Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kay on Motivation, Papert on how schools discriminate against learners, and Dede on social learning #edchat

This is another fantastic clip from the 1995 Congressional Hearing on Technology in Education that is loaded with important points about motivation in learning.

In this clip Alan Kay eloquently describes the Montessori model of education and how the Macintosh OS is a kind of Montessori learning environment. He also highlights how kids want to learn how to do things they find value in and that our schools do not look like places they resemble from any other part of their lives. Part of this problem, he adds, is they don't see their teachers learning and if they did they might be more motivated as well.

Seymour Papert jumps in to add that our traditional school model is well suited for only a minority kind of learner and that this model discriminates against students who learn differently. He goes on to speculate that with time congress might see this as a human rights issue and declare that schools violate a basic human right by discriminating on the basis of learning style.

At the end of this clip Chris Dede jumps in to add that learning is also social and highlights the ability for computers to foster activities of collaboration and communication. His statements sound like he was describing today's social networks.

Well, that's all I have time for tonight. Stay tuned, when I have a little more time I will try to get through the remaining 170 minutes of this hearing.


malcolm bellamy said...

Hi Carl,

I watched both of the video clips that you posted but found this one the most significant. The thing that makes you think is that this was 1995 and in 15 years how much have we moved on? Seymour Papert's words are profound about the fact that the education system descriminates against many children's thinking and interests and yet we are more rigid now and testing them to death on things they do not see the point of!
I wrote yesterday about Van Meter schools where they are trying to lead change in the 21st century, but as John Carver says in the vbideo that I used in my post, there needs to be a changed emphasis on what constitutes assessment... i.e. an electronic portfolio representing children's skills as shown from research that relates to their interests.. I am sure that Papert would applaud this.

Carl Anderson said...


Of the 8 clips from this hearing that I have posted so far I also find this one to be the most significant. I have long felt about schools what Papert brings to light here. I think it fell on deaf ears. I also think it would fall on deaf ears if that testimony were given today. I also found the testimony regarding curriculum vs teaching learning skills relevant [http://carlanderson.blogspot.com/2010/04/alan-kay-seymour-papert-on-teachers-as.html]. Taken together these clips nearly summarize the bulk of the problem with our system of educating children in this and other countries. It also makes me nervous about our current push for national standards. After all, aren't standards just another name for curriculum?

Mrs. Tenkely said...

This is the most impressive thing I have seen today. I can't believe that in 15 years we are still sitting in the same classrooms. Technology may have been added but the classroom structure is the same. When I was in college, one of my professors constantly told us that "the wheels of academe move slowly", she wasn't kidding! Instead of moving toward this model, we have become even more deeply rooted in the past model. It is time for us to change this, it doesn't appear that it is going to be a shift in the "higher powers" thinking any time soon, and so it is up to us, the teachers, to make these changes at every opportunity.

As a side note, I am loving Alan Kay's thoughts on the Apple OS. I couldn't put my finger on it, but this is just what makes Apple such an obvious choice in the classroom setting. It doesn't come with a manual, it is intuitive, it teaches us lessons every time we interact with it. Brilliant.

David Gammill said...


Thank you for posting these videos! Very interesting, to say the least. Many years ago I taught in a computer lab using projects for most of the work, but as Seymour points out these projects often require skills that aren't part of the current week's curriculum plan. The students were very engaged and clearly learned a lot, yet the fact is part of the classroom time was spent on concepts outside of the current curriculum objectives.

While we must obviously help students learn the current curriculum objectives I also wonder what self contained computer environments exist that can help motivate children to learn.

On the elementary level I am familiar with environments like logo and VRML that children can become immersed in, yet I wonder what other applications are available. Seymour gave the example of programming a video game, but that is certainly far beyond the capabilities of students I have taught. I like the idea, but I'm curious about accomplishing it on a simpler scale.

Carl Anderson said...


I think Papert's call for constructionist learning environments with students and teachers working together on projects extend beyond just computer mediated learning environments. What he seemed to be talking about was project-based learning which is enhanced by computers in the classroom in a way that their presence can actually show real gains in learning and (gasp) achievement.

As for children making games, I know of elementary school students who have done amazing things with Scratch even with kids as young as 1st or 2nd grade. Other software like Gamemaker 7 have been successfully used with older children. What's more, these two programming environments are also extremely engaging for high school students or adults.

I also thought about my 4yr old daughter when I read your comment. She doesn't program the computer but she loves making her own board games. In that activity alone she has learned a lot about math, reading, logic, etc.