October 25, 2011

“Let’s go back to Dewey for a moment. Intellectual growth, he often told us, must be rooted in the child’s experience. But surely one of the fundamental problems of the school is how to extend or use the child’s experience. It must be understood that “experience” does not mean mere busy work: two children who are made to measure the areas of two triangles do not necessarily undergo the same experience. One might have been highly involved (e.g., anticipating the outcome, being surprised, guessing at a general law) while the other was quite alienated (the opposite). What can be done to involve the mathematically alienated child? It is absurd to think this can be done by using the geometry to survey the school grounds instead of doing it on paper. Most children will enjoy running about in the bright sun. But most alienated children will remain alienated. One reason I want to emphasize here is that surveying the school grounds is not a good research project on which one can work for a long enough time to accumulate results and become involved in their development. There is a simple trick, which the child sees or does not see. If he sees it he succeeds in measuring the grounds and goes back to class the next day to work on something quite different.”

Papert S. (1980). Teaching Children Thinking in Taylor, R., Ed., The Computer in School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee. New York: Teachers College Press. pp. 161 -176.

Note: This paper was originally presented in 1970 at the IFIP World Conference on Computers in Education in Amsterdam. The paper was published as an MIT Logo Memo No. 2. Nicholas Negroponte reports that Papert first presented this work in 1968.

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