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Big Fractal Tangle


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papert’s point

So here I am, with three months of research, and nowhere to use it. Over the summer, I immersed myself in the writings of Seymour Papert and the works of Alan Kay and Mitch Resnick, both of whom drew inspiration from Papert. I’ve been walking around with a running dialogue in my head, inspired by the same ideas that launched OLPC and countless other efforts.

So what’s Papert’s point? What’s the common gist of the half-dozen books he’s written, starting with “Mindstorms” in 1980?

Okay, I’ll give it a shot. Seymour Papert thinks that we’re programming our kids in school in much the same way that we program computers.

“Yeah kid, here’s a fact.”

(dumps information in kid’s head)

“Now pay attention, here’s a skill.”

(dumps in kid’s head)

“Here’s more facts.”

(Dump, dump, dump)

“Okay, quiz time … regurgitate what you’ve learned.”

(reference memory and display earlier data)

So the point here is: do the kids actually learn anything, or do they learn how to play the game … how to memorize facts and skills. This approach is called “drill and kill” in some circles, and it’s really our education system.

It’s also how we teach dumb computers to do what we want. We enter data (facts) and we create programs (skills). This allows computers to regurgitate in the same way many kids do …. without understanding.

This is a very big problem.

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