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This is what we call a cricket; it’s a type of programmable brick. This is extending the metaphor of the Lego brick and saying: What if we had a Lego brick but we put computation inside? And where traditional Lego bricks are good for building structures, these crickets are good for building behaviors. In the past, kids would build castles and houses. Now kids can build things and make them come to life.

Resnick places the toys on the floor facing away from each other.

Here’s an example where we have two of these little creatures made out of crickets; these already have little programs that kids loaded into them. And at first it might look like they’re not doing very much, but in fact they’re both sending out signals-they communicate by infrared.

He turns the creatures around to face one another, and they begin to shimmy on their wheels.

Now if they see each other, they’re so happy they go into a little dance. An important point is that we do not intend to give these as ready-made toys to kids. Because it’s not when they’re playing with these that we think the richest learning goes on, but in creating them, creating the structures, the mechanisms, and the behaviors. And the behaviors create the communication.

When the kids do things like this, they have to start thinking. If they want the white one to tell the red one to dance, they might first start by having the white one send the red one a signal saying “dance.” But the red one might not know what “dance” means, so it won’t work. Then they’ll either have to teach the red one what “dance” means or have the white one communicate in the language the red one understands: It might say, “move your left wheel a little bit, move your right wheel a little bit.”

As he talks, Resnick continues to demonstrate the toys’ behaviors-he places his hands between them to break communication, then allows them to “see” one another again and they resume their dance.

Buried in there, there’s a deep idea about communication. When I talk to you, I need a model of what you already understand. So all good communicators have a model of the listener. And as kids are designing new communicating things, they have to deal with that in a very direct way. So by building up a world of communicating things, it provides them with a framework for talking about all sorts of communication, including their own communication.

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