Congrats Marina Umaschi Bers!
1. What motivated you to write Coding as a Playground?
I love to observe children getting to the “haha” moment. It is a process. It doesn’t happen fast or automatically. Learning to code, as a literacy, takes time. One of my favorite times is when little kids are trying to program their KIBO robots (which the book talks about) to make a dancing robot. At the beginning the robots just move one way or the other, inconsistently and without responding to the bit of the music, but as children spend time focused on their projects, talk to each other and exchange ideas with each other, these robots “become alive” and they slowly become dancers. The robots go from crashing into each other, to performing and coordinated dance, and the most rewarding experience for us, is to observe the children’s sense of pride on what they did and the problems they solved.
What inspired me is the future and the most important resource we have: our children. The earlier we can start educating young children so they do not become consumers of technologies, but producers, the better. It is our responsibility to give them tools to think with and about technologies, so they do not become “slaves” but “masters” of these tools.
Marina Umaschi Bers is a professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development and an adjunct professor in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University. She heads the Developmental Technologies Research group where she studies innovative ways to promote positive childhood development through new learning technologies. Marina co-developed the ScratchJr programming language in collaboration with Mitch Resnick from the MIT Media Lab and Paula Bonta from the PICO company. She is also the creator of KIBO, a robotics platform for children 4 to 7 that can be programmed with wooden blocks (no screen needed), which allows young builders to learn programming and engineering while integrating arts and crafts.