March 1, 2011
“Incremental change can be self-defeating; it’s not a step on the way to the big change. A silly example: suppose that the inventor of the refrigerator found that the only way to persuade people to buy them would be to make a refrigerator that could drop the temperature by just one degree. Now that thing would be no use as a refrigerator, it would be a kind of step towards a real refrigerator. If you distributed these around people would develop ways of using them, they’d use them as storage boxes, they’d use them for all sorts of things because people are ingenious beings and they try to use what they’ve got. So, there’d come about a refrigerator culture based on ways to use refrigerators for purposes that had nothing to do with what we know refrigerators are good for… this is what’s happened to computers in schools. They’re being used in ways that have nothing to do with the potential of the computer to allow the possibility of a radically different way of learning..”
Papert, S. (1997). Looking at School Through School-Colored Spectacles. Logo Exchange, Winter 1997.
A version of this article was published in Logo Exchange in the winter of 1997. It was adapted from a talk delivered by Seymour Papert at the MIT Media Lab, June 4, 1996, at an event sponsored by The American Prospect Magazine.