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3205Re: [learningfromeachother] Ref Andrius Kulikauskas [livingbytruth] Seymour Papert and learning to learn/think

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  • Edward Cherlin
    Apr 9, 2011
      As I have learned it, the essence of Papert's Constructionism is that
      children learn best by making things that enable them to improve their
      internal models of the world, and then helping each other to make them
      better. This goes beyond direct experience as passive spectators, or
      even as active inquirers. It is also a model of how real-world work is
      supposed to be done.

      There is a range of such activities, including making physical
      objects, writing reports, creating portfolios, writing programs to
      tell the computer what to do, writing programs to tell a robot what to
      do, writing programs to make physical objects, and so on.

      I work with people, at One Laptop Per Child, Sugar Labs, and
      elsewhere, who are designing software and content to implement such
      ideas in the classroom. I find it essential to discuss ideas such as
      Constructionism in the context of real applications. Otherwise we have
      no way of knowing whether we are talking about the same subject.

      What versions of Constructionism have you seen? Most of the accounts I
      have read are highly confused and one-sided. There is a strong
      tendency to confuse Constructionism with Piaget's Constructivism,
      which is indeed part of Papert's proposal, or with any of the dozens
      of other theories under the same or similar names

      You wrote

      >> when I respond to what is written about his work I respond
      >> across the full spectrum - ranging from great appreciation and
      >> enthusiasm for his ideas at one extreme to cynicism at the other.

      I would advise you to ignore what others have written about Papert's
      work (even me), and to read his own writings.


      Seymour Papert defined constructionism in a proposal to the National
      Science Foundation entitled Constructionism: A New Opportunity for
      Elementary Science Education


      as follows: "The word constructionism is a mnemonic for two aspects of
      the theory of science education underlying this project. From
      constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a
      reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we
      extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is
      most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as
      constructing a meaningful product."

      As Papert and Idit Harel say at the start of Situating Constructionism,


      "It is easy enough to formulate simple catchy versions of the idea of
      constructionism; for example, thinking of it as 'learning-by-making'.
      One purpose of this introductory chapter is to orient the reader
      toward using the diversity in the volume to elaborate—to construct—a
      sense of constructionism much richer and more multifaceted, and very
      much deeper in its implications, than could be conveyed by any such

      I do not find Papert's ideas to be fundamentally new. I find his
      implementation of those ideas to be unlike anything else in the world,
      except for those of his students and co-workers. Not at the same level
      as the differences between Copernicus and Newton on planetary orbits,
      but of a similar kind.

