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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Learning Creative Learning MOOC Activity 1: The Gears of My Childhood

I’m really excited to be joining Mitch Resnick and the crew from MIT Media Lab for the “Learning Creative Learning” MOOC (#lcltalk). I had the pleasure of visiting the Lab a few years ago as part of Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference. We dabbled in remix culture and I explored collaborative storytelling with the Scratch program.

Our first assignment was to read Seymour Papert’s Gears of My Childhood and write a short description about an object from our childhood that interested or influenced us – and perhaps shaped our future thinking. Bonus points if we added images 🙂 Unfortunately, I

a. couldn’t narrow it down to just one object

b. didn’t have any pictures or real objects to photograph

So….I improvised and used my favourite method of communication at the moment- the Paper app by Fifty-Three.

OBJECT I : The Donny Osmond record player with built in microphone


This baby was purple (exotic, and my favourite colour), hip (I felt like a teen when I was 8), and empowering (that microphone gave me the wherewithal to PRODUCE rather than merely CONSUME. I think it made me confident in performing in general, though I have been known to sing in front of others.

OBJECT II: Costumes and Dressing Up


My mother was a great seamstress and as a single mom in the 1970’s she made use of scraps of fabric people gave her to sew me incredible outfits and – this is the best part- whimsical costumes. I could be anything I wanted, and to tell you the truth I still love dressing thematically and actually have a separate costume closet. Not only was it the best sort of play, but she taught me that crafting something yourself– especially repurposing old items – is a satisfying endeavor. I learned not to waste (though I am no hoarder), and to embrace remix culture.

OBJECT III: The Prussian Vase


This is the one thing I wish I still had from my childhood – but it disappeared somewhere. My grandfather had been an antiques dealer and every birthday gave my grandmother some sort of objet d’art from the distant past (though, sadly, no mummies!). I was absolutely intrigued by this simple floral porcelain vase in muted pastels because..wait for it…IT WAS FROM A PLACE THAT DIDN’T TECHNICALLY EXIST! You have to understand this was in the 70’s before the Wall fell and new nations popped up or dissolved everywhere. I wasn’t used to a place just vanishing (or so the 10 year old me thought) like that. I think it instilled a certain love of History in me and a sense of impermanence. Perhaps it made me a little nostalgic too.

OBJECT IV: The Corkboard Closet


I’m placing this last on purpose, because I think it epitomizes my thinking at the moment. I absolutely adore Austin Kleon and his books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. In fact, I think they are two of the most important books about education that aren’t really about education. I would definitely insist that anyone interested in the creative process read them. “Show your work” has become somewhat of a movement in social media with the #showyourwork hashtag. Basically it calls upon all creators to be overt about their creative process: the reasoning, the tools, the troubleshooting, etc. It’s also an aesthetic that the collaborative creative community #ds106 embraces. When I was a wee girl, my mom refashioned my closet doors into giant bulletin boards by affixing cork board to them. This was beyond your average above-the-desk-board: this was serious display power. She gave me a space to curate things I loved and show off my own creations. It changed over time as my tastes and interests changed, and really reflected who I was at a particular moment in history. I like to think I give the same freedom and support to my own child as well as to my students. I’ve covered the classroom walls with glossy white paper, for example, so they can draw or write whatever they think will contribute to our learning, or just things they love. There are digital spaces for that as well – my favourite now being Google+ communities developed around a particular interest.






#lcl #reflection #creativity #mit #repurpose #thinking #remix #nostaligia

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