Archive for March, 2009

Since co-producing the Plerkshop (a day-long workshop examining the meaning and value of play in the workplace) with Scott Klemmer, and Bill Verplank of the d.school at Stanford University, I’ve become fascinated by some of the work going on there and have had the privilege of being invited back on many occasions.

Recently Bill and Terry Winograd invited me to have a look at the results of a quarter-long student project to develop and explore toy design in a class they called “Toys for Learning” (the nested self-referential aspects of the title were not lost on me).

Rather than write a lengthy posting today, I offer these scans of the notes that I took during some of the presentations. Clicking on the thumbnail images will take you to Flickr where you can see much larger versions.

note: the top of this page is largely my exploration of the glass-bottom boat project for Tinkering School this year.


I was, in general, impressed with the projects. There seemed to be an overriding opinion that the hardware integrations were the source of most of the problems, and I find it surprising that this is still the case 30 years after I started fooling around with electronics and computers. Shouldn’t this be easier now? The littlebits project looks like a step in right direction.

Students at Stanford are forced to balance the demands of multiple simultaneous courses (as was evidenced by team members who could not be present at the presentation due to finals) and I left wondering what they could have accomplished if they had been given two solid weeks with no other interruptions.

In any case, I found things to like about every project and have talked about the Toonables marionette and the SeaMe virtual aquarium with multiple people since Monday night.

In particular, with Toonables, while watching a couple of kids make an animation, I was struck by how they had a tendency to focus on the animation of just one limb of the marionette. The end result almost always looked like a frozen person kicking at a soccer ball with one thawed led. I started wondering how the conception of the end result, despite the immediate feedback of the system, was not fully realized by the child operators – they were happy to see the animated leg, not disappointed to see the frozen, lifeless body it was attached to.

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