LCL Intro

A MOOC is quite a large “thing” – a conglomeration of people from around the world participating online in learning something. I’m not entirely clear how many are participating in MIT’s Learning Creative Learning, but about 24,000 folks have signed up. One of the ways the MOOC curators will have a sense of who is here/there is from the 30 second video introductions we’ve been encouraged to submit. Here’s my 8 second intro!


Seymour’s GEARS; Laurie’s PATTERNS

[After reading the preparatory materials for Session 2 of the Learning Creative Learning MOOC, particularly Seymour Papert’s “Gears of My Childhood“, we were asked to “write about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you.”]


photo-53I wanted to take the door to my bedroom with me. It was plastered with pictures and cut-out words and letters and photos and memorabilia. When I left home, that door represented my life through elementary, junior and senior high school.

That visual potpourri overflowed both sides of the door to encompass the walls of my room, though I knew taking those walls along was not exactly feasible!

All of my interests as a kid were represented, floor to ceiling, either glued, tacked, pasted or written directly upon the walls: Collages. Newspaper headlines. Bits and pieces of this and that. The players of the Knicks & Mets teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s written in green marker. Souvenirs. Photographs. These vertical surfaces embraced my room with a scrapbook of my life, arranged by color, texture, timeliness, interest, and always by whatever available space I could find next.

I loved the process of creating layouts. I spent hours crafting birthday cards for family, experimenting with letter arrangements and doodling new letter forms.

My interest in the visual look of information followed me through as a copy editor for my high school newspaper and then for a magazine in college. One of my early jobs was working for a printer, back when letterpress printing was a typical way to mass produce print media. We shared office space with a graphics company where I was able to dabble in layout and design, giving me the impetus to take classes at the School of Visual Arts.

To this day, my brain gravitates to patterns: the visual look of printed material or digital posts, objects on the fireplace mantel, plants on the windowsill; patterns in the piano music I play; patterns in the built world around us; nature’s patterns; patterns of thinking – how does our brain work – and patterns of living – how do our bodies and our brains age.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the freedom to do unto those walls and door as I saw fit!

P.S. I teach. Part of what that entails is designing curriculum, be it for school or for yoga sessions I’ve led. In that design process, I’m always considering patterns, be they stretched out over a year or just over one class.

Reflection from last summer, in our kitchen


Learning Creative Learning

I am taking my first ever MOOC! That’s a Massively Open Online Course. And the course I’m taking is MIT’s Learning Creative Learning. I am a huge fan of Mitch Resnick and Scratch, so when this course was advertised and I saw it was offered by the MIT Media Lab, it was a quick and easy decision to participate. Plus I wanted to experience participating in a MOOC.

The course has begun, and I am going to post my written responses here. (Other responses will be Scratch programs, so the best I’ll be able to do is provide a link to them.) Below is my post to the lcl-417 Google Group – my smaller group of some 12 folks, carved out of the massive course group of a few thousand.

In preparation for the second session, we were asked to read several articles, view a video, and then comment on them. My comments relate to Joi Ito’s blog posts (Formal vs Informal Education, Reading the Dictionary, Dubai and Learning about the Unknowable) and his keynote (Keynote to Open Educational Resources meeting).

This Week in LCL: Particularly enjoyed reading Joi Ito’s blog posts.

Months prior to this MOOC, I had watched a video of Joi speaking and had read about his appointment to the Media Lab. What fascinated me then, as with now, was his background, and his approach to formal education. He did what worked best for him, yet it turns out that approach may very well be a good path for a multitude of students just setting out from high school.

I think of the spiral path to formal education that my husband, my two sons, and I have each taken. Long ago I concluded that the straight arrow from high school to college, a process which was the norm when I was a kid, is not necessarily the best path to learning.

Joi may first strike folks as being particularly unusual or creative or self-motivated. And indeed, not everyone following a similar path is going to wind up in an equivalent position! However, pursuing a path that makes sense for the individual may likely lead to a position of creative and productive  satisfaction. And that, I believe, is the whole point.

Time for a change

It’s 2:03 in the morning. Not exactly my regular blogging time, but then I haven’t been blogging regularly for the past year.

If it’s time for sleeping, but I’m not able to sleep, it may as well be time for changing the look of my blog. And time for asking Posterous for backups of my Posterous blogs.

There will definitely be a bit of fine-tuning needed to synch this look with text descriptions that are no longer accurate, and that will happen gradually over the next few weeks. Okay, maybe over the next few months. (I’m trying to be realistic!)

