June 26, 2017

Seymour Papert:
One of the negative … one of the big problems about computers in Maine and this is a continuing problem, we got … say we are assimilated into this local state group that it was The Governor’s Initiative. Okay, so the computers contract is now signed with Apple to provide computers starting seventh grade and eighth grade going for the next two years and that’s funded up to that point. But, once the principle had been accepted by the legislator that passed this law … I thought the next important question was how would these computers be used? I think even now the Governor doesn’t quite see that as a big issue because after all … because I think the vision people have of education is very technical.

If you want to build a bridge, you might have to persuade the legislator to produce the 10 million dollars. Whatever needs to produce the bridge and you’d think about the need for the bridge but, once you’ve decided heres the money, you go out and get a highly coveted engineer who’ll find the best way to build a bridge it becomes a technical thing. I think that’s how they thought about the computers. That, it’s technically once the computers are there becomes a more or less routine technical issue to decide how to use them.

Speaker 2:            It’s like the piano in the classroom, put a piano in every classroom and then that’s gonna hurt, they don’t care.

Seymour:              Well, not quite because they’d at least see that we’ll have to teach teachers how to use it.

Seymour:              But I think we [inaudible 00:21:33] pushed the piano thing is well, what music would you play on that? By the way, this is a little story that reminded me of … for a long time I worked in a city public school in Boston, the Hennigan school. We did a lot of first there with kids, a lot of computers, and programming and when we asked the kids what subjects they liked least or most, to my surpri … I thought that something like math would be the worst, music was. It took me aback but but it was these kids they live in a musical were a lot of black kids there and they’re very much into the music. But, the point is that in music class, what is being thrust down their throats was a different kind of music from what they were passionate about, it wasn’t their music, it was somebody else’s music. They hated it even more because it had this connection to something in their lives.

Speaker 2:            Well again, someone else should’ve been teaching it or someone else should’ve been –

Seymour:              But the people who decided that there should be music there … I don’t know whether it sounds odd that they weren’t aware. But, it’s as if they were not aware that there could be different ideas about music, different kinds of music and certainly these people were very unaware of the fact that there could be very different ways of using these computers.

In fact, they put out a request for proposals, the way the thing was written allowed their bids to come in which were about diametrically opposed you can imagine that. The two extremes, one was the one that by the skin of it’s teeth [inaudible 00:23:37] one that was to give them the iBooks. The other finalist that they’d wanted to use the computer to control that … they eloquently talked about how they had this system where each kids computer would be in constant wireless communication with a central computer in the school and that the central computer in the district ultimately, with a big computer in their headquarters and they boasted “A teacher will be able to follow keystroke by keystroke what any kid is doing.”

Speaker 2:            Geez, that’s scary.

Seymour:              It’s scary. This company that made that proposal, it’s a new company about two years old it raised 80 million dollars without any trouble to … because people see this as they can see … the specialty is what to do about one to one use of computers in school. I saw those [inaudible 00:24:43] embodied the big issue in you can use the computer many ways and the two polls around which the fights gonna be is, use it for control? Or we use it for empowerment?

This was just dueled out in that. But, it wasn’t that they … I think they all liked the … certainly the Governor liked the empowerment bit and the control. But, it’s not in his mental specs that educational philosophy is something that you can take sides on, think about, you should have a stand on it, and it’s one of the things we need to educate people to see that there are multiple ways. There isn’t any expert that knows the right way to do it. You can have your own views and should, get into arguments, and out of this will be the ferment that will change and develop.

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