I mondi virtuali negli anni
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From patchwork to machine

The coordinators
The voice of the teachers

Friends of the project


In the 1994/95 school year my friend-colleague and I asked ourselves: "How can we get the children to play in a creative and constructive way with a machine: the computer? How can we present this "object" to children who don't know it? Would this type of experience be useful?"

So we began to read and study and search for news and information. We were more and more convinced that there shouldn't be just a computer in the classroom - it had to be accompanied by something simple, spontaneous, creative and easily accessible.

And so this was our first idea for a project, with the title, "From patchwork to machine", which summed up our approach towards the children. The approach we planned involved experiences in class which emphasized perception, representation and symbol.

These experiences could be obtained both through leftover materials (such as pieces of cloth and cardboard) and through structured materials (for example logic blocks and rulers), eventually bringing them together into a first acquaintance with the computer. In the early years we only had an old IBM model available, which the children called Luca Corrente. Luca Corrente, however, didn't "know" how to do much. With him the children were only able to play a little DOS game, using the arrow keys, or type out their names.

Then the father of a little girl in our class lent us his PC (christened "Luca Corrente's brother" by the children). This model also "knew", as the children put it, how to draw thanks to Paint software, with lots of tools (paint tins, scissors, rubber, brush...) and colours with varied shades.
So the children learned to use the mouse for drawing, as well as the usual brushes, paints, coloured pencils, chalks and wax crayons. Lots and lots of stories grew out of the drawings.

The following year, stimulated by the enthusiasm of the children and their parents which resulted from this initial experience, we tried to take the analysis of a work of art as our starting point. For this we chose a Kandinsky painting: "Points in the arch".

Patrizia and I continued very cautiously, step by step, to propose new ideas and experiences. Thus, moving on from looking at the whole image, the children chose various fragments of the work to copy, using both felt-tip pens and the paint program. Each fragment led to the invention of a story. As time, and the school years, passed we all grew more confident in handling the "machine", which offered us enormous opportunities for expression and development.

In the meanwhile the computer in use was no longer an object on loan. We now had two of them in class, complete with scanner and printer (purchased thanks to a contribution from the Multilab National Experimental Pilot Project).

Using an educational CD, "The castle of the imagination", we continued to combine experiences with the "machine" and work in class. Things that were first tried out using the CD were then rediscovered through play experience using coloured patches, cardboard, plastic bags and drawings on the floor. But the computer also made us feel nearer to children and teachers in other schools. And so there emerged the first ideas for an exchange with a nursery school in Udine through the journey of a postcard.

From the computer that provided us with off-line games we could now, thanks to the Internet, make use of another way of communicating. The idea was, therefore, to create a chain story by joining up with other schools in different cities: Udine, Cosenza, Milan, Treviso...

E-mail messages and postcards were read out in class, followed by exchanges of ideas. This led on to drawing parts of the invented story on the computer to send to other schools. Children and colleagues from the primary school also began to express a wish to work together with us. And this was how the project "The child between science and creativity" began, designed to involve pupils right up to the academy of fine art.

Combining experiences of both a scientific and an artistic nature through the four elements of life provided us with an ever-greater stimulus to go on and formulate new ideas. It was therefore possible to create transversal programmes cutting across schools and communicating through "Reality, fantasy and virtuality". In each case we met and discussed communication media and levels.