Rare Discoveries Week 1 Recap

Last week, The Daily Papert published texts and speeches by Seymour Papert that never been publicly available. One of the entries is a transcript of Papert’s last public speech.

Other “rare discoveries” will  be shared in the future as time and finances allow. If you have such media, please share it via The Daily Papert.

Please take the time to dig deeper into these gems. Each daily quote contains a link to the entire text or speech.

May 7, 2012

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

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 Previously unpublished.

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.

May 8, 2012

“So there are other ways, through this computer system that have opened up, that enable somebody to get knowledge when you need it. Now this leads to, not only to a radically different idea of what kind of knowledge it is, because there’s nothing numerical and nothing about fractions in the description of the parabola that we give them.

But it is also radically opposite to the idea of the curriculum where you learn a piece of mathematics because it’s the 17th of May in your third grade year and so it’s inscribed somewhere that on this day you going to learn this. That’s no way to learn.

Not if there’s an alternative. And the alternative is, you get into situations where you need it. The problem of the educational innovator is to create those situations where you need it. And then to create the means so that you can find the knowledge when you need it for your purpose.”

Papert, S. (1996) American Prospect Speech. Cambridge, MA. June 4, 1996.

Many thanks to Brian C. Smith for his excellent transcription of this speech.

Listen to the speech here.

May 9, 2012

“…for example, Larry Cuban, the hypercritic, the king of the criticism of computers – recently, and again, in an interview with the New York Times says, ~”Well, we didn’t ask for the kids to have these computers! But you’re fundamentally mistaken if you think it will change education.”~ Why? Well, he goes on to say there is no proof that it improves – that having laptop computers improves the scores on tests. Well, I’ve got two answers to that: A trivial answer is, it would if you gave it a chance – but I’m not going to get into that game. The more important thing is that that’s got nothing to do with whether it is going to be adopted or not be adopted. It’s going to be adopted because that’s the way we do things in our world. That’s the way we do knowledge work.”

Papert. S. (2006) Transcript of Seymour Papert’s Keynote Address at ICMI 17 Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. December 4, 2006.

This speech was made right before Dr. Papert’s tragic accident in Hanoi in December, 2006 and represents his last public address.

May 10, 2012

“So I think the number one task has to be to really create spearheads, nuclei of change where we can really demonstrate that something really different can be done – something not improvement, but radically different.”

Papert, S. (2000) Keynote Address at CUE Conference. Palm Springs, CA.

In May 2000, Seymour Papert delivered a barn-burner of a keynote address at the California Computer Using Educators Conference in Palm Springs, CA.

The venue was a tent with large fans blowing and planes flying overhead. The organization made no attempt to record the speech professionally, so what you have here is an amateur attempt to capture history with the gear I had with me. The audio quality is often inadequate.

In my humble opinion, this is one of the best “talks” Papert ever gave. Preserving it in some way has been a goal of mine for many years.


Scroll to Top