A Kairos  InterMOO with MIT's MUD Wizard Amy Bruckman

"People will surprise you if you just give them a chance."

% telnet purple-crayon.media.mit.edu 8888

**  Welcome to MediaMOO!  **
MediaMOO is a professional community, where people come to explore the future of media technology.

The operators of MediaMOO have provided the materials for the buildings of this community, but are not responsible for what is said or done in them. In particular, you must assume responsibility if you permit minors or others to access MediaMOO through your facilities. The statements and viewpoints expressed here are not necessarily those of the janitors, Amy Bruckman, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and those parties disclaim any responsibility for them.


Player name  	       Connected    Idle time    Location
-----------             ---------    ---------    --------
GregS (#2161) 	        14 minutes   3 minutes    GregS' Office
Hobbes (#10805)	         an hour     5 minutes    Kairos Workroom
Amy  (#75)              six days     an hour      Amy's Office

@whois GregS
GregS is Greg Siering, Ball State University
@whois Hobbes
Hobbes is Corey Wick, North Dakota State University
@whois Amy
Amy is Amy Bruckman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

@join Amy

Amy's Office

Amy's office is a jumble of books and papers.
Obvious exits: out to The E&L Garden
You see Ginny's cage, a fish tank, a capacitor, and File Cabinet here.
Amy is here.
You join Amy.

The fish in the tank scatter away from the glass as you come in.

Hobbes says, "greg, do you want to log?"

GregS is logging

Amy says, "I haven't prepared answers"

GregS [to Amy]: good. :-)

Amy says, "because that would be more like writing a paper than being interviewed, which I thought would defeat the purpose!"

Hobbes says, "We didn't really want canned answers. Just didn't want you to have to improvise"

Amy nods and smiles

Hobbes says, "improvise entirely, anyway"

GregS gives the light above Amy a push, sending it swinging to and fro, just like in the ol cop movies

Amy cowers under the beam, starts to sweat

Hobbes says, "should we start then? "Let's start with explaining my recurrent lag, so it doesn't seem like I'm not always here."

Amy laughs!

Amy says, "Please do start"

GregS whistles a toon, assuming corey is typing a question

Amy writes code in another buffer while she waits :-)

Hobbes says, " Much of your work is influenced by the work of Seymour Pappert"

Amy nods. "He's my advisor's advisor!"

Amy says, "Two P's by the way, not three"

Amy says, "Seymour's advisor was Jean Piaget"

Hobbes says, "Much of your work is influenced by the work of Seymour Pappert ... I'm having trouble with my client (still). "

GregS wonders if Corey wants him to pick up some of the questioning, since his connection is clean

Hobbes says, "Let's start with the first question on the list -- Pappert, constructionism, and I'll fix things locally"

Amy says, "should I go find my list of questions?"

GregS [to Amy]: could you give us a *brief* idea of constructionism and how it fits with MUDs? Especially your own work?

Amy [to GregS]: Sure!

Amy says, "The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget studied how people think, and concluded that knowledge is actively constructed, not passively received. He called this theory constructivism. (Note the V)"

GregS nods the vism

Amy says, "One of his students, Seymour Papert, said: if you believe what Piaget says about thinking and learning, it follows that people should learn particularly well while making things ... Learning through design, learning through making things, is better than learning by being told ... He called this extension of Piaget's theory "constructionism""

Amy says, "In my research group, the Epistemology and Learning Group at the Media Lab at MIT, we design technological tools for learning ... Our goal is to empower students to learn in a self-motivated fashion by working on personally meaningful projects"

GregS [to Amy]: hence his emphasis on children programming in _Mindstorms_

Amy [to GregS]: exactly

Hobbes says, "Constructionism has been widely used in elementary pedagogy for some time, but only recently has it entered post-secondary education. Have you experienced a resistance to s constructionism? People that think constructionaism, like moos, is just for kids?"

Amy says, "My interest in MUDs is constructionist in nature ... I'm interested in kids developing a new relationship to reading, writing, and computer programming by working on self-selected, self-motivated creative projects"

Amy says, "Fred Martin's work is a wonderful example of a constructionist project at the university level ... Fred invented the 6.270 Lego/Logo robot design competition ... Over January break, students design and build robots to compete in a game something like air hockey"

GregS [to Amy]: learning about programming and engineering by building, eh?

