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Kim TTTW

Kim TTTW

by smithkimberann | updated May 11, 2016
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In my research group and for my thesis, I am working to create a curriculum, and the materials to support it, to introduce computational thinking to young kids, in a way that does not utilize technology. The goal is Montessori-inspired, tactile materials that mechanically represent some of the fundamentals of computer science.

April 4, 2016 at 8:33 PM
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This is a really neat idea.

You might already be familiar with water-based logic gates. They are a neat (ok... actually really messy) way to introduce digital concepts in an analogue way...

http://www.blikstein.com/paulo/projects/project_water.html
8 months ago

These are two designs from my lab that introduces computer science fundamentals in a Montessori, tactile way.

April 4, 2016 at 8:39 PM
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The second object introduces binary - but I can't for the life of me figure out what concept the first introducing - or how they are supposed to be used! I'm super curious.
8 months ago
logic gates?
8 months ago
Do you know about the Digi-Comp? http://digi-compii.com/
8 months ago

Reading:

  • The Elements of Computing Systems, Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken
  • The Art of Tinkering, Karen Wilkinson & Mike Petrich
  • articles, books by Angeline Lillard

References:

 

April 4, 2016 at 8:42 PM
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Another reading I would recommend is "Computationally Enhanced Toolkits for Children: Historical Review and a Framework for Future Design" by Paulo Blikstein

https://www.academia.edu/23020699/Computationally_Enhanced_Toolkits_for_Children_Historical_Review_and_a_Framework_for_Future_Design
8 months ago

What I want for this material:

1. Playful

2. Open-ended

3. Learning through building

4. Incorporating fundamentals from computer science in tactile non-digital ways

5. Beautiful design and visually appealing

6. Simple as possible

 

How can we create a physical toy that makes use of the procedural aspect of coding? Also, I think this (or maybe a related project ?) could addressing the art making process and how it relates to computer science. Thinking about procedural, generative processes in art...and perhaps there is a physical tactile way to represent these higher level concepts, that could result in interesting creative exploration.

April 4, 2016 at 8:47 PM
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I was really inspired by this piece that was presented to us in Learning Creative Learning from the Tinkering Studio. What I like about this is the trial and error, it can be collaboration and/or individual, it's procedural, and it is fun...Also it is an easy entry to engage with and has infinite possibilities. As it relates to the projects I am interested in, I would love to incorporate some of these characteristics into my design; so that there could be a procedural approach to understanding logic, and that the chain of events could incorporate physical, mechanical representations of logic gates. I am thinking of the connections between logic gates, building, and procedure...

April 4, 2016 at 8:58 PM
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Cubetto is a new toy from Primo that is a hands-on interactive toy modeled after Logo...Kids use blocks to program the 'turtle' to move accordingly

April 4, 2016 at 9:04 PM
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April 4, 2016 at 9:31 PM
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An interesting reference of similar materials used in a computational structure is the Wooden Mirror (https://vimeo.com/7820888). I think it's a cool way of merging computer based thinking with palpable and accessible materials.
8 months ago

Interesting work and visualization using mechanical linkages to represent NOT, AND, OR gates

http://www.xiaoji-chen.com/html/linkage/linkage.html

 

other useful references:

mindbleach.com/words/mechanical-logic/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anachrocomputer/10313698975/in/photostream/

April 19, 2016 at 10:24 AM
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Initial sketches of how this could work, basically this is more for me as I am trying to visually understand how this could work and look mechanically. At this point, I am narrowing the gates down to AND, OR, and NOT, with the intent to create more options later. Trying to understand if the input is either a marble or not a marble (1 or 0), and if this should operate with gravity (vertical or sloping arrangement) or like a diagram on the floor (horizontal, and akin to other Montessori materials)...

April 19, 2016 at 11:18 AM
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An interesting question that comes to mind is how do the gates operate. Is it up to the child to "calculate" if a marble should come out as output or not?
Also, is it the "output marble" the same one as the "input" one, or are the inputs caught by the component and another marble comes out?

