August 24, 2012

“The word educology reminds us that we need a theory of education. One might say theories already exist. There is educational psychology; there is a theory of instruction; there are courses on the theory of how to administrate schools. But these are not theories of education as a whole. They are theories of small aspects of what happens in the educational process. By focusing on these small aspects, these trees and shrubs, we have gotten lost in the jungle.… I will take an example from my own work. People have asked, “What is the effect of Logo on learning mathematics — or on planning skills or whatever?” Some experimenters have come up with very positive answers, some with negative ones. But they are barking up the wrong tree. They are following the methodology of studying the effect of something by varying one thing while keeping everything else constant.

Such methods do quite well for studying the effect of a drug or a treatment for plants. But in the case of Logo, one sees its absurdity in the fact that the whole point of Logo is to make everything else change. One does not introduce Logo into a classroom and then do everything else as if it were not there. Such an approach completely misses the point. Logo is an instrument designed to help change the way you talk about and think about mathematics and writing and the relationship between them, the way you talk about learning, and even the relationships among the people in the school — between the children and the teacher, and among the children themselves.

The traditional methodology for studying innovation in education may have been adequate at a time when only small changes were possible, when in fact one did change an aspect of the mathematics curriculum and keep everything else the same. But we need a different methodology altogether when we envision radical changes in education.”

Papert, S. (1990). A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future. M.I.T. Media Lab Epistemology and Learning Memo. Cambridge, M.I.T. Media Lab.

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