      On Sat, Apr 2, 2011 at 00:21, Andrius Kulikauskas <ms@...> wrote:
      > Pamela,
      > Thank you for your letter. It's amazing, all that you've done. I'm glad
      > that we might work together. You've written about your past. It would be
      > great if you wrote such a letter about your future. I should likewise.
      > Meanwhile, I've written a list of activities for organizing the kingdom
      > of heaven:
      > http://www.selflearners.net/Culture/
      > Those are all places where we might overlap. In particular, I'm
      > documenting and sharing ways of "figuring things out". I'll send out a
      > letter that I've written about how I'm doing that in math.
      > Peace,
      > Andrius
      > Andrius Kulikauskas, http://www.selflearners.net, ms@..., (773)
      > 306-3807, @selflearners
      > 2011.03.26 16:53, Pamela McLean rašė:
      >> Hi Andrius <http://www.dadamac.net/network/andrius-kulikauskas> and
      >> readers of my open letters at http://dadamac.posterous.com
      >> <http://dadamac.posterous.com/> and LearningFromEachOther
      >> Andrius
      >> There are many interesting ideas and topics in your email copied
      >> below. As I was reading it my mind responded to so much - much more
      >> that I can possibly write here. I've highlighted areas I found of
      >> particular interest and will just give some observations related to
      >> them. Maybe we will discuss further some other time.
      >> I've been interested in ICT in education since way back when
      >> "micro-computers" were just coming into existence (I was Pamela Fiddy
      >> then, not McLean) - this means that I was a fan of Papert's work on
      >> logo when it was happening. I was an early experimenter with his ideas
      >> - and friends of mine were involved in making the various "floor
      >> turtles" that brought the whole thing to life in ways beyond
      >> representations on the screen.
      >> I recognise and admire his work with computers in education as being
      >> very innovative. I also observed in various schools just how much of
      >> his ideas had actually filtered through into classroom practice. This
      >> means when I respond to what is written about his work I respond
      >> across the full spectrum - ranging from great appreciation and
      >> enthusiasm for his ideas at one extreme to cynicism at the other.
      >> However when I read about Papert and that he developed
      >> "constructionist learning" I have very mixed feeling. I know he was
      >> innovative regarding computer use in education (those of us who were
      >> around at the time of Mindstorms used to hang on his every word), but
      >> I don't have the same feeling about him as an innovator regarding
      >> education in general. The quotes that are ascribed to him regarding
      >> education are good, but (from the viewpoint of an infant and junior
      >> teacher trained in the 1970s) the educational theory seems to me to be
      >> nothing special - good, but not particularly original - it just
      >> reminds me of what we were taught to do.
      >> The quotes you give tie in with the essays that we wrote at college on
      >> such topics as "The child is the agent of his own learning" (that
      >> title seems permanently lodged in my brain). "Constructionist
      >> learning" ties in with our tutors' insistence that we should never
      >> give children second-hand experience of anything that we could
      >> conceivably have offered as a first-hand experience.
      >> When I started to teach we weren't directed by the national
      >> curriculum, and, although we were "in loco parentis" we weren't
      >> constrained by a risk-averse "health and safety gone mad" culture. We
      >> had all kinds of freedoms to take unexpected opportunities to learn.
      >> For instance I remember when the firemen came unexpectedly to test the
      >> fire-hydrant outside our school. I quickly took my class out to see
      >> what was happening. The firemen were great and let us watch and ask
      >> questions. It was a sunny day and so they made special "showers of
      >> rain" for us with the hose so that we could see rainbows. It was one
      >> more shared experience that the children and I could draw on in our
      >> subsequent thinking and talking and making sense of our world. Isn't
      >> that the kind of thins the "constructivists" are talking about - or am
      >> I missing something?
      >> I admit I haven't read that much about "constructivism" - but from
      >> what I have read, I can't see what is so special and new about it
      >> (though I'm ready to be shown). I'm not meaning to belittle Papert,
      >> but it seems to me that there is a wrong emphasis. I think of other
      >> great teachers too, and wonder if they are being equally recognised. I
      >> think fro instance of Zoltan Dienes
      >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zolt%C3%A1n_P%C3%A1l_Dienes who was a
      >> wonderful teacher - in theory and in practice. I remember a day of
      >> watching him teach and the key thing that I learned from him. "Never
      >> teach a generalisation". He believed we should give enough experience
      >> of specific examples so that the children could then generate their
      >> own generalisation - from which they could subsequently confidently
      >> generate their own additional specific examples. (This process can't
      >> be hurried - sometimes it can take months - and it is wonderful to
      >> watch the "aha!" moment when a generalisation dawns).