This may be too technical, but I feel like these will also affect the understanding of the process and the story you build around it.
8 months ago

Questions / Challenges, 4/19

  • How do these individual components fit together, and relate in a cause and effect way?
  • What is the outcome for the learner? 
  • Juan's question: What is the story?
  • How does this become playful and engaging? meaningful?
  • Does it need to be dynamic, i.e. something 'happens'  
  • Should this be horizontal on floor (similar to existing Montessori materials) or should it be vertical or horizontal (in which case, using gravity as mechanical force) ?
  • What is the input? I am leaning toward using a marble (marble = 1; no marble = 0)...Early thoughts included liquid or sand; however, I think a binary material is important. Could also be a switch or lever; but again, I like the marble because it has potential to be more visual and engaging and related to other materials in the curriculum. 

 

April 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM
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Roominate creates "building toys that promote cognitive development and spatial skills"

Their building kits are specifically targeted to girls, out of an interest in furthering young girls' interest in STEM fields. On their website, they explain the gender gap in science and engineering fields and they believe that creating materials for young girls may include them and engage their interest. 

In considering packaging, I think it is important to broaden this definition to include branding, website, and design choices. 

As far as how the building sets are presented, they are sold as individual themed kits, much like Lego or K'Nex. They have names such as "Townhouse", "Chateau", and "Amusement Park"...Most seem to build from the general idea of a doll house, something that is familiar and traditional. However, these new doll houses have integrated stuff like lights and motors that can be connected in the building sets. 

All of the design choices feel female-gendered, but in subtle ways. The color palette seems to be a very conscious design choice that feels very different from other building kits and tech toys. It is very soft and approachable, and even relies on traditionally gendered colors. Even their logo is starkly different than that of K'nex; it feels softer and more childlike. It is difficult to articulate the subtle gender clues between the both; however, with Roominate, they are very explicitly marketing this to girls, and present their product as specifically for girls. Their marketing, both on the website and on the packaging, features a variety of girls engaged in making stuff, and usually interacting together. 

One thing to note is the tagline on their website that really encapsulates all of this--it reads: "I'm a girl and I build a _______" , with the filled-in blank changes to read different projects. 

I have mixed feelings about the gender-specific marketing. It some ways, it reinforces gender separation. By proclaiming that it is made for girls, it includes bias about what that looks like: what girls want to make (with such specific kits - often domestic themes that are stereo-typically familiar) and what interests them. I wonder how, if these design choices were more subtle and less explicitly for girls, the demographics of the children who play with them would change. 

 

May 1, 2016 at 4:40 PM
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K'NEX

K'NEX and Roominate are similar in that they are both building kits with interchangeable pieces that additionally are presented in themed kits with instructions (like Lego). Roominate expands a bit more with electronics/motors. Functionally they are the same.

K'NEX packaging and branding is quite different. The package design choices are not soft, but rather bold and industrial. They are not specifically gendered; however, they are clearly not marketed specifically to girls, and many might argue that they are marketed to boys. Their kits are packaged in toolboxes and crates. I have to say that I think they are a bit ugly and unappealing but maybe this is personal taste. Children assembling and playing with the kits are not featured as prevalently as with the Roominate. 

May 1, 2016 at 5:03 PM
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So after working on these ideas for a while, it started to feel labored and I was feeling increasingly stuck...I was facing difficulty achieving what I set out to do with the logic gate building set, and found myself not enjoying it. I took a step back and looked at the high level concepts I was interested in, namely creating tactile computer science materials to complement others in a series of contemporary Montessori materials that we are developing as part of a larger curriculum in my research group. I think that there is potential for continuing to build upon and modify the logic gates; however, I need to resolve some very fundamental issues that are not natural for me - things like math and mechanics are not my strengths...

So I took some time to revisit my original objectives that I wrote at the start - here they are again for review:

  • Playful
  • Open-ended
  • Learning through building
  • Incorporating fundamentals from computer science in tactile non-digital ways
  • Beautiful design and visually appealing
  • Simple as possible

So with these same goals, I began to rethink the context slightly to address programming over logic, and do so within the context of drawing.

Drawing is my first love and the activity that makes me feel most like myself. I am intrigued by the ways in which process informs content within art making, and this is increasingly evident with new digital technologies and tools. I want to create a material that teaches ways of thinking - so that simultaneously kids can gain understanding of the underlying concepts behind programming while gaining traditional/physical drawing/design skills, such as composition and mark-making.

So now the objective is to create a physical, non-digital learning material that introduces young children to the concepts behind programmatic drawing. 

