Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kidpixing in their Zone of Proximal Development

Two weeks ago I had the good fun of introducing (or reviewing) all the main tools in Kidpix to my third grade classes. I felt like Santa Claus as they oohed and ahhed over each new tool.

This week, they needed to use those tools to create an illustration. Exactly what they needed to create varied by class. Some teachers wanted them to create an illustration for a story they typed. Others wanted a picture of something from their assembly. Still others were creating cards.

In all cases, I told the kids that this was a graphic art and design unit, so we weren't going to use the stickers, stamps, animations and backgrounds that are already in Kidpix. Those are off limits because they are now learning to create their own.

The assignment was challenging. They've been using Kidpix for years, but relying on those ready-made elements. This pushed them to really get to know the tools, to experiment with different sizes of lines, different brushes and textures.

Most kids were frustrated. Give them a crayon or a marker and they could have translated their idea to paper in 15 minutes. Here they worked for 30 minutes and most were just starting to find their way by the end of the session. However, I could tell they were in their Zone of Proximal Development because they weren't quiting. It was tough, but it was an interesting challenge.

I was pleased to see a number of things.
  1. Few children were erasing the entire picture if their was one mistake-- they were able to use the small erasers and make revisions.
  2. They are starting to make efficient use of the tools, such as using the fill buckets to fill large areas rather than coloring it all by hand.
  3. They are exploring and refining their skills. I watched them figuring out and then staying with the most effective line sizes, types of media, etc.
  4. They are learning from each other. One child used the pattern fill bucket to create a design on a person's shirt. Soon we had patterned carpets, buildings, etc.
  5. Very few gave up or were so distracted by the bells and whistles in KidPix that they couldn't stay on task.
We should finish up the pictures this week. I think we need to follow up with another assignment that is "same same but different" as they say in Thailand.