- Seymour Papert (1980): Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Chapter 1: Computers and Computer Cultures)
It's amazing to think that I read this book in graduate school in the '80's and that it's still appropriate today.
- "...when a child learns to program to process of learning is transformed. It becomes more active and self-directed. In particular, the knowledge is acquired for a recognizable personal process. The child does something with it. The new knowledge is a source of power and is experienced as such from the moment it begins to form in the child's mind."
- "I believe that [the computer] can shift the boundary separating concrete and formal "[thinking].
- ... "our culture is relatively poor in models of systematic procedures."
- "Without the incentive or materials to build powerful, concrete ways to think about problems involving systematicity, children are forced to approach such problems in a groping, abstract fashion. "
- Many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you have either "got it" or "got it wrong"."
- "when you learn to program a computer, you almost never get it right the first time."
- "The question to ask about the program is not whether it is right or wrong, but if it is fixable.". If this way of looking at intellectual products were generalized to how the larger culture thinks about knowledge and its acquisition, we all might be less intimidated by our fears of "being wrong". "
- ..."teaching the Turtle to act or "think" can lead one to reflect on one's own actions and thinking."
- ..."the computer as a writing instrument offers children an opportunity to become more like adults, indeed like advanced professionals in their relationship to their intellectual products and to themselves. In doing so, it comes into head-on collision with the many aspects of school whose effect, if not intention, is to "infantilize" the child."
- ..."if adults surrounding that child fail to appreciate what it is like to be a writer."
- ..." "teaching without curriculum" does not mean spontaneous, free form classrooms or simply "leaving the child alone". It means supporting children as they build their own intellectual structures with materials drawn from their surrounding culture. In this model, educational intervention means changing the culture, planting new constructive elements in it, and eliminating noxious ones."
- "The educator must be an anthropologist."
- "The educator as anthropologist must work to understand which cultural materials are relevant to intellectual development. Then he or she needs to understand which trends are taking place in the culture."
- ..."choices made by educators, foundations, governments, and private individuals can affect the potentially revolutionary changes in how children learn. But making good choices is not always easy, in part because past choices can haunt us."
- QWERTY..."symbolizes the way in which technology can all too often serve not as a force for progress but for keeping things stuck. ... a social process of myth construction that allows us to build justification for primitivity into any system. ...we are in the process of digging ourselves in to anachronism by preserving practices that have no rational basis beyond their historical roots in an earlier period..."
- Most teachers do not expect high performance from most students, especially in a domain of work that appears to be as "mathematical" and "formal" as programming."
- "the idea of the computer as an instrument for drill and practice that appeals to teachers because it resembles traditional teaching methods.... Drill and practice are predictable, simple to describe, and efficient in use of the machine's resources. so, the best engineering talent goes in to the development of computer systems that are biased to favor this kind of application."
- "We are at the point in the history of education when radical change is possible, and the possibility for that change is directly tied to the impact of the computer."
- "Conservatism in the world of education has become a self-perpetuating social phenomenon."
What ideas in the readings interested or resonated with you?
- I am constantly struck by how Papert predicted
- how we would be influenced and interact with television. (p.26)
- LOGO as a thinking tool vs. drill and kill software. (p.29)
- The process of writing and editing (30-31) and how schools view it. I often read how blogging makes your writing improve, so why aren't more adults doing it? Could it be the fear of putting your work out there? And when did that happen in the process of education?
- Changing classroom culture (p.32)
- a social process of myth construction (p33)
- QWERTY (p.33)
- The section on p.33 really stuck with me. How is it that we are still working with teachers on using the computer and the internet. We should be way beyond teaching those skills, and yet I often have to show people how to use multiple tabs in a browser. It's hard to believe that this article was written over 40 years ago! How did using computers in schools NOT become a part of our educational culture? On p.35 Papert says "Most teachers do not expect high performance from most students, especially in a domain of work that appears to be as "mathematical" and "formal" as programming." Later he says "the idea of the computer as an instrument for drill and practice that appeals to teachers because it resembles traditional teaching methods.... Drill and practice are predictable, simple to describe, and efficient in use of the machine's resources. so, the best engineering talent goes in to the development of computer systems that are biased to favor this kind of application."
- In 1980, Papert is saying that "We are at the point in the history of education when radical change is possible, and the possibility for that change is directly tied to the impact of the computer." All I can say is unbelievable!
- One thing I have encountered is that when we offer open ended opportunities to students, they often don't know how to approach the problem because they are so used to being told what to do.
How could you apply these ideas to help others learn in your own work, family, or community?
- Luckily, I worked in kindergarten where LOGO was part of our program and accepted as a learning tool. It is why I pursued my Master's degree. And I guess I have been preaching the value of self directed learning ever since. I know how tools like LOGO, can impact learning. I see the value in learning from trial and error and making mistakes. It is much easier and less messy when students are all doing the same activity.
- As we begin work on the Common Core, I wonder how I can fit these ideas into our practice. We use the phrase "tight, loose" at our school. I think we need the tight framework, but looseness of choice when it comes to how to learn.
- We need to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to learn by making. I am currently working with a student doing an independent study to set up a MineCraft server and teach me how to administer it, so we can offer students time after school. The elementary Tech Integrator offers a wonderful after school program for younger students on creative learning. We also run the Google Ninjas program. We have talked about offering more opportunities to students, based around the idea of making things, we just need to figure out logistics.