May 7, 2016 at 9:54 AM
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Very exciting to hear about this new direction!
7 months ago

After sketching and testing with scales, I created the cut paths in illustrator to use on the shopbot to cut plywood. Also created paths in illustrator for the vinyl cutter - which will be to make the icon labels for the blocks. I am using white vinyl on wood, which I think will be a nice aesthetic - the black seems harsh, and color is another meaningful attribute that could be confusing 

I am including all of my artboards - which includes tests and trials, vinyl cuts, and the final cuts for the shopot

Design Files
May 7, 2016 at 11:25 AM
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So this material will be a drawing kit that teaches kids fundamental, high level ideas about programming, through drawing application. I am interested in the idea of coding a drawing through basic instructions, that the child then creates. 

Proposed ages is 3-8 yrs

The kit will have these components:

  • command box
  • drawing box
  • 8 colored pencils (probably include a sharpener)
  • paper

I am envisioning a physical board that will function like the command box, and then an adjacent board that will be the drawing box. The command box will be cut from wood, with pockets for physical blocks to fit into them. I am building off of the idea of basic block programming, looking a lot at scratch jr., and substituting the digital blocks for physical ones. So the command box will be a grid, with 6 columns for blocks. The columns and the blocks will be categorized as:

  • Shape
  • Color
  • Size
  • Location
  • Direction
  • Number of times

There will be a few lines, so that multiple commands can be run.

In considering what these categories should be and how many there are, I was looking to define the most basic components in order to address a broad set of possibilities. I was looking most at Processing, a tool I am in the midst of learning myself. Breaking it down into simple block commands so that kids understand the concept of writing instructions and then implementing them on the drawing board. 

I am also carefully considering the orientation of the command box. The first hurdle was deciding between horizontal or vertical commands. I looked to scratch jr for this and tried to think why they chose horizontal. I am connecting it to language, and how at this age, children are learning to read left to right, and understanding how sentences are structured horizontally. Also - in the design of the columns, I did not like the design challenge that if the commands did run vertically, they would have to then circle back to the top for the next "line." This seems really confusing. And I am thinking that the best solution is to accompany the language side of it. 

In considering the process of learning sentences, I looked at how Montessori education does this for young kids. Grammar is broken up into colors, linking nouns with black, adverbs with orange, etc...It is important to me that design choices I make correlate with the Montessori environment, so that these visual cues strengthen rather than confuse. So in trying to figure out how I will control the column types - I am thinking that I will connect it to grammar, so that the 'shape' column is nouns, and the edge of the block and the inside rim of the board will be black, like the Montessori system. This will carry out so that 'color' and 'size' = adjective; 'location' = preposition; 'direction' (a stretch here to consider this movement) = verb; 'number of times' = adverb. I hope that this is subtle, but allows for another layer of learning and lessons, while also self-correcting for block placement.

For the drawing board, I want it to be square because this simplifies orientation, and also simplifies some of the instructions. It should have a raised border, so that the paper fits in it, and it reinforces the idea of a screen/drawing box.

I spent some time in the classroom recently, and an activity that the kids really loved was creating simple codes with secret messages for their friends to decipher. I think that this relates conceptually, and could be a nice opportunity for interaction. One kid could write a code, and then give it to a friend (or friends) who could draw it. It would be interesting to then compare multiple drawing of the same code and discover differences. In this way I find it fascinating because it allows for the individual approach that comes with unique mark making and interpretation. 

Something else that we talk about and try to design for in my research is how to teach basic design skills to young children. Basic design is taught very late, often not until late high school or college. From my own experience, I believe that my art could have really benefitted from an earlier understanding of the fundamentals of design. I think of these fundamentals as things such as composition, contrast, line, movement, unity and variety, etc...these are concepts that are formal rather than content. Younger drawers often think that they are drawing something, not a drawing. It is a difficult concept to grasp, but I think it is incredibly important, especially today, and could be addressed in very implicit ways. So that a child can understand that there are decisions as to where an object in a drawing goes...and how it relates to other objects...etc. 

May 7, 2016 at 12:06 PM
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here are some initial sketches, working out some basic ideas of the interaction, and finally some tests with scale and design

May 9, 2016 at 10:46 AM
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May 9, 2016 at 10:55 AM
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Used the shopbot to cut the wood; I used a soft pine, which milled very nicely. Had some difficulty with the smaller pieces, many were ruined, and would pop up and get in the way. Had to pause a couple times, and redo the file to add more space between the pieces. Used a 1/4in bit, which next time should use 1/8 in order to get the small pieces. Next time will try the desktop shopbot because the pieces are a little small 

Tried to mask the wood so that it would be easier to paint, but this didnt really work out and the bit tore it up. Also, after cutting, the wood warped slightly, which is kinda a bummer..

