Week 3 Response

Papert offers a new perspective on the process of learning itself.  He discusses how computers affect the way people think and learn, and suggests that computers enhance thinking.  Papert’s viewpoint goes in the opposite direction of what is common in today’s schools, where the computer is being used to program the child as opposed to the child programing the computer.  Papert views children as builders who are capable of learning without being taught.  He believes strongly in supporting children as they build their own intellectual structures.  According to Papert, “There is a world of a difference between what computers can do and what society will choose to do with them” (p. 5).  His focus is not on the machine but on the mind.

 

While I agree that learning to communicate with a computer may change the way other learning takes place, I feel as though some of Papert’s beliefs are too extreme.  Papert states that “contact with the computer has not changed how these people think about themselves or how they approach problems (p. 4).  I believe this is a generalization, as people have different learning styles and/or end goals – not everyone will need to program or will be able to learn from programming.  Papert goes on to state that he sees the classroom as “an artificial and inefficient learning environment that society has been forced to invent.” (p. 8).  Wasn’t Papert himself inspired in his math classroom in a certain sense?  When he was able to establish a relationship between gears and a mathematical equation, his curiosity was sparked, which eventually led to the development of Turtle programming.  While I believe it’s true that children can learn without deliberate and organized teaching, I still believe that the education system serves a vital role in a child’s overall development.  I think about the life skills I learned and how I developed with the help of my teachers and classmates not only as a student, but as an individual.

 

As a foreign language teacher, Papert’s views on language learning resonated with me on many levels.  Papert states that “Learning languages is what children do best” (p. 6).  Studies have shown this, and from my personal experience teaching K-12 students, there is an obvious difference in what students of different age groups are able to absorb and learn, especially in terms of pronunciation.  Papert also feels that learning to communicate with computers should be a natural process. He compares learning French by living in France and trying to learn it through the “unnatural process” of American foreign-language instruction in classrooms (p. 6).  While I agree that a “natural process” is the most efficient way of learning to speak in another language, it is not the most efficient way of learning to read or write in another language.  Some of my students are native speakers but cannot read or write in the target language.  On the other hand, I myself am not a native speaker.  I learned to read and write in Spanish first and speaking came later when I studied abroad in a more “natural” setting in Argentina.  So, while I understand where Papert is coming from, I again feel as though his viewpoint is making a generalization.  In conclusion, I can incorporate Papert’s ideas into my work as a teacher by allowing students to code in the language classroom.  I experimented with this last year using Scratch, and I can continue to do so using Turtle as well.  The only issue I run into is fitting these lessons into my curriculum.  I think Papert would agree that the curriculum does create limitations and does not allow students to play as active as a role in their learning as they should be partaking in.

    • Sachin Rochlani
      Sachin Rochlani

      Dana, someone brought up on here last week that children today are taught to follow directions. As you pointed out, this is the opposite of what Papert believed should happen with computers in the classroom. It was interesting to read your thoughts on Papert's feeling that learning to communicate with computers should be a natural process. Most people I know who are good at programming and technology learned it without taking formal classes or following directions from an instructor. I agree with you, that one cannot simply learn a language naturally (that some formal education is necessary to properly read and write). But I don't see learning to use computers as the same thing as learning a language.

      • Gerald Ardito
        Gerald Ardito

        Dana,

        You have done an outstanding job with this assignment. While I have made the color coding optional, I can now see the value in folks using it.

        I am glad that you found so much in Papert. While he is not everyone's cup of tea, his work has had an enormous impact on mine. I consider him a mentor, despite never having met him.

        This really stuck out for me:

        In conclusion, I can incorporate Papert’s ideas into my work as a teacher by allowing students to code in the language classroom.  I experimented with this last year using Scratch, and I can continue to do so using Turtle as well.  The only issue I run into is fitting these lessons into my curriculum.  I think Papert would agree that the curriculum does create limitations and does not allow students to play as active as a role in their learning as they should be partaking in.

         

        • Jeff Magliola
          Jeff Magliola

          Hi Dana and Sachin,

           I'm pretty sure I'm one of the ones who harps on children being taught to follow directions. What's interesting is that there is SOME need for kids to be able to follow directions, I just think that society as a whole has gone too far towards the side of having kids follow directions for everything they do in their classes. I can see it from both sides, as a teacher it's hard to imagine a project or even a day of teaching with no directions involved. I believe this is why maker spaces are becoming popular. It's the only time in the day where students can have a moment to try and achieve a goal without directions being involved! 

        Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2018

        Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2018

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