8 June 2006

Arts and crafts for the digital age [The New York Times]

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Pico-Cricket Kit
At first blush, the PicoCricket Kit resembles a plastic box of arts and crafts supplies, crammed with colored felt, pipe cleaners, cotton and Styrofoam balls.

But this is a craft kit for the digital age. It includes electronic sensors, motors, sound boxes, connecting cables and a palm-size, battery-powered, programmable computer.

By combining the traditional materials with high-tech ones, children as young as 9 can invent interactive jewelry, fanciful creatures that dance, musical sculptures and more, said Mitchel Resnick, an assistant professor of learning research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

Mr. Resnick, whose work with children and learning at the Media Lab helped the Lego Group create its highly successful Mindstorms robotic construction kits in 1998, said he wanted to produce something in which the emphasis was not on the building of mechanical objects.

Instead, he said he was more interested in encouraging the creation of something artistic, and delivering a technology and programming language that would let young people take more control of how their creations would behave.

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