Amy says, "they could be sleeping or taking wine tasting, but instead they work day and night, with passion and dedication, to make their robots ... In the process, they gain a tremendous amount of engineering knowledge"

GregS nods, wondering how this translates to MUDs for you.

Amy says, "the kinds of things they learn are qualitatively different from what they learn in their regular classes--they learn about how real, not idealized parts work ... that's just an example of a project in a constructionist spirit, at the university level"

Hobbes says, "without the drudgery of learning principles in a vacuum"

Amy [to Hobbes]: Yes, the knowledge is *in context*

Hobbes says, "Isn't the majority of our educational system basically the opposite of constructionism, where the means is *taught* so students can later create something meaningful?"

Amy [to Hobbes]: There's certainly still way too much emphasis on filling children's heads full of facts. But I think constructionist ideas are beginning to gain some acceptance

Hobbes says, "how does constructionism in your view relate to community?"

Amy [to Hobbes]: great question. Very often we design technological tools with a particular educational philosophy in mind ... But all too often, they end up getting used in the same old instructionist ways ... Logo was designed so kids could learn about geometry by making wonderful visual creations"

Amy says, "But too often, children will get sat down and told: now make a square ... that's entirely missing the spirit the designers intended! ... Tools alone are not enough ... But tools and community ... that has promise!"

Amy says, "By providing a supportive social context for the tools, you can help to communicate the spirit with which they were designed"

Hobbes says, "constructionism seems to say to teachers "create the environment--then get out of the way and let your students learn." Is that accurate?"

Amy says, "the role of the teacher in a constructionist learning environment is controversial. Some people would agree with your statement. I would not."

Hobbes says, "Interesting. Why not?"

Amy says, "I think constructionist teaching is really an art. Working with kids on MOOSE Crossing, I'm currently steering them towards projects that stretch their abilities, but are within their grasp ... working hard to provide direction, but not completed answers to the kids"

Hobbes nods

GregS nods the idea of proximity... Vygotsky dealt with that, no?

Amy [to GregS]: exactly

Hobbes says, "and continually "stretching" their abilities keeps them progressing"

Amy nods

GregS [to Amy]: You mentioned MOOSE Crossing. Could you elobarate how you see Constructionism working there?

Hobbes says, "was mediamoo designed with constructionism in mind, then? "

GregS hehs me and corey going in the same direction, but to different MUDs. :-)

Amy will take one at a time :-)

Hobbes yells Me first

Amy grins

Amy [to Hobbes]: yes, it was. That's why everyone here is a programmer. The emphasis from the start was on encouraging people to be creative, active participants.

GregS nods the important (and sometimes controversial) decision to give out programmer bits to all characters.

Amy [to GregS]: Kids on MOOSE Crossing are building a virtual world together. They're doing creative writing and computer programming in their spare time for fun! ... They've made all kinds of wonderful things. Pigs you can hug and that say hello to everyone who comes into the room. Magic eight balls that will tell your fortune. A car rental agency. A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that asks you a riddle..."

GregS smiles at Amy's examples.

Hobbes says, "one of your main research questions for the MOOSE Crossing project was to see how community and constructionism work with one another. any preliminary ideas?"

GregS [to Amy]: I remember an article where you liked the MariMUSE project but wanted to see the kids do more programming. And that's what they are doing on MC, right?

Amy [to GregS]: They've really been able to do some wonderful things in MOOSE. Pavel came by to have a look around the other day and saw real control structures in kids programs. So maybe he'll pass me. (He's on my thesis committee :-)

Hobbes says, "do kids love this project as much as it seems they would?"

Amy [to Hobbes]: They're really having a blast. I'm really delighted ... weekend before last I approved a new kid's account on Friday afternoon. I went away for the weekend. By Monday, she knew how to program! Another girl had spend all weekend teacher her!

Amy says, "teacher --> teaching"

Hobbes says WOW

Hobbes says, "so other students can learn by teaching as well. ahhh"

GregS likes the community showing in such spontaneous teaching/learning partnerships between kids.

Amy says, "Yes, learning from peers is an important component of that combination of construction and community"

Amy says, "often learning from someone who learned the same thing recently and is excited to share it is a lot more powerful than learning from an authority figure"

Amy hopes she isn't missing too many questions in the flow of things

Hobbes says, "I think you're doing super! I'll try to slow down, too."

