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Governments and businesses all over the world say that we are now in the “era of AI.” Companies are now making devices that can understand speech, cameras that can recognize faces, cars that can drive themselves, and computers that can find patterns in huge databases of information.
What does it mean for the kids of today? How can they get ready to be successful and happy in the AI age? Why your creativity won’t save your job from AI?
There isn’t much doubt that computers and robots will do a lot of the work that people used to do. That makes for some problems, but it also makes for some great chances. People used to spend a lot of time doing “machine-like” tasks, like following rules and routines step by step, over and over again, to get a job done. As computers and robots take over these kinds of jobs, people will have more time to do things that require more creativity and imagination. When it comes to ideas and creativity, people will always be better than machines.
When AI takes over, the rate of change will only speed up.
Children today will have to deal with a never-ending stream of situations that are unknown, uncertain, and hard to predict. Being able to think and act creatively will be the key to success and happiness.
You could say that AI will “force” people to pay more attention to their creativity. But I see this not as a problem but as a chance. People’s lives have more joy, meaning, and purpose when they do creative things. Focusing on creativity is important for the economy, but it is also a way for people to find happiness and become more human.
So how can we help the kids of today get ready for this new time when creativity will be more important than ever? This book is all about that. In the book, I use my 30 years of experience at the MIT Media Lab to talk about technologies, activities, and ways to help children learn to think creatively.
Change is needed right away. Most of the things kids do today, from school lessons to games in the living room, aren’t meant to help them develop their creative skills. Most of the technology kids use is made to teach or entertain, not to help them think and talk creatively.
This book suggests a different way to do things. The book is based on what I call the “Four P’s of Creative Learning”: projects, passion, peers, and play. It talks about why and how parents and teachers should give kids chances to work on projects based on their interests, with their peers, and in a playful way. The ultimate goal is to help children become creative thinkers who can make new opportunities for themselves and shape the world of tomorrow.
The book talks about how new technologies, like the Scratch programming language and online community, can help children learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work together. These are skills that everyone needs in today’s society. If you go to the Scratch website (scratch.mit.edu), you’ll see kids’ creativity in full bloom. Every day, kids from all over the world use the site to make and share more than 30,000 projects. I’m most interested in the variety and creativity of the projects, not the number of them. There are animated stories, video games, virtual tours, guided tutorials, science simulations, comic strips, interactive birthday cards, and so much more.
But technology is not enough on its own.
To get the most out of Scratch and other new technologies, parents and teachers need to change the way they think about education and learning. Instead of focusing on teaching, they should give kids more chances to explore, experiment, and be creative.
Let me share an example. A few years ago, I woke up and went to the Scratch website. I saw 30 projects that were all the same and had been shared around the same time. At first, I thought our website software had a “bug” that was causing multiple copies of the same project to be made. But when I looked more closely, I saw that 30 different kids from the same place in Korea had made the projects.
I figured out what had probably happened. All of the projects came from the same classroom in Korea, where the teacher showed the students step-by-step how to make a certain Scratch project. All of the students carefully followed the directions and then posted their finished projects on the Scratch website. So, one after another, 30 projects that were all the same showed up on the website.
Some of the students in the class may have learned how to code. But they were not getting better at thinking creatively. I hope that this book will not only teach people about new technologies like Scratch, but also about new ways to use those technologies to help kids learn to think creatively.
In Korea, I’ve been lucky enough to work with the Smilegate Foundation on projects related to education. When I first met people at the Smilegate Foundation, I told them about the Korean classroom where all of the students did exactly what the teacher told them to do, step by step. At first, I didn’t want to tell them the story because I thought they might not want to hear bad things about education in Korea. But what my Smilegate hosts said was the exact opposite. They told me to tell the story when I spoke in Korea, and they also told me to write about it in this preface for the Korean version of my book. They said that if you want to get people to change, you need to help them understand the problems and challenges that are happening right now. Then, they will be ready and motivated to work on improvements and solutions.
I hope that this book can help plant the seeds of change. Changing the way people and groups think about education and learning isn’t easy. To bring about change, we’ll need a lot of people from all walks of life to work together. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the trouble. While you’re reading this book, think about what you can do to help. I hope we can all work together to make sure that all children, no matter where they come from, have chances to learn how to be creative thinkers so they can do well in the age of AI.
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