May 9, 2016 at 10:59 AM
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  • Playful
  • Open-ended
  • Learning through building
  • Incorporating fundamentals from computer science in tactile non-digital ways
  • Beautiful design and visually appealing
  • Simple as possible

 

 

1. Who did you design this for?

I designed this material for young kids, probably ages 4 - 7 ish. I designed it to fit within the Montessori context; however, I designed this for any child really, for use at home or in school. It seems to me that most all really young kids enjoy drawing, at this is an important time for them to develop those skills. 

2. Why did you design this for them?

I designed this material for them because I wanted to introduce some basic concepts behind programming within a drawing context. It is part of a larger series of Montessori materials that address computer science in tactile, non-digital ways. I am personally very interested in drawing, and recently very interested in using programming for art making. I never had any exposure to it until recently, and so I would like to build in a conceptual understanding for kids at a young age, so that when there are older, they will have the language and understanding of more direct applications. 

3. What are they learning through play?

Kids really love to draw, and so I wanted to create a Montessori material that would allow them a small amount of structure and endless possibilities.

I believe that they are learning very basic concepts behind programming. Understanding that a set of instructions will be implemented on the page. They are learning about sequence and linear process. My hope is that these abstract concepts function like learning a new language, and that their exposure to this structure will be of benefit to them in the future, especially if they continue making art or learning to program. 

They are learning how to hold the pencil and hand-eye coordination. Directing their mark making to some degree could be beneficial (I hope) as they learn to draw. 

Something else that we talk about and try to design for in my research is how to teach basic design skills to young children. Basic design is taught very late, often not until late high school or college. From my own experience, I believe that my art could have really benefitted from an earlier understanding of the fundamentals of design. I think of these fundamentals as things such as composition, contrast, line, movement, unity and variety, etc...these are concepts that are formal rather than content. Younger drawers often think that they are drawing something, not a drawing. It is a difficult concept to grasp, but I think it is incredibly important, especially today, and could be addressed in very implicit ways. So that a child can understand that there are decisions as to where an object in a drawing goes...and how it relates to other objects...etc. 

In considering the process of learning sentences, I looked at how Montessori education does this for young kids. Grammar is broken up into colors, linking nouns with black, adverbs with orange, etc...It is important to me that design choices I make correlate with the Montessori environment, so that these visual cues strengthen rather than confuse. So in trying to figure out how I will control the column types - I am thinking that I will connect it to grammar, so that the 'shape' column is nouns, and the edge of the block and the inside rim of the board will be black, like the Montessori system. This will carry out so that 'color' and 'size' = adjective; 'location' = preposition; 'direction' (a stretch here to consider this movement) = verb; 'number of times' = adverb. I hope that this is subtle, but allows for another layer of learning and lessons, while also self-correcting for block placement.

So basically I am dividing it into three categories:

- programming

- 2D design

- syntax

4. How are the learning through play?

This material is process-based, so they are learning through doing this activity, and understanding their own process. I wanted to create a material that is very playful for young kids, so that they could experiment with different combinations of blocks. I tried to keep the blocks fun and appealing to that they feel playful, and even the act of putting them in the box is sorta fun. In creating their block-programming, kids can experiment with all sorts of outcomes, consciously planning it out, or simply creating a program to see what happens. 

5. What does that play look like?

I see this activity functioning well on both the individual and collaborative level. A child experiments with placing blocks in the command box and can create endless iterations and designs. Alternatively, kids could make a simple drawing and try to recreate what the code would look like. 

I spent some time in the classroom recently, and an activity that the kids really loved was creating simple codes with secret messages for their friends to decipher. I think that this relates conceptually, and could be a nice opportunity for interaction. One kid could write a code, and then give it to a friend (or friends) who could draw it. It would be interesting to then compare multiple drawing of the same code and discover differences. In this way I find it fascinating because it allows for the individual approach that comes with unique mark making and interpretation. 

 

 

 

 

 

May 9, 2016 at 8:49 PM
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