3206Re: [learningfromeachother] Ref Andrius Kulikauskas [livingbytruth] Seymour Papert and learning to learn/think
- Apr 10, 2011Edward,
Your input here is beneficial as i currently work with children with disability.
On Sat Apr 9th, 2011 6:49 AM Etc/GMT+12 Edward Cherlin wrote:
>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
>>> 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:
>> 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:
>> 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.
>> 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
>>> 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
>>> 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.
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> From: *Andrius Kulikauskas* <ms@... <mailto:ms@...>>
>>> Date: 2011/3/25
>>> Subject: [livingbytruth] Seymour Papert and learning to learn/think
>>> To: learningfromeachother <email@example.com
>>> mathfuture@... <mailto:mathfuture@...>,
>>> firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
>>> I wrote this for another group. Perhaps it will spark ideas. Andrius
>>> 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
>>> 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:
>>> "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
>>> * "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).
>>> 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":
>>> Edith Ackermann's paper seems like a good comparison of Piaget's and
>>> Papert's views:
>>> 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,
>>> 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
>>> 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:
>>> Who dares to teach children? I prefer to experiment on myself.
>>> Who would like to learn about learning? along with me?
>>> Andrius Kulikauskas
>>> ms@... <mailto:ms@...>
>>> (773) 306-3807
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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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