Thinking deep about learning

May 06, 2013




Just occasionally, you come across somebody who thinks deeply (as in hard) about learning. Shame that they are rarely educationalists (‘.. the bottom feeders of the academy’ as Clark Glymour said). Here is an interview with Alan Kay:

Do our modern personal computing devices augment education? Have they lived up to what was foreseen in the past? Are they really helping teachers teach in the classroom?

The perspective on this is first to ask whether the current educational practices are even using books in a powerful and educative way. Or even to ask whether the classroom process without any special media at all is educative.

I would say, to a distressing extent, the answer is “no.”

The education establishment in the U.S. has generally treated the computer (a) first as undesirable and shunned it, (b) as sort of like a typewriter, (c) not as a cheap but less legible textbook with smaller pages, etc. (d) as something for AP testing, (e) has not ventured into what is special about computing with reference to modeling ideas and helping to think about them.

This in spite of pioneers such as Seymour Papert explaining both in general (and quite a bit specifically) just what it is and how it can revolutionize education.

I’ve used the analogy of what would happen if you put a piano in every classroom. If there is no other context, you will get a “chopsticks” culture, and maybe even a pop culture. And this is pretty much what is happening.

In other words, “the music is not in the piano”.

And of course:

Most progress in research comes when funding is wise and good. That has not been the case for 30 years or so.



Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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