiences.

  • And again you were in some different disciplines and different domains, but in what ways did you see the connections between your outside of school learning and

  • your inside of school learning which is obviously a theme in your work today. I would be interested in as you were growing up, what were the connections for you between

  • outside of school and inside of school? Mimi: Yeah, its kind of interesting growing up with Joi because we were, we are very different learners. I was always what I call sort of a

  • corporate learner, I did really well in institutionalized instruction and I was what our teachers now call a "pleaser" , I suppose, at school. And Joi was a much more interest

  • based learner. In a lot of ways the research I'm doing now that is focused on interest based learning. A lot is about my observations of Joi and our differences growing up because

  • we were very close but we had very different styles of interacting with organizations and developing relationships. I think, for me, the tie was, it wasn't so much a conflict

  • with what I was doing in school and out of school but I think the formative experience for me was growing up in a bicultural environment where I spent a lot of time

  • sitting outside culture and observing it and trying to understand how it worked. So in a way, I applied that to what was happening in school. Like if in school you discover

  • and understand the structure of how, what the expectations are, what the achievements are, how you get recognized, its not that hard to conform if you feel like doing that.

  • For me, it was always about cracking the social code and figuring out what to do with it. I think a lot of, for me, experiences of being a cultural outsider was really formative to that

  • Now I think Joi responded to that same set of circumstances in a really different way. I think at the end of the day, interest can be broader than what we usually

  • think of as passion based learning. It can be interest in the sense of relevance to your life. The thing for me understanding culture was about survival growing up.

  • I had an extreme interest in it because its was highly relevant to what I needed to do to survive as a foreigner in a baffling culture and we would move back and forth

  • between the US and Japan so we would get it on both ends. We never really fit in culturally anywhere. For me, becoming an anthropologist and becoming a cultural anthropologist

  • was really built on this formative experience of highly relevant and motivated learning even though it wasn't what you would necessarily consider passion or interest based in the sense

  • of music or arts or something like that. It totally shaped what I ended up doing later in life. Mitch: I think thats a really important idea about that interest isn't just something

  • you develop totally on your own. Sometimes when we talk about interest based learning, a misconception I find ,and its often hard to communicate, if we say we want to move

  • away from traditional classrooms and have more interest based its as if people think oh just leave the child alone so they can do things on their own so they can develope their

  • interest on their own. And thats not at all what is meant. Joi: It's weird, can I ask a question? Mitch: Yeah, sure! Joi: Because one thing I wonder, play was a very important part

  • of my interest and I didn't think that Mimi had as much play. But I'm curious in your structure, but I do think also its the time, like I couldn't think further than half a day ahead

  • in terms of my interest so I was in pursuit of whatever could immediately feed back. Whereas my sister could plan further ahead, and say well if I want to be there,

  • its kind of like a chess player, then I have to do this and this and this and she could plan the moves backwards and say okay I need to do this. The question I have is, was there

  • any game play in that or was it anxiety driven or was it much more like I'm trying, what was the emotional component of that trajectory, the longterm trajectory that you had?

  • Mimi: I think a lot of it I don't think I would associate it with the affect of necessarily play as much as, there was definitely experimentation and play to some extent but

  • I think you were much more of a tinkerer, experimenter, innovator in the moment type learner. I think that for me, its about sort of gaming in the sense of optimizing

  • or trying to get, its not necessarily, planning in the sense that you know where you're going to end up but if you have systems whether its an organization like a school or a game

  • or anything like that its a fairly rule bound system so you, if you start understanding culture and society and how they operate then you can maximize your game play in those

  • systems. In that sense, I do a lot of research on gamers and there are very different styles of game play. Some gamers really get into sort of these more end game forms

  • of playing. Some are much more social and exploratory and I think even when we talk about play there's just like with interest based learning, I think theres sort of this idealized notion

  • where the affect is about pleasure and fun and exploration but I think there are other forms of affect that can go with experimentation and inquiry based learning that don't

  • necessarily have those affective dimensions and that have this pursuit of excellence or productivity or making contributions to the world, making your best contribution

  • to a collective. These are kind of different affective modes which again to Mitch's point, it is about interest. We've been using the term relevance much more in addition to interest

  • just to signal, and to have an openness to different learning styles. So, its not that one is better than the other but I think that different people, different young people have different

  • kinds of affective registers, different things that drive and motivate them. Some young people are driven by the social, some do have that more individual passion based thing.

