November 14, 2011

“Although printed in 1970, “Teaching Children Thinking” was conceived in 1968 and bears the signs of the heady atmosphere of that time. Across the society change was in the air, deeply rooted assumptions were being challenged. On a smaller and less active but not less radical scale challenges to taken-for-granted ideas about children, about education and about computers energized my MIT seminars and ongoing discussions with an active group (Solomon, Feuerzeig, Bobrow et al.) at BBN1. We were sure that when computers became as common as pencils (which we knew would happen) education would change as fast and as deeply as the transformations through which we were living in civil rights and social and sexual relations. I still think this will happen even though the time needed is turning out to be a little longer than we imagined and the process more complex. When it does happen it will use the ideas that we worked so hard to develop back then.”

Papert, Seymour (2005). You can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 5(3/4), 366 -367 .


2 Responses to “November 14, 2011”
  1. Some of the tools and programming systems being developed then were, in my humble opinion, better than some of the stuff available today. Some might have made Seymour cringe. For example, the ability to “break a problem into sub-problems” (so important in teaching children to think, in the work of Papert and his colleagues and students) is very badly supported in NXT-G, the “programming environment” that now ships with Mindstorms, the product named after Seymour’s famous book. In NXT-G, the data wires are truly painful to use; all variables are global; and recursion is not allowed. Yes, there are other choices that will work with the NXT bricks; but I am sure that the overwhelming majority of educators currently excited about STEM and using these products have given very little thought to the limitations of NXT-G in supporting the problem solving heuristics Seymour was trying to promulgate. Yes, we now have many more computers and they are much more powerful and much less expensive. That is great. However, how we use them seems to have left much of this early wisdom behind. It’s sad. Thank you, Gary, for reminding us.

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