Papert: Not Just Logo!
Dr. Papert has often been recognized as the Father of Educational Computing. His impact on the early world of information technologies in schools is legendary for it was borne from his collaboration with Jean Piaget, theories of constructivism, and the ‘tutee’ concept within Tool, Tutor, and Tutee.
But Seymour has been much bigger than Logo.
What You May Not Know
But what you possibly don’t know about Seymour Papert is his significant contribution to the field of cognitive science. With Marvin Minsky, he cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. He collaborated with Marvin Minsky on Perceptrons (1969), which temporarily reduced the focus on neural networks and encouraged increased study of symbolic models. Indeed, inthe early 80’s, the exploration of neural networks rebounded and became a prominent force in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development. I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of these very technical arguments among the Newell & Simon cognitivists, artificial intelligence supporters, and cyberneticists. However, these times were central to the creation of the current theories of cognitive science.
The Human Side
I’ve had the good fortune of spending some time with Seymour Papert. I wish I’d had more time and I wish that I’d had more opportunities for debate with him – not about cognitive science but about cognitive psychology and his dreams for schools and children’s learning.
We were at a conference together in Israel. I helped usher him away from the throngs of people after his presentation to his hotel in another city. He was always deluged in those days and he valued his privacy. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind driving his rental car for him. He found it crazy to drive there and, of course, I was happy to oblige. On the way, we stopped in the old city and were happily walking along, browsing at the stalls. Then, I turned around and he was gone! Oh my goodness! It took me some 20-30 minutes to find him. He was contentedly sipping tea with a shopkeeper and deeply involved in a wonderful conversation about the state of the world.
I miss Seymour’s presence. He was severely injured in a motorcycle accident several years ago. His strength of passion and genius should not be missed. Read his work.
A Last Word about Logo
If you have not explored using Logo with kids, I can still recommend that you do this. I am sure it must fit a 21st Century Skill or two. :-) There are many versions available. Seymour Papert was the Chair of the Board of LCSI for many years and they have, in my opinion, made the best versions of this computer language.
Logo is a programming environment – an accessible one for all learners. Now programming doesn’t mean what you might think. Many of us believe that students should engage in some aspects of computer science for the purposes of developing rich, divergent, reflective thinking. @dougpete makes reference to this frequently.
NOTE: DON’T be scared away by the term ‘programming’! All ages can take part. Check out MicroWorlds EX and MicroWorlds Jr (the latter is for primary kids).
- A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking about the School of the Future by Seymour Papert
- The Turtle’s Long Slow Trip: Macro-educological Perspectives on Microworlds by Seymour Papert
- On the Origins of Cognitive Science: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy, MIT, 2009 ISBN 978-0-262-51239-8
- MicroWorlds EX and MicroWorlds Jr
- Learning with Logo – by Gary Stager
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