      >> Regarding OLPC - I don't often join in the OLPC debate (partly because
      >> I do respect some of the people involved and some of the good work
      >> that has come out of the project) but, with you Andrius, I will share
      >> my frustration at the way that some OLPC people seem to suggest they
      >> are the only people in the world to see the benefit of enabling
      >> children to learn by doing.
      >> End of my rant.
      >> I love the ideas of Kestas Augutis - all new to me - thank you. You
      >> never cease to impress me with the range of interesting people that
      >> you know
      >> I'm interested too in your sequences, hierarchies and networks - not
      >> just for personal learning and/or bodies of knowledge, but also in
      >> connection with how we structure knowledge online.
      >> You and I definitely share an interest in thinking and learning. The
      >> short title of my final dissertation at college was "Think child!" - I
      >> explored what that meant in the context of various aspects of Bloom's
      >> taxonomy of educational objectives
      >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_Taxonomy
      >> When I did my OU degree that "Think child!" dissertation and my
      >> practical work as a teacher were both at the core of all my studies -
      >> which related to decision making, the ordering of information,
      >> systems, computers, artificial intelligence, and so on. That was
      >> followed by my theoretical and practical investigations of the role of
      >> computers in primary education.
      >> Much later of course, in Minciu Sodas, you gave me the opportunity to
      >> investigate ideas about teachers and learners and ICT - the changing
      >> roles - emerging systems of education in the 21st century. That
      >> interest (theoretical and practical) is still lurking and developing
      >> in my practical work with dadamac and my experiments at dadamac.net
      >> <http://dadamac.net>, posterous and elsewhere.
      >> Your email ends "Who would like to learn about learning? along with me?"
      >> Maybe it would be good to explore further with each other our
      >> overlapping interests in learning about learning.
      >> Pamela
      >> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      >> From: *Andrius Kulikauskas* <ms@... <mailto:ms@...>>
      >> Date: 2011/3/25
      >> Subject: [livingbytruth] Seymour Papert and learning to learn/think
      >> To: learningfromeachother <learningfromeachother@yahoogroups.com
      >> <mailto:learningfromeachother@yahoogroups.com>>,
      >> mathfuture@... <mailto:mathfuture@...>,
      >> livingbytruth@yahoogroups.com <mailto:livingbytruth@yahoogroups.com>
      >> I wrote this for another group. Perhaps it will spark ideas. Andrius
      >> Kulikauskas
      >> ------------------------------------------
      >> Seymour Papert's work is popular in Lithuania. I'm glad that you've
      >> inspired me to learn more how remarkable he is. Still,I think we're
      >> just in the early days of "constructionist" learning, as he called it.
      >> I'm curious why you focus on teaching kids rather than adults to
      >> learn/think. I feel as if there are two camps:
      >> * People who want to teach children. They consider it the optimal age
      >> to teach because it keeps children out of trouble, gives them something
      >> to do, and most adults aren't teachable, especially if they haven't been
      >> taught as children, or they aren't competent or interested to teach or
      >> encourage their children.
      >> * People who want to teach adults. They consider it the optimal age
      >> because adults can learn from each other as (possible) equals (or
      >> unequals), the learning can be voluntary, and it can develop a shared
      >> culture. Whereas children often don't need to be taught, they can learn
      >> many things haphazardly, almost automatically, and they are ultimately
      >> influenced by adults who are interested (or not) in learning.
      >> I'm strongly in the second camp, mostly because I like to learn myself
      >> and I want to share what I'm learning, but from Minciu Sodas I know
      >> dedicated people in the first camp, like Edward Cherlin (advocate of
      >> OLPC and Sugar).
      >> Papert, a mathematician, worked with developmental psychologist Jean
      >> Piaget from 1958 to 1963
      >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(learning_theory)
      >> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_%28learning_theory%29>
      >> Piaget did many original experiments that made clear how children of
      >> different ages rely on internal models for judging, for example, which
      >> container holds more water, (say, the taller one), and that these models
      >> grow more sophisticated in predictable ways. "Individual learners
      >> construct mental models to understand the world around them". See
      >> Norman Anderson's information integration theory for a rigorous critique
      >> of Piaget's ideas and results (notably his belief that children can't
      >> integrate concepts), pg. 202, "A Functional Theory of Cognition".
      >> Papert developed "constructionist" learning:
      >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructionist_learning
      >> "learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making
      >> tangible objects in the real world"
      >> * "learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of
      >> knowledge"