For now, I’ve been up for a solid 90 minutes and counting, and it’s time to head back to bed!

Maker Faire 2012 or how I spent Saturday

Saturday my husband and I tooled over to Queens, near CitiField, and spent the day walking around Maker Faire 2012. We’ve known about Maker Faires, but this was our first time seeing one up close, and we had a blast! There were all sorts of home made inventions and contraptions, and almost everywhere you looked there were 3D printers or objects that had been made via a 3D printer. The Faire was family friendly, indeed it was designed to inspire kids to create.

We also attended two talks, one by Seth Godin and the other a conversation with Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine, and Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot.

Seth Godin lives in Westchester, a New Yorker born and bred (so I’ve been told). He’s a marketer and author, a summarizer and explainer of and guide to new media and trends, and a highly entertaining and spot-on speaker who does not mince his words. 

Chris Anderson is an author, and editor of Wired Magazine and you can read his article about how The New MakerBot Replicator Might Just Change Your World. And Bre Pettis is the face behind the MakerBot company. Here he is introducing the Replicator 2

The themes of their talks were similar and made an impression on me, especially in my new role as LS STEAM Integrator.

Godin talked about how kids doing science labs in school are not really doing science. Rather, they are kids following instructions that someone else crafted years ago. To truly be a lab, students should be making and innovating. Bre Pettis said that the “criteria for a good project” is “you don’t know what’s going to happen in the end but you try anyway.”

As Godin said: IF it might not work, THEN you are doing something important BECAUSE it is risky and someone can say you are wrong or they don’t like it. From there, you iterate, you try again, you take another risk, you start a conversation.

Of course, this all got me thinking about my Environmental Ed classes, which begin tomorrow. I don’t separate out Environmental Ed from STEAM, but my job is described with these two specific responsibilities. In any case, my take home from Seth, Chris and Bre is a reminder that rather than hand my 3rd graders step-by-step directions, my job is to provide a place for them to explore, experiment, ask questions and figure things out by doing, talking, thinking, sharing, crafting…

For instance, I could tell the kids how water winds up in our homes, I could show them pictures, or I could ask them to ask their parents. But how much better if I provide each class with some crafts items and a large reservoir of water, and ask them to figure out how to get the water from the reservoir to the buildings.

If anyone has thoughts about Seth’s, Chris’s and Bre’s comments or my take-away, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Blogging Mentor

Not too long ago I came upon this post by Sue Waters. She was looking for folks who were involved in education who might be interested in mentoring new student bloggers. Something about her post called out to me. Sue has taken a different approach from QuadBlogging, which seeks to facilitate commenting on school or class blogs by grouping schools from around the world in fours, or quads (hence the term quadblogging).

Sue’s approach is to match individual students with individual educators. Typically between 20 and 30 students are matched to one adult who serves as a mentor to those students. The students create their own blogs and Sue provides a series of challenges for them to respond to over a period of ten weeks. The mentor is tasked with visiting each student’s blog at least three times over the course of the ten weeks, commenting on posts and returning to continue the conversations, and reminding the students of the various challenges.

Here’s what I wrote when signing up to be a mentor:


I’ve been teaching kids and adults about and with computers for many years, and this year will be a lower school STEAM Integrator at a school in Riverdale, NY. I LOVE to swim freestyle outdoors in the summer, practice yoga, kayak and walk. And I am excited about teaching Lego robotics using the NXT language, and Scratch and WeDo sensors!

I’ve been blogging since April 2007 at

Would like to mentor ages 8-11 (grades 3-5 or 6).

Cheers, Laurie

The students I am mentoring are 12 year olds in 7th grade. Blogging is a new experience for many of the students, and they have constraints such as time (like most of us!) and unfamiliarity with either the process of blogging or the platform they are using, or both. I am eager to see how they develop as bloggers over these coming weeks.

Well, I have planning to do for tomorrow, so will return in a day or so to finish updating this post with links to the remaining 11 student blogs!

The Teenage Brain

I have not yet finished watching this conversation, but the teen brain has long intrigued me, and I appreciate the relaxed format of the conversation.

As per the youtube page: Vassar alums Lisa Kudrow ’85 and Abby Baird ’91 have a conversation about Baird’s research on the teenage brain and its implications for parenting strategies. Filmed before a live audience in the Alumnae house Pub on the Vassar campus.