  • Some are driven by play, some are driven by competition and all of these things are part of the palette of what can motivate learning, what can motivate young people to

  • make contributions. I think the point of what we've been trying to pursue at least with our idea of connected learning and interest based learning is to really broaden

  • the kinds of entry points, pathways, motivations and the ways we recognize learning so that it can accomodate more diversity of styles. Mitch: Is it ever a challenge, sometimes

  • an issue that people raise with interest based learning, they would say some interests lead to a better place than other interests. Do you want to have equal value to all different

  • types of interests that people might follow and how does one think about that? Mimi: I think that one of the things that we're really advocating for is recognizing a broader range

  • of interests as possible pathways to learning and opportunity because a lot of times we make presumptions about what are valuable interests for young people and

  • what are not and this isn't to say that all interests are equally valuable but I think our imagination about what kinds of interests can lead to productive learning is a

  • little bit impoverished still. That's why for example, I advocate for gaming and popular culture as arenas that are really really rich entry points for interest driven and valuable

  • learning. We've seen this, for example, I think theres been such excellent work with hip-hop for example. The incredible creativity and writing and artistic talent that

  • goes into that, those forms of popular culture that have historically been somewhat under appreciated. I think educators have really stepped up to start building more

  • programs around spoken word and so on that are tying those forms of creativity and learning into opportunity and recognition. I think we're just starting to see that with

  • gaming and popular fan cultures and things like that. And there's so much opportunity there to reach out to young people who have interests that may not be historically

  • highly valued in our culture. Its not just piano lessons and violin and chess that make kids creative and smart. Theres a ton of things that young people are doing in diverse

  • cultural settings that are under appreciated, under exploited for their learning potential. So we've really been trying to advocate for opening up that imagination but also, Mitch,

  • what you're raising is the important issue that its really important to open and diverse about what we consider valuable learning. But the investments we can make are

  • finite as educators so you want to select those games, those forms of popular culture that seem to have the most potentials. Even when I'm looking at young people's

  • worlds and gaming or popular culture, we are selecting for our cases and for our educational interventions, ones that seem to have a lot of potential, that seem to have parents

  • and educators starting to connect. In gaming, for example, Minecraft is a really great example that is starting to get a lot of traction in education. You know, theres, we're looking

  • at Starcraft, we're doing a case of WWEE, i think that's an under appreciated fandom, that's professional wrestling, incredibly interesting from a narrative perspective, very family friendly

  • which a lot of people outside that fandom don't always realize. So I do think we have to pick to some extent but I think to the degree to which we can broaden in terms of our cultural palette

  • what we consider valuable forms of interest. Its a big plus in bringing more young people into educational pathways. Mitch: One thing I was interested in following up on was

  • Joi earlier raised the question about time scale. And thats another challenge when there are certain types of things that as much as we can think its great to have learning

  • on demand, that when you need to learn something, you dive in and learn it, but certain things if you're going to do it, a piano recital and the night before you say I'm going to

  • dive in and learn it on demand, it probably won't work so well. What are ways of dealing with that challenge of knowing there are different time scales for different types

  • of things you might want to do? Joi: I think that, like Mimi was saying, theres different things that, like for instance as a scuba instructor, theres a really long time scale before

  • you can become a cave diver but I have my scuba diving lessons and badges chunked in basically two or three day courses. So you start out with your license and advance

  • and then rescue and then side mount and then, so there is a reward all the way up. And with a piano recital I'm sure you can for the short term types. I really like scuba diving

  • because you have a theoretical thing. And you say, " And tomorrow in the pool, or today in the pool, you will use this and unless you remember Boyles Law, you're going to

  • drown. But if you don't drown its going to be fun because we're going to do, we're going to do that." And there's always a physical activity, a theoretical component

  • and a badge associated with each one. And you can literally visualize when thats going to happen. And that ties into big arch. And I can imagine a piano recital, also you could probably

  • chunk it up. Now some kids don't need it and so thats why probably we have enough people who are excellent at piano and are excellent at going to university who haven't

  • needed the little badges along the way because they can say in order for me to buy that house I need to go to this university and get this job and thats why in Kindergarten

  • I'm going to go to school everyday instead of getting kicked out like me. But we're losing those kids who are short sighted. Again, its interesting, personally I'm not sure, I think

  • its better to be able to plan but I also think I also benefit in a certain kind of agility that I get for not having a plan. To me its kind of this kind of a scaffolding that you can create.

  • Again somewhere between what Mimi is saying and what you're saying, because I think Mimi was talking a little bit about the culture and the medium. And then if you think

  • about the tools of reward like Mimi was mentioning competition and other things. To me, the badging is one way which actually reminds me of collecting keys.

  • I collect my little, I have like a whole box full of paddy licenses and each one enables me to do something. Like dive nitrox, sort of reminds me of collecting keys.

  • So thats the way I get excited, I collect little cards. But I also know that those are little drivers for me for a bigger arch. I do want to become a cave diver but its these little things

  • along the way. I think every person has little quirks and different ways