Consumption vs. Creation
As I listen to Mitch Resnick toss out gem after gem of soundbites and ideas, his initial statement of people becoming “makers of things” sticks in my mind as a concept that needs further exploration.
On the surface, it’s a wonderful idea. Who would argue that creativity and making things is in anyway a negative? Mitch goes on to say :
We wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but couldn’t write. Are we literate if we consume content online, but don’t produce? (paraphrased)
Again, at first glance that seems logical. We want to help our students create and be makers of things. But given the habits of most of us, we generally consume far more than we create. In fact as we consider reading and writing, very few adults write regularly beyond grocery lists and post it notes and emails. We read way more than we write. One of the reasons we teach students to write, is to make them better readers and vice versa.
As I listen to Resnick discuss the virtues of Scratch, it’s hard not to see the deep learning that comes when using a versatile tool like this to tell stories, build games, make music or design avatars. But as a society, what are the expectations that adults become makers of things? Do we need everyone to be makers of things? Is consumption and creation supposed to be balanced or do we recognize that consumption is the predominant role with content? The emergence of the iPad had many educators questioning it as an educational tool because of its lean towards consumption. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Clay Shirky’s recent book Cognitive Surplus and accompanying TED talk, suggests that even if we carve out a small portion of our time to contribute (create) it can make a significant impact on society. I’m thinking about this issue and if we need to back off a bit on our zealous push to make us all creators. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we stop encouraging and helping our students create, I’m just wondering if our expectations are unrealistic. I can think of many folks who don’t actively “make” things but are intelligent, competent, successful individuals. Is this a question of empowerment and simply allowing our students to choose or do expect everyone to become “makers of things”?