June 4, 2012

“My challenge to you is to think about how to place the evolution of learning technologies in comparison with the progress from technology‑aided theater to cinema and beyond. It’s almost inevitable that a new technology would be first used by grafting it onto existing practices. Thus, the computer gives rise to computer‑assisted teaching and the Internet to online teaching. In principle, these concepts are equivalent to technology-aided theater.”

Papert, S. (2000) Online Learning and the Future of Education. Video remarks for an unknown Italian conference. Deer Isle, Maine. Previously unpublished.

You may read the backstory for this video rare treasure is below.*

Many thanks to David Wees for sponsoring this transcription of the video.

* During the summer of 2000, I traveled all night by plane and car to a remote island off the coast of Maine called Deer Isle to help lead a weeklong workshop for educators with Seymour Papert and our colleague David Cavallo. Upon arriving at the workshop site, several people met my car and said things like, “Thank God you’re here! Seymour really needs you.” That was curious, but not unusual. When I ascended the stairs to the workshop site, I encountered one of Dr. Papert’s assistants who said, “Don’t help him!”

I quickly learned that Papert was supposed to be in Italy the next day speaking at a conference. It was clearly impossible for him to be on Deer Isle and in Italy at the same time, but he had a plan.

“Gary always has a lot of video equipment with him,” said Seymour. “He will be able to film my speech and send it to Italy. Then I can call in for questions. Problem solved!”

I do tend to overpack and I did have video equipment with me. What I didn’t have was enough hard drive space to edit a long video. However, I assumed that whatever we created could be uploaded to the Web or sent to Italy in a high-quality (large) format for inclusion in the conference program.

Surprise! There was zero Internet access on Deer Isle (or much else). Dial-up net access was our only hope and it kept dropping out. So, through many successive attempts I compressed and compressed and compressed the video until it was small enough to upload via an unreliable dial-up connection, probably at 300 baud.

The result is the masterpiece you see here. Every minute or so there is a new photo of Papert to accompany the audio. And yes, he is wearing a “Salmon of the Northwest” t-shirt.