Light Offerings

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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