February 9th, 2014

Discovery “Double-Talk”

Seymour Papert in The Children’s Machine (excerpted here.):

It is simply double talk to ask children to take charge of their own learning and at the same time order them to “discover” something that can have no role in helping them understand anything they care about or are interested in or are curious about.

This isn’t rocket science. Each one of us lives this. We learn what we have an interest in learning. The deeper our interest, the less we will let stand in our way. I’m struck by stories like that of Jack Andraka, 15 years-old, who wouldn’t let school stand in the way. (Listen carefully from 1:19 - 2:05.) 

It’s easy for a lot of people now to say “we’re moving.” Every kid has an iPad. We’re doing project-based learning. We’re flipping the classroom to make more time for problem-solving. And on.

I can’t speak for him, but I doubt Papert is impressed. Our hubris in education is still that we think we know what, when, and how every child needs to learn. While our rhetoric changes, we remain teacher / curriculum centered despite announcements that our “better” assessments, our “better” curriclum, our “better” uses of technology are transferring ownership of learning to children. 

They’re not. We’re not.

March 8th, 2013

Liberate the Learners

Seymour Papert (1998):

The presence of digital technologies is rapidly moving us into a period where learners can learn what they need to know on their own agenda rather than on the predetermined agenda of a curriculum. We will soon be able to give up the assembly line model of grade after grade, exercise after exercise.

It would be naive to believe this could happen without resistance from the education establishment—which includes several multibillion-dollar sectors of the education industry as well as huge bureaucracies with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. I grant that most people who make and apply curriculums are underpaid and motivated by the welfare of children. But this does not alter the fact that present-day schools, to which…they have to cater in order to sell their products, are relics from an earlier period of knowledge technology.

I think the emphasis now has to be on the transition. We know from where have come. The question is where we end up. At the core, it’s about how we provide the cultures and systems and supports that marry the public good of community schools with the powerful freedom to learn which we and our children in connected spaces now enjoy. (And, importantly, how we extend that freedom to those who don’t yet have access to it.) 

Next week, let’s spring forward on more than just the clock. 

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