      >> * "learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner
      >> experiences as constructing a meaningful product"
      >> which is related to John Dewey and "experiential education", where
      >> experience is central, there is interaction (internal needs/goals of a
      >> person) and continuity (from experience to experience).
      >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiential_education
      >> Papert was a proponent of bringing IT to the classrooms. He developed
      >> the Logo programming language (for writing simple programs to manipulate
      >> a Turtle on a screen, drawing pictures, thereby learn math, etc.) He
      >> wrote "Mindstorms: Children Computers and Powerful Ideas" (1980). Lego
      >> Mindstorms were named after the book. His Epistemology and Learning
      >> Research Group was a forerunner of the MIT Media Lab. He influenced
      >> Alan Kay, who led the team that developed Smalltalk at Xerox PARC, in
      >> part for constructionist learning, and who later created Squeak. Papert
      >> was hurt badly in an accident in 2006.
      >> "Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on
      >> acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use
      >> what one already knows". "Papert's principle" described in Marvin
      >> Minsky's "Society of the Mind":
      >> http://www.papert.org/articles/PapertsPrinciple.html
      >> Edith Ackermann's paper seems like a good comparison of Piaget's and
      >> Papert's views:
      >> http://learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf
      >> In 1997, I moved to Lithuania and met Kestas Augutis, a hermit living in
      >> a swamp, but teaching kids computers (DOS, 286s, 386s) at the local
      >> school. The "Mindstorms" book had been translated into Lithuania, and
      >> the Logo language was and is popular:
      >> http://www.logo.lt http://www.jkm.lt/LOGO/2011/
      >> Kestas had noteworthy visions of education, including that every child
      >> should write three books:
      >> * an encyclopedia, organized as a network
      >> * a thesaurus, organized as a hierarchy
      >> * a chronicle, organized as a sequence
      >> These three books would be the outcome of the child's education, would
      >> show that they were ready for the world, and would be what they would
      >> build on throughout their life. He also thought every child should help
      >> build a house, as he did with his father. Kestas died in 1998 at the
      >> age of 43.
      >> I liked his "three books" idea and, for my first project, I tried to
      >> write software for organizing thoughts in those three ways. Then I
      >> learned about TheBrain and MindManager and realized that there was a
      >> need for an import/export format (or modeling language) for getting
      >> collections of thoughts in and out of such tools. That led to Mindset
      >> http://www.ms.lt/mindset.html in 2001. (I was told by HP Bristol Labs
      >> that it was 10 years too early, but now in the age of Twitter, it might
      >> be timely.)
      >> I made a list of examples to check whether information gets organized in
      >> sequences, hierarchies and networks, and surprisingly, I found out that
      >> it never does! Instead, it gets organized in pairs of these
      >> structures. For example, a sequence of historical events quickly
      >> becomes unwieldy and so it is reorganized into a hierarchy and becomes a
      >> "chronicle". I observed six types:
      >> * chronicle: sequence -> hierarchy
      >> * evolution: hierarchy -> sequence
      >> * catalog: hierarchy -> network
      >> * atlas: network -> hierarchy
      >> * canon: sequence -> network
      >> * tour: network -> sequence
      >> See: http://www.worknets.org/papers/organizingthoughts.html
      >> Is that a good start? Perhaps you can add some key ideas?
      >> I'm very active in trying to understand how we figure things out,
      >> http://www.selflearners.net/ways/
      >> which is a key but neglected part of learning and thinking. It seems
      >> that we are still in very early days to teach people how to learn and
      >> think.
      >> Children are likely operating on an implicit approach that is better
      >> than anything we might explicitly teach them about learning. Compare
      >> their natural language acquisition skills and our educational methods
      >> for teaching language (or vision or faith or ...?)
      >> I'm trying to do this from scratch. For example, what's worth
      >> teaching? Last year I decided that what's worth teaching is right and
      >> wrong. Reading, writing (if they are worthwhile) help us care about
      >> others. Mathematics (if it is worthwhile) builds models which are to
      >> some extent valid, and at some point invalid, and perhaps that helps us
      >> appreciate the relationship of system and spirit. I still don't know.
      >> Who knows? I'm working on my math ideas here:
      >> http://www.gospelmath.com/Math/DeepIdeas
      >> Who dares to teach children? I prefer to experiment on myself.
      >> Who would like to learn about learning? along with me?
      >> Andrius
      >> Andrius Kulikauskas
      >> http://www.selflearners.net
      >> ms@... <mailto:ms@...>
      >> (773) 306-3807
      >> @selflearners
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      Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
      Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
      The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.
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