GregS [to Amy]: How do you think such ideas about learning appear in MUDs with older learners and with subjects beyond the programming itself? In other words, how else does constructionism show through in learning in MUDs?

Hobbes says, ""

Hobbes says, "yeah. what greg said"

Amy smiles

GregS has a few examples in mind, but is curious as to what Amy sees happening out there (in here?).

Amy [to GregS]: I don't see any difference for adults versus kids

GregS [to Amy]: why not?

Amy says, "In fact, my pilot study for MOOSE Crossing was a series of interviews with adults who learned to program in their spare time on a MUD for fun"

Amy [to GregS]: Why?

GregS agrees, by the way. :-)

Amy smiles

Amy says, "as for other subject areas... I don't have to tell you that this medium is a powerful one for teaching writing"

Amy winks

Amy says, "And more importantly, learning programming and writing aren't separate activities on MOOSE Crossing"

GregS smiles at Amy and slides her a donut under the table for that answer.

Amy says, "Making a good object is as much one as the other ... Which helps people who have a greater strength in one area gain greater confidence and competence in the other ... I have a 9 year old girl on MOOSE Crossing who hates math and anything like it. But she loves to write programs on MOOSE. But she says it's more like writing than math"

GregS liks the confidence part of that; I suppose seeing yourself learn in a new environment impacts all your learning.... you realize what you can do.

Amy nods to GregS

GregS looks to corey, knowing he had a question he wanted to ask next.

Amy says, "There's a 12 year old boy who would walk a country mile not to have to do any writing, but loves programming. And in the course of programming objects, ends up doing some writing in a less painful way. The girl is bridging from her verbal skills to more analytic ones; the boy in the other direction."

Amy has to wrap up soon, by the way

GregS pokes pokes pokes corey. "Ask quick, buddy."

Amy . o O ( 11pm. This time was my idea, wasn't it? )

Hobbes says, "In _cyberspace is not disneyland_, you distinguish that users of technology want and need to be creators instead of consumers of predesigned projects. But I sense this comparison of cyberspace and Disneyland is more than an analogy and part of a larger perspective. What else might disneyland represent to you and how does this oppose your theories of community, constructionism, and pedagogy in general?"

GregS whews

Amy nods. "It definitely is more"

Amy says, "Disneyland is corporate control"

Amy says, "Disneyland is passivity"

Amy says, "Disneyland is pay your money, wait on line, sit in your chair obediently. And this is supposed to be a highlight of the American experience."

Hobbes agrees, btw

Amy says, "I think people should be active participants in culture, not passive recipients of commercially produced content ... We're increasingly surrounded by technology ... It's still up in the air: will people have meaningful control over that technology? ... I think people can and should have that control. But we have to design supportive technologies to make that possible"

GregS nods the cattle chute lines in disneyworld

Hobbes nods the outrageous prices too

Hobbes says, "Is it safe to say that MOOSE Crossing er, scratch that. What do you want to see in the future for MUDs?"

GregS adds to the final question. "Yeah, if you cold have one wish for the future of MUDs, what would it be?"

GregS nods supportive tech... that which encourages building and extension, not just use... like MOOSE, eh?

Amy says, "I don't have a wish for the future of MUDs, but I have a wish for the future that is a lesson from MUDs"

Hobbes likes that distinction.

GregS leans forward, intrigued.

Amy says, "the tremendous success of these environments points to the power of helping people to be creative and actively involved with technology ... people will surprise you if you just give them a chance"

Amy hopes designers of all the new technologies increasingly surrounding us will learn that lesson

GregS smiles and nods.

Hobbes says, "do you think they may be selevctively ignoring that lesson?"

Amy smiles

Amy thinks she'll just end there

GregS thanks Amy soooo much for chatting with us tonight. As always, a pleasure to talk to you, Amy.

Hobbes hits the lights, draws the curtains, and thanks everyone for coming and would they please come again

Amy says, "Thanks for inviting me!"

Amy says, "Always a pleasure"

Hobbes says, "Thanks a lot Amy. I really enjoyed reading your work in prep for this."

GregS [to Amy]: talk to you later. Have a nice night.

Amy says, "Thanks Corey! It's nice of you to say so!"

Amy waves

GregS waves

Amy goes home.

Hobbes waves and smiles.

GregS kills the log.


*** Disconnected ***

Contact Kairos 

KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 1 No. 2 Summer 1996