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MIT Media Lab to help improve Chinese children's learning

By Zhao Xinying | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-22 21:36

The MIT Media Lab in the United States will collaborate with Mobby, a STEAM education brand in China, to improve Chinese children's creative learning through graphical programming, the two sides announced at a news conference in Beijing on Monday. Also, the MIT lab will help Mobby develop a programming-based curriculum.

The MIT Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research lab that fosters mixing and matching of disparate research areas at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mobby is a brand under K-12 tutoring service provider TAL Education Group that taps the potential of STEAM – a collective name of science, technology, engineering, arts and math – among children aged 2 to 15.

The two sides will cooperate through Scratch, a visual programming language that can be used to design stories, animations, games, music and art works.

Unlike traditional programming, users don't have to enter text, symbols, or punctuation. They don't even have to be familiar with letters and keyboards. The basic construction of a specific program through Scratch can be completed by dragging and assembling the modules of graphical programming blocks using a mouse.

Such an operating mode is gaining popularity at primary and secondary schools globally. According to the TIOBE Index, a measure of popularity of programming languages, Scratch programming language has been in the top 20 for four months since the beginning of February.

Mitchel Resnick, director of the Scratch programming project at the MIT Media Lab, said programming with graphical blocks is similar to building with LEGO bricks. His group also collaborates with the LEGO Company on the development of new educational ideas for products.

"The building-block approach makes programming more intuitive. Children can start with an idea and turn it into an interactive story, game or animation," said Resnick, who also serves as a professor of learning research at the lab.

At present, Scratch, with more than 22 million projects on its website and an increase of 1 million new projects each month, has millions of young users all over the world.

The collaboration with Scratch at the MIT Media Lab will provide a foundation for Mobby's STEAM curriculum development and form a professional and complete children's graphical teaching system, said Wang Wei, general manager of Mobby, which has nine centers domestically offering courses to thousands of children each year.

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