Pianos not stereos: Creating computational construction kits

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Citation: Mitchel Resnick, Amy Bruckman, Fred Martin (1996) Pianos not stereos: Creating computational construction kits. Interactions (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1145/234757.234762
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1145/234757.234762
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1145/234757.234762
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Pianos not stereos: Creating computational construction kits
Download: http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/pianos/pianos.html
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) education (RSS), learning (RSS), constructionism (RSS)


Resnick et al.'s article opens with simple question: "Would you rather that your children learn to play the piano, or learn to play the stereo?"

Resnick, a student Seymor Papert (the author of Mindstorms), along with Amy Bruckman and Fred Martin, argue vehemently in favor of the piano. The article can be thought of as a distillation of some of Paperts longer work (and Mindstorms) as a sort of narrow manifesto for a form of constructionist technology design. While the stereo may be easier to use, optimizing for ease of use in education technology may take designers off course.

The authors suggest that designers can be driven by two major design principles:

  • Personal connections: Construction kits should be personally meaningful to their users and connect deeply to their own experience and context to help make activities using them more motivating.
  • Epistemological connections: Kits should connect to key knowledge domains and encourage new ways of thinking.

They argue that the design of construction kits as tools or platforms or learning should attempt to offer both types of connections.

The rest of the article is a summary of MIT Media Lab research, with and inspired by Papert, that tries to follow these general principles. These include LEGO "Programmable Bricks" (which would later become LEGO Mindstorms, StarLogo, and MOOSE Crossing (a MUD described in more depth in by Bruckman (1998) in Community support for constructionist learning.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

The article has been cited 150 times, largely in the literature on education technology and in the community designing constructionist tools in particular.