My CMK16 Reflections


This was my fourth CMK experience (senior year, woooohoooo!!) and the second where I was honored to participate in the role of a fellow. As a fellow, my focus was helping others to experiment and construct with new materials, test their hypotheses, and demonstrate their knowledge through whimsical, stunning, technically mind-blowing, and prescient creations that could very well inform next generation technologies and inventions. (Full disclosure, my CMK registration and lodging were payed for by the Constructivist Consortium but I received no compensation for my participation.)

Constructing Modern Knowledge is for K-12 and higher education teachers, administrators, librarians, media specialists, and others, not hired programmers, futurists, or other rarefied social classes. No, these people are the heroes in the classroom who see the benefits of constructionist hands-on projects inspired by topics that interest and matter to their students, and many of them spent their own dime to attend this institute to work with other likeminded individuals to work with programming, fabrication, and physical computing and to create personally meaningful projects. Instead of asking, "How am I going to bring this back to my classroom," many freed themselves of the teacher role and acted as students working on projects that were personally meaningful. Instead of trying to scale this personally meaningful project back to their classrooms, I think many realized that the important concept to bring back to the classroom is the freedom to tinker and explore; to play with others in a materials rich environment; to collaborate and to listen to a wide variety of voices throughout each stage of the project; to draw on experts as needed but not to depend on them to provide a "recipe" or solution for one to follow; and to foster an environment of hard fun.

Community is vital to Constructing Modern Knowledge. This year I had the pleasure of seeing people I have known since my first CMK in 2010. I got to work on a wonderful project, helping with Scratch and the Makey Makey, with Jennifer Orr, who I met at CMK10.



I also spent time with Jennifer's husband Jeff McClurken, with whom I worked on my first CMK project, a LEGO RCX/MicroWorlds EX Robotics art robot.


I also got to work with Daniel and Molly Lynn Watt, educators, Logo pioneers, artists, and ukulele fans. Molly and Daniel's books, Teaching with Logo and Learning with Logo detail how they created a Logo community with school children, and the work and lessons in those books remain vital and important today. The community they built around their awesome project, various geodesic structures built from newspaper, was inspiring, ambitious, and accomplished.



José Armando Valente introduced Minsky and Papert to the Samba school concept when they traveled to Brazil in the 1970s. He is an incredibly patient and observant educator.


His wife Ann is also an amazing educator and a wonderful person.


Meeting Carla Rinaldi and learning from her was a life changing experience for me.

The participants of CMK projects quickly form communities around the projects on which they collaborate, delegating responsibilities, learning from and teaching one another as needed, sharing successes, setbacks, and accomplishing incredible amounts of highly technical work in four days.

I always look forward to working with the giants when at CMK. I presented Dr. Cynthia Solomon with her first own LogoTurtle! She in turn introduced me to Alan Papert, who admired my LogoTurtle in action.

I also had the opportunity to talk and work with Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert. Their TurtleArt is a huge inspiration to me, and without Brian the LogoTurtle would not exist.

Meeting Ben Leduc Mills in person was also a wonderful experience and I look forward to other opportunities to learn from him.

Of course, any opportunity to work with Jaymes Dec and Tracy Rudzitis leaves me energized, wiser, and laughing.

Additionally, Andrew Carle traveled all the way from South Korea. Andrew is a genius in my mind, and is one of the most helpful collaborators when I am working on a project beyond my current ability.

As with every CMK, participants are provided ample opportunity to work with an learn from geniuses. This year we heard from and talked with Mitchell Resnick and Stephen Wolfram!

Wolfram's demonstration of the Wolfram Language computation platform lived up to Gary Stager's promise of a live demonstration of "black magic." This is an amazing platform that is remarkably accessible. It should be seriously considered by any teacher or student interested in what computational thinking holds for our futures.

CMK provides me the opportunity to work with the people who find inspiration in my work. I am very humbled and appreciative of this attention and opportunity. I approach my work with whimsy, which helps distract that I often leverage very simple technologies to great effect. I was able to help several groups incorporate the Makey Makey, Scratch, the PicoBoard, simple switches, and TurtleArt into their work. My work is for teachers and their students, so it is great to have the opportunity to work with the people who find inspiration in my book and my work.

I did manage to squeeze a couple of projects in on the side as well. I worked with Cynthia and Artemis to etch into linoleum a few TurtleArt designs using an Othermill.

I also programmed a LogoTurtle drawing and added a copper tape and soldered LED circuit. I gave this artwork to Brian, Artemis, and Jasmine at the conclusion of CMK.

Manchester remains a friendly city with great food, and some interesting history. Like many American cities, it needs more money for social services, mental health, and jobs. 

I cannot stress enough what a life-changing experience Constructing Modern Knowledge is for teachers interested in becoming more powerful learners.