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Archive for March, 2016

Personal Thinking Revisited

Posted by jturner56 on March 8, 2016

In a previous post I revisited Seymour Papert’s 1993 The Children’s Machine: rethinking school in the age of the computer and considered Chapter One: Yearners and Schoolers. My objective is to try and see how far we have traveled and where we find ourselves two decades after Papert’s thinking laid the groundwork for 1:1 digital devices in schools and personal digital learning.

In this post I proceed to Chapter Two: Personal Thinking. A shorter chapter, it charts Papert’s learning journey and influences on how he arrived at the thoughts behind the computer as a powerful children’s learning machine. When we consider ourselves as educators, how often do we consider our own personal thinking journey and how impacts on what we do and might be willing to do looking forward?

Papert uses his reflection as evidence of the distances he uncovered when at school between his yearning for learning and what school, and university put before him.

How he early on found the will to take charge of his own learning (through a newspaper publishing initiative).

The importance of relevance, not through ‘pretending’, but through interaction with the world beyond. He used learning french during his times in France to show how “studying one’s learning processes” can be a powerful method to enhance learning.

The value of learning experiences when the outcome is not known beforehand.

The value of the “physicalness of powerful learning” as exemplified by learning how to make croissants.

The methodological value of reflection and personal intuitive knowledge.

The value of interacting with leading thinkers, in his case Marvin Minsky and Warren McCulloch, two AI pioneers.

This all he compares School’s approach to computers as “attaching a jet engine to an old-fashioned wagon” to see whether it can “help the horses.” Such approaches he sees in school education where “tomorrow will always be the prisoner of yesterday.

Central to his ideas is the time he spent  with Piaget, whose statement “that to understand is to invent” Papert saw not only applying to children, but to all of us as learners.

Twenty years on how apposite to the fast changing era that presents opportunities to learn that underpin lifelong learning demands in the digital age.

A bit of Personal Thinking might help us better understand what is and what could be be and how our past if allowed to dominate can hold one back.

This, then, becomes the second pillar, after Yearning; that Digital Age Education requires Personal Thinking commitment if it is to invent a better future. In Chapter 3 we will explore future where School fits in to Papert’s thinking.





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What can you DO with that Learning?

Posted by jturner56 on March 6, 2016

Do we too often confuse educating (to….systemised) with learning (by….for life)?

When I googled the question, ‘What can you do with that learning?’ – what I received was how University degrees matter.

When I googled a similar question, ‘What can you make with that learning?’ – what I received were instruction for teachers.

Is a key point being missed, caught between Dewey’s ‘Learning by Doing‘ and Thorndyke’s law of effect of rewarded behaviours that have come to dominate school as an institution? Scripts that deny designs that can go deeper. That deny true identity formation.

I see this every time I see students struggle to find meaning and relevancy, from mathematics no longer needed, to project-based learning undervalued. From teacher-centric content to external testing as primary value.

In times and places where delayed gratification, backed up by early alternative pathways, was acceptable in education, this could be dismissed as a discussion point. But in modern times of increased personal access and interaction through digital technologies for personal learning, up against increasing inequalities at all levels of schooling, is this sustainable, much less tolerable?

Next time you want to identify what educating has truly achieved, after identifying the intended outcome, ask yourself, and your students, ‘what can you do with that learning?’

What should be our response if the reply is shrugs, or answers like ‘to help past tests’, or ‘because I needed better grades’ or ‘to keep my parents/teachers off my back’?

If the student’s insights is not empowering, then surely the next question is, why?

If the answer helps us better understand the differences between ‘solution through measurements of educating externally defined, designed and applied’ and ‘measuring effects of learning on the individual and community’, there is hope.

PS…interestingly, Googling ‘measuring effects of learning’ also returned a misleading foray into ‘effects on learning’ or ‘reporting on learning capabilities’.


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