Week 3 Reading Response

I agree with Papert when he says that the culture in which a child grows and learns can affect the automaticity of a task. I do not agree with him when he says that a for a child living in a “computer culture,” the task of listing combinations is a concrete task. I’m exactly sure what he means by computer culture, but I assume he would consider what we now have to be a computer culture, and I know that for the majority of my sixth grade math students, this would not be a concrete exercise. Perhaps he assumed that widespread use of computers would be accompanied by widespread programming knowledge.

I find one line key to my critical stance toward the implementation of educational technology. On page 29, Papert says “In most cases the computer is being used either as a versatile video game or as a “teaching machine” programmed to put children through their paces in arithmetic or spelling.” I wonder if the author, writing in 1980, would be shocked to hear that 36 years later, when those children now adults, with touch screen computers with internet access in the pockets of every student when the arrive in school, with just about every politician and principal agreeing that computers should be used to revolutionize the way students learn, that same sentence would still be accurate. (Or at least I would say it’s still largely accurate. Obviously the use of word processing has changed, as he predicted. I’ve seen this before in some of my other classes; we read advice on how to be the technology coordinator for a school, and it seems almost the same.) I think this stagnation in application comes from the idea that with time, the problem of how to more effectively use computers to teach will solve itself. If LOGO was so groundbreaking in 1980, and allowed students to explore, rather than to memorize and regurgitate, then how come 36 years later, we are still hearing about the “new thing” that’s going to allow kids to explore and figure out problems for themselves and be independent learners. It seems to me that if the technology to do this has been in place for 36 years, it’s the culture we live and learn in that is keeping these developments from actually taking place in a widespread manner. I suspect that a large part if it is the teacher’s requirement to be able to prove what all of the students have been learning in an easily quantifiable way. As Papert says on Page 37, “Conservatism in the world of education has become a self-perpetuating social phenomenon.” It seems to me that there is a long history of discussing the ways in which technology “could” change the dynamic of education in the future, but a relatively small amount of change happening.

Wing’s argument is that computational thinking and computer science are good. She believes that computational thinking is modern problem solving, and that that type of thinking can help children and adults in all walks of life.

I think that both authors would agree that computers can allow students to answer questions that were not previously answerable. This allows for greater independence from adults, as they are no longer the source of knowledge. I think both authors would agree that Piagetian, exploratory learning is preferable to curricular based learning. I actually think that the majority of teachers would prefer that this were the case, as well, but don’t have the technical skillset or the freedom to experiment with this. This is certainly not what teachers are taught to do when they go through educational training, even while taking courses that study Piaget.

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      Your response is very interesting. When you say "If LOGO was so ground-breaking in 1980, and allowed students to explore, rather than to memorize and regurgitate, then how come 36 years later, we are still hearing about the new things that are going to allow kids to explore and figure out problems for themselves and be independent learners," you are asking the proverbial million dollar question.

      There was a whole generation of kids in the late 80s who learned to learn with LOGO and then the first wave of reform swept in and the method of instruction (exploration, discovery, inquiry) were put aside in response to the turmoil caused by A Nation at Risk.

      Your comment leads to the question - in the face of all of this press for educational "accountability" how can the type of learning Papert called for be implemented?

      What do you think?

      • Ty Robson
        Ty Robson

        It's a complicated question, and any answer I suppose will be complicated as well. It doesn't seem like the answer can be individual teachers just trying to implement exploratory learning, because those teachers and students live within the larger context of a school with differing expectations. If I were to simply let kids explore the relationships between shapes for three months, even if they gained a strong understanding of the concept, this likely wouldn't be acceptable to the administration or the teachers that come ahead of me (or possibly the parents). The teachers in the grade above me function with the expectation that they will be learning specific things in a specific order while in sixth grade. To disrupt this order or to remove aspects of the curriculum entirely would affect the plans of all those that come after me. It seems like a restructuring of the environment of schools would be necessary.

      Computer Science for Teachers

      Computer Science for Teachers

      This group is to support the Spring 2016 section of EDU 696M Computer Science for Teachers.

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