No. 11 — Handwork 🖐️ Choreographer of Robots 🩰 Touchmap
Swiping, tapping and touching through the world
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9574 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.
I’ve been slowly making my way through The Children’s Machine: Rethinking school in the age of computer by Seymour Papert. I’ve read a lot of his works, but had overlooked this particular book. Papert’s way of exploring the sensory-kinesthetic cognition building of children is infatuating. I love how he helps recognise and value diverse mathematical practices.
There is one story in the book that I keep coming back to. A little boy tries to count sums in special education class. Finger counting, traditionally frowned upon, is forbidden from him, for Papert’s dismay:
“On the other hand I was firmly convinced that allowing him to use external aids was the best way to encourage real learning and denying the use of fingers the best way to make sure that he hated doing these sums. So I thought for a while and then said in a loud enough voice for the teacher and the kid to hear: “What about your teeth?””
This is how we explore the world. On our hands and knees, tongue twisting in our mouth, through our fingertips. Many people, when asked what their PIN code is, have to type it on an imaginary keypad. Even programmers, often thought as the pure-thought professionals, rely on their hands to practice their craft.
With much of the world of touch taken away, it is an interesting time to notice our hands and how we interact in the world with them. Touching, swiping and tapping through the world, we feel plastic or glass most of the time. Fingers reaching across keyboard to hit the intricate patterns of shortcuts.
I wish there was more I could offer, but these ideas are still churning in my head. However, from the HelloMath series comes a fun activity that practices both finger flexibility and mathematical skill. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 - go!
In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. But here it is a selection of things I’ve been reading lately.
The lovely Boston Dynamics robot dance video made the rounds, but I wish we would hear more from the choreographer Monica Thomas on what it was like to design movement for machines.
Hand to mouth - if language began in the hands, why did it ever leave? Pair with Touch is a language we cannot afford to forget.
Keri Smith activity for the lockdown learning: make a touchmap. List everything your hand has come into contact with.
I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Here are a few teachers using Ruby in creative, fun and inspiring ways:
Teacher sent her students on a virtual computer safari during online learning. Love this!
When dancing tutorials don’t make sense for the grownups
These lockdown letters from Korean students made my December. I still haven’t replied as I haven’t figured out what would be a nice enough way to thank the children.
Or hit reply and answer me:
Are there patterns to touch?
How do you use hands when learning?
What if your hand could tell stories?