“Here’s a little curious thing that I’ve recently become intrigued by. I worked during the 80s developing a way of children doing robotics using LEGO and eventually LEGO made this thing that they marketed under the name of my book Mindstorms which is build LEGO but instead of LEGO just being an architectural passive thing you make things it can do that can act to have behaviour. So you’ve got motors and gears and sensors and a little computer in it, so you can program it to do things.
LEGO marketed this for a pre-teen boys which annoyed me a lot. I’ve been trying to work on using this kind of building of robot like things in a wider context. Working with very young children like some preschool children or first or second grade children. Interesting thing that we stumbled on was whenever we get a group of these kids working with this technology, there’s always some, a kid or two who drifts up as the expert. The one that everybody looks to for more knowledge – it’s always a girl. Now why is it always a girl? And you look more closely you see the boys are obsessed with making one kind of thing: they want to make something that goes fast and far and it’ll run across the room, preferably smash what everyone else made and this obsession means that they’re looking at a narrow range of things to do with this technology.
The girls…even just because they don’t have this obsession – do a bigger variety of things with it and so they develop a richer knowledge, but even more than that they’d like to make something that they can interact with or that they can use to interact with other people. One girl said she’s dancing with it and that sort of led me off into a whole branch of research that I’m working on now. She wanted to make something that she or several of their friends could dance with, move around and they could dance with it and that was much more sophisticated technologically so it’s an interesting little twist where because of the kind of fact that you’re mentioning that the girls more interested in social and interaction actually led her to master this technology much more deeply than the boys did. “
Papert, S. (2004) Interview with Geraldine Doogue for the Australian Broadcasting Coporation’s Program, Sunday Profile. Transcript on the Web here.