Posts Tagged 'Sophia'

“BPS Makes! And Documents” Sophia and Yuhan: Independent Readings List

  • MacRae, C. (2013), Teacher, researcher and artist: Thinking about documentary practices. In F. McArdle and G. Boldt (Eds.), Young Children, Pedagogy and the Arts: Ways of Seeing (pp. 50-70). New York: Routledge.
    • Abstract: This chapter is about three identities—teacher, researcher and artist—and the construction of new knowledge that became possible through both intellectual and imaginative work. MacRae uses this chapter as a means of thinking through ways in which these roles might work together, creating a space for reflecting on practice. She suggests there is potential for artist productions as a means of developing and thinking about documentary practices in early years settings.
    • Application to our setting: MacRae found that documenting within the “teacher” identity often involved trying to fit the full complexity of the observed child into well-ordered categories on her observation sheets. Lived experience and the complexity of children defy such demarcation, and attempting to cram children into the gridlines of established observation protocols seemed disrespectful to her. Even “researcher”-like documentation, such as ethnography, risks “colonizing” children by trying to create an integrated portrait of them. On the other hand, looking at her documents with an artistic eye seemed to reveal more “depth and complex assembling” when she revisited her earlier documents of children’s art-making. “Field notes, photographs and film whose original function was to represent the field, became objects to be looked at—not to confirm what was already there, but to bring to the surface un-thought connections.” We need to avoid making our documentation system too systematic, and consider the possibilities and freedoms that art-based documentation could add to the conversation. The way MacRae mainly did her art-based documentation consisted of sketches and photographs with reflections. She also encouraged the children to take pictures and to post them to a blog, to which she also added her own reflections.


  • Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-299.
    • URL:
    • Abstract: This article, recommended to us by Daniel Baron from BPS, uses the debate over process-oriented versus skills-oriented writing instruction as the starting-off point to examine the “culture of power” that exists in society in general and in the educational environment in particular. Delpit analyzes five complex rules of power that explicitly and implicitly influence the debate over meeting the educational needs of black and poor students on all levels. Delpit concludes that teachers must teach all students the explicit and implicit rules of power as a first step toward a more just society.
    • Application to our setting: Delpit makes an interesting point about how, “Teachers do students no service to suggest, even implicitly, that ‘product’ [as opposed to ‘process’] is not important.” From this, it seems that documenting the products children make in the BPS Makes work is just as important as documenting the process. The process is where we can see learning occurring, but the product is what is ultimately what the students will be “judged” by. Indeed, it seems as if, in the Maker community, the makers who are most celebrated are the ones who make the “coolest stuff.” We also need to be aware that so far, the Maker Movement has been dominated by the culture in power. We need to avoid documentation processes that make this clear power differential less directly visible, while also making it clear that all students’ voices are valued.


  • Eubanks, E., Parish, R., & Smith, D. (1997). Changing the discourse in schools. In P. M. Hall (Ed.) Race, ethnicity, and multiculturalism: Policy and practice (pp. 151-168). New York: Routledge.
    • URL:
    • Abstract: This chapter focuses on two ideas. First, if American schooling is to be transformed, its participation in the reproduction of long-term unequal social arrangements must be eliminated. Second, the current dominant discourse in schools (how people talk about, think about and plan the work of schools and the questions that get asked regarding reform or change; called Discourse I) is a hegemonic cultural discourse, and the consequence of this discourse is to maintain existing schooling practices and results. Change can only come from establishing Discourse II in schools, a critical discourse that contributes to a “learning organization culture.”
    • Application to our setting: BPS has explicitly tried to align itself with Discourse II and the goals set out in this chapter to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender, etc. on educational (and consequently life) outcomes. We must therefore strive for our documentation system to fit within a Discourse II “learning organization culture” that values the learning of everyone above everything else. This seems to imply that any documentation the students do should advance their learning somehow, rather than being merely for teachers’ benefit or convenience. And teachers should also be able to learn from this; MacRae’s suggestion of combining student pictures with teacher reflections might be a way to promote teachers’ learning. Also, we should be careful of complaints about time, because “’Not having time’ is part of the sorting way of Discourse 1. If I (we) never have time to reflect, to consider, to question, then what prevails is how we do it now.” None of our suggestions should contribute to “sorting” students, either.

Questions on Mindstorms

Really quickly, just so I have a record of what I’m wondering after finishing Mindstorms:

  1. What exactly are “powerful ideas”?
  2. How can Papert’s ideas be applied to areas other than math and physics? This includes rethinking and revamping them. I have some trouble envisioning that.
  3. Why has so little changed since Papert wrote this in 1980? It seems a lot of what he warned against came true.
  4. What would an entire society based on Papert’s educational ideas look like?
  5. As computing has become more complicated, the programming aspect has become less and less visible. This makes it harder to apply Papert’s ideas about programming, but is teaching programming the goal? How else can we take advantage of computing to advance “powerful ideas”?

Designerly Play

This post comes a bit late, because it involved digging up a paper I found long ago and rereading it more carefully. Thus, this post is more about Resnick’s Tinkering chapter than about this week’s IDEO readings. When I read Resnick’s description of tinkering as a “bottom-up” approach that begins with “messing around with materials” that only later leads to the emergence of a goal from these “playful explorations,” I was reminded of a paper I read long ago, about a child messing around with paper, markers, and scissors.

Two years or more ago, I began engaging in a dialogue about children’s creativity with a grad student who was studying creativity at my undergrad institution. His work focused on adults, but he was intrigued by my idea of children’s creativity being a playful, open-ended process not necessarily characterized by an end product. I don’t remember if he found the paper, or if I did, in my attempt to strengthen my conversation with him. All I remember is that it struck a chord with me, and I just had to find it again, now that the tinkering chapter brought it to mind again.

And guess what? I did find it again! Here’s the URL for it:

The first thing you’ll notice about this article is how its title relates to our class. It’s called “Designerly Play.” It begins with two detailed examples of children’s play behavior that the author, Ken Baynes, believes involves aspects of the design process. These vivid stories are what stuck with me after all this time. I enjoyed reading them just as much the second time around. The first example involves an elaborate game the author played as a child with his friends and father, in which they all invented an island’s history, from its emergence from the sea, to its evolution of plant and animal life, to the arrival of humans, to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, to resource struggles over the building of cities and railway lines. No one ever won this game, though it was competitive. The second example is what came to mind when I read the tinkering chapter: the three-year-old boy who explored what it was like to cut paper, and then had an idea for a drawing based on the shape he had cut. The drawing turned into a shark, in which he cut a hole, and then it became a monster mask. He continued in this way for quite awhile, one idea leading to another, new “goals” emerging organically from playing around with the materials. Baynes says of this, “In adult design the synectics game that we played, with one idea leading unpredictably to another by creative association, is recognised as a ‘design method’.

The rest of the article is less interesting. I don’t think I even bothered to read it two years ago. Baynes relates different categories of play to aspects of the design process, such as relating “animistic” play–in which a child pretends that an inanimate object is alive–to the designerly ability to “imagine and understand what other people need.” The connections he draws, however, appear to be purely speculative, and, indeed, I think speculation was the purpose of the series of papers of which this one is a part. It would be interesting to see if there are any studies that actually provide some evidence that, for instance, animistic play leads to greater empathy. I agree, though, that play can be designerly.

I have many reasons for bringing up all this. The tinkering chapter was really inspiring, and reminded me of another inspiring paper I read, in which “tinkering” (though Baynes never calls it that) in play is characterized as “designerly.” I think this link between play, tinkering, and design is insightful, and shows what we’re all capable of if we let ourselves go a little bit. I’m not sure exactly what my final design project will turn out to be, but after the readings we’ve done so far, I’m quite sure I want it to be an intervention encouraging tinkering and playfulness. Now I’m wondering what other people think about the design processes we’ve discussed so far. Do they allow for playful tinkering? In particular, I think the IDEO process is extremely structured, and while it provides room for creative associations and encourages crazy ideas, I’m not sure those ideas will emerge if you’re so worried about adhering to all the steps they lay out for you. The solution is probably to simply not worry about all those steps, and I would imagine that, in most cases of using this toolkit, the process ends up looking far different from how it’s laid out in the handbook. What do the rest of you think?