GPG Associate Dr. Mara Mahmood recently co-authored an article that was published in the International Journal for Research on Extended Education. Mara collaborated with Dr. Charles Underwood (UC Berkeley) and two Brazilian educators at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Dirce Pranzetti and Cecilia Toloza, to develop Animating Mastery: Navigational Play as Integrative Learning. The article describes an out-of-school program for street children in São Paulo, Brazil and provides an ethnographic account of how the program’s interactional framing of digital activities set the context for cognitive learning and social mastery among the children at Projeto Clicar.1
Projeto Clicar (Clicar) was dedicated to providing informal, largely technology-based, extended educational activities and sustained individual attention to children (ages five to 18) living and working in the streets of São Paulo. From 1996 until 2012, Clicar was located at Estação Ciência, an old factory converted into a science museum in Lapa, an impoverished neighborhood of São Paulo. Estação Ciência, until its recent closure, offered a wide variety of hands-on and digital activities, exhibits, and demonstrations illustrating scientific knowledge and inquiry. This museum was designed to offer exhibits and activities for school children and their teachers, but also set aside a portion of its space specifically for Projeto Clicar and the children it served. As part of the museum, Clicar operated Monday-Friday from about 12pm-6pm throughout the year and offered young people who faced severe conditions of social exclusion new learning tools and activities within the museum.
Animating Mastery follows a young boy, Paulo, and his peers, and their cumulative engagement with a computer game- the Lion King. To the authors, the Lion King game at first appeared rather uneducational, with little to offer for children’s cognitive development, but after a relatively short time, after observing the opportunities for social interaction afforded by the game, began to re-estimate its value as a tool for learning. In the context of Clicar, the children’s participation with the Lion King game was voluntary but by no means solitary. A child who played the game was continually observed, encouraged, critiqued, teased, prodded, and challenged by his or her peers, and guided both verbally and nonverbally on how to work the animation more skillfully. In this way, the children, both individually and collectively, gradually transformed the nature and scope of their participation in the activity – steadily learning new tricks and skills in navigating this animated world and in using digital tools in general.
As described in the article:
“The Lion King game appeared to be the only thing Paulo did at Projeto Clicar over a considerable period. For several days we watched Paulo, a newcomer to the program, as he played the game again and again, generally with one or two other children sitting beside him. By moving the mouse and directional keys to guide the pace of the lion cub, Paulo could make the game go faster or slower. In this way, he could make the game more exciting or be more cautious in the face of obstacles that appeared in Simba’s path. In the beginning, he usually chose the latter. He peered at the screen and seemed fascinated at first simply by the movement on the screen – the familiar character prancing along the animated landscape totally captured his attention. It was enough for him to watch the character move to the right or left. After a few minutes of this, however, the other, more experienced children would say to him, “Vai! Vai!” (Go! Go!). Paulo then worked the mouse to make the image move a little faster. In time, the movement of his hands and fingers changed. The way he held his arms changed. Adapted to a state of readiness, he began enjoying himself at a different level of activity – almost casual in his stance and movements. The movement of his hands and fingers became less reactive, less exaggerated in response to something unforeseen in the animated landscape, and subtler, more proactive as he looked ahead and poised for the next leap. Paulo himself began to assume the relaxed pose of a master.”
In Animating Mastery, many more moments are detailed and described that together illustrate not only Paulo’s mastery of the world of the Lion King but also the process by which the inclusionary social framework of Projeto Clicar enabled its participants to transform themselves and expand their learning.
For more information please contact Mara Mahmood firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underwood, C., Mahmood, M. W., Pranzetti, D. M., & Costa, M. C. T. D. O. (2016). Animating Mastery: Navigational Play as Integrative Learning. IJREE–International Journal for Research on Extended Education, 4(1).
1 This website is a Google Translate version of the original content in Portuguese (http://projetoclicar.blogspot.com) and therefore not always an exact or accurate translation.