September 27, 2011

“An answer to the dilemma is suggested by looking back at the first years of a child’s life, when a volcano of learning takes place with nobody “putting the kid right” or “telling the real explanation.” Why doesn’t the learning of these toddlers run wild? Although they do come to hold beliefs in words or in actions that will have to be revised later, their learning is quite obviously adaptive. How does this happen?

The answer is obvious. It is because the learning is action-oriented and gets its feedback not from the yes-no of adult authority but from the resistance and the guidance of reality. Some attempted actions do not produce the expected results. Some produce sur- prising results. The child comes to learn that it is not sufficient to want a result for it to happen. One must act in an appropriate way, and “appropriate” means based on understanding.

A great deal of learning happens in this way, without any delib- erate intervention by adults. I don’t mean that this learning would happen without adults and without living in a world made by adults. Children learn to speak English (or Chinese) because the people around them speak English (or Chinese). Children learn to think in quantities because they live in a world so constructed that quantities are important. But then what can we do to improve the way in which the world facilitates learning?

A common view (which I’ve called instructionism) is that the best way for this to happen is to have more instruction: Spend more time telling kids what you think they ought to know. The idea that you should stimulate kids is very similar. The instructionist thinks in terms of doing something to the child.”

Papert, S. (1996) The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap. Atlanta: Longstreet Press. page 68-69.

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