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Things Papert Said

Seymour Papert is  not only the father of Constructionism, the co-founder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, and founding faculty at the MIT Media Lab  but he is the author of some fairly #MindBlowing observations and statements about learning and technology.

Here are just a few that I really like:

“Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models. If you can’t, anything can be painfully difficult.”

“For me, getting to know a domain of knowledge (say, Newtonian mechanics or Hegelian philosophy) is much like coming into a new community of people. Sometimes one is initially overwhelmed by a bewildering array of undifferentiated faces. Only gradually do the individuals begin to stand out. On other occasions one is fortunate in quickly getting to know a person or two with whom an important relationship can develop. Such good luck may come from an intu- itive sense for picking out the “interesting” people, or it may come from having good introductions. Similarly, when one enters a new domain of knowledge, one initially encounters a crowd of new ideas. Good learners are able to pick out those who are powerful and congenial. Others who are less skillful need help from teachers and friends. But we must not forget that while good teachers play the role of mutual friends who can provide introductions, the actual job of getting to know an idea or a person cannot be done by a third party. Everyone must acquire skill at getting to know and a personal style for doing it.” (Papert, 1980, pg. 137)

“Where I am at variance with Piaget is in the role I attribute to the surrounding cultures as a source of these materials. In some cases the culture supplies them in abundance, thus facilitating constructive Piagetian learning. For example, the fact that so many important things (knives and forks, mothers and fathers, shoes and socks) come in pairs is a “material” for the construction of an intuitive sense of number. But in many cases where Piaget would explain the slower development of a particular concept by its greater complexity or formality, I see the critical factor as the relative poverty of the culture in those materials that would make the concept simple and concrete.” (Papert, 1980, pg.7)

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