Seymour Papert, fully Seymour Aubrey Papert

Seymour
Papert, fully Seymour Aubrey Papert
1928
2016

South African-born American Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Educator, Teacher and Researcher at MIT

Author Quotes

Even with the most stupid video games, kids learn more about learning than they ever did before, because they want to learn codes and moves before other kids figure them out. They're motivated to seek out someone or search the Net for help. A student who makes a video game has to solve mathematical problems to make special effects happen on the screen.

I was really looking at computers as a way to understand the mind. But at M.I.T., my mind was blown by having a whole computer to yourself as long as you liked. I felt a surge of intellectual power through access to this computer, and I started thinking about what this could mean for kids and the way they learn. That's when we developed the computer programming language for kids, Logo.

Nothing bothers me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn math and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.

Research in artificial intelligence is gradually giving us a surer sense of the range of problems that can be meaningfully solved on modular agents, each of them simple-minded in its own way, many of them in conflict with one another. The conflicts are regulated and kept in check rather than "resolved" through the intervention of special agents no less simple-minded than the original ones. Their way of reconciling differences does not involve forcing the system into a logically consistent mold.

The reason most kids don't like school is not that the work is too hard, but that it is utterly boring.

You can sit down with your child and prompt him to show you something - perhaps how to play a game [on the computer]. By learning a game, you're getting close to the kid and gaining insight into ways of learning. The kid can see this happening and feels respected, so it fosters the relationship between you and the kid.

Every maker of video games knows something that the makers of curriculum don't seem to understand. You'll never see a video game being advertised as being easy. Kids who do not like school will tell you it's not because it's too hard. It's because it's--boring

If a kid really is retarded and can only come up to a certain level, he will still have more success if what he learns is connected with something important to him.

Nothing could be more absurd than an experiment in which computers are placed in a classroom where nothing else is changed.

Similarly, computer literacy courses tend to produce computer people who know a lot about computers or a piece of software but they don't help people become fluent with the machine.

The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.

You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it.

A more subtle difference is in the fact that some of them leave the Turtle in its original state. Programs written in this clean style are much easier to understand and use in a variