Visionaries and torch bearers

In November 2016, I moved this blog from a test location to its curent place online – live and open for visits. In the 12 months that followed, received a solid stream of unique visits – 59604 for the year, or an average of 4967 visits per month. I am deeply grateful to Big Friendly for technically birthing my blog and for nourishing it so beautifully ever since.

This celebratory piece is dedicated to three people who exemplify ToingToing’ing in action: learning creatively though personal expression.

Erm makes his Mark

Herman Manson (aka Erm), is to digital media what Sir Bobby Charlton is to Manchester United: many of the ‘new’ discoveries in all-things-digital’dom have been tried and tested by ‘erm a long, long time ago. Herman’s Media Toolbox (RIP) was one of the digital hangouts of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with just about each and every one of the founding generation of the country’s online media popping in to read and contribute on MTB. Check the still existing ghostlist of well-wishers on MTB’s 5th birthday.

An exciting journey with a print publication called Brand followed. Herman served as Publisher of BRAND. During its first year of publication, BRAND won the Professional Services category in the business-to-business section of the PICA Awards, the country’s premier publishing awards. It then went on to win the Watling Trophy for the Business-to-Business Magazine of the Year. Unfortunately, Brand had to cease psuspend when its founder, editor and publisher, Di Paice, took a sabbatical in order to see to her health.

Now, once again, Phoenix Manson is back with another intriguing publication – a combination of Blog called and an ezine (does anyone use this term anymore?) called Mark (viewing by free registration) edited by Manson and sumptuously designed by Candice Turvey, another ex-BRANDer. Mark, says erm, is a business magazine about people, set to appear five times a year. The name is a play on words – make your mark, marking time, marketing ..Mark is a bold statement – it is an up-and-go exercise, set to lead the almost inevitable mass-migration of readers from print to digital. But this is not just an online version of print-magazines – rather, it is a comsumate electronic publication. As electronic publishing gains momentum, Erm’s Mark and MarkLives will, once again, be there to show the way.

Lev Konov’s magical childhood

Lev Konov, composer, musician, piano magician and choral master by training, lives in Moscow. Konov read a piece I ToingToinged! about Janusz Korczak – the King of the Children who could not bear living without the orphans he took care of, and chose to die with them in Auschwitz. One of the most celebrated works of the remarkable Korczak was “King Matt the First“, a story of a child named Matt, who suddenly becomes both an orphan and a king, after his mom and dad (the queen and the king) die. Matt quickly becomes critical of the way his kingdom is run – he survives an invasion by cruel enemies and becomes a national hero, then he uses his fame to change the country’s constitution – especially the way children are treated. Matt’s assertiveness is not unlike Korczak’s – who petitioned the courts endlessly on behalf of mistreated, abused and wronged children. I loved this story (read it, it will become one of the books you will carry with you for a lifetime) — and, apparently, so did Lev Konov, who wrote an opera about the child king, and had it performed in Russia and elsewhere.

Konov wrote and produced other operas for children – including one based on Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling.” Kanov’ English (and my Russian) are non-existant, and we correspond through Google’s translation machine which makes the exchange both exotice and esotheric, yet, it shows how technology helps determind people to communicate across the langauage barriers.

Lev’s passions are Opera and education, he wrote and produced various operas for children and tells me that he developed the concept of Synthesis-Opera, a new musical genre that brings together education and creativity through music and, especially, opera. He still composes and produces works for and about children and his online (Russian) CV carries a picture of Konov as a child. I have a strong feeling that the King of the Children would love Konov and approve of his work.

Watch Lev Konov’s “King Matt the First” – an opera for & by children after Janusz Korczak:
(Website in Russian, link integrity varies.)

Mitch Resnick starts from Scratch

A few years ago, I found a second-hand copy of a book called “Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams” – where, for the first time, I got to know about Prof. Mitchel Resnick and his MIT team’s research. I was enthralled by description of ‘Massively Parallel Microworlds’ (think about a computer program that can show you what happens when 100000 people cram into a stadium to watch a football match, how morning trafffic jams happen or how ants moved in and out of their anthill without bashing into each other – all these are examples of massive parallel systems.) The real boon, however, was finding out about Mitch Resnick’s quest for environments allowing children to develop their creativity.

Mitchel Resnick is a professor of learning research and director of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab. Resnick described his three major research projects: – he heads the team that developed Scratch, a programming language that “makes it easy for kids (8 years and older – RNN) to create interactive stories, games, and animations – and share their creations on the web.” The second project, Programmable Bricks enables children to build and program their own robots, kinetic sculptures, and other interactive constructions. The project created cricket – a programmable constsructions sets for kids (you can buy your won programmable cricket here.) The third project, the Computer Clubhouse, “provides a creative and safe after-school learning environment where young people from under-served communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.”

The philosophy behind Reesnick’s work is based on the creative thinking spiral, (PDF) a process that he devised. “In this process,” says Resnick, “people imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences-all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects. As students go through this process, over and over, they learn to develop their own ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get input from others, and generate new ideas based on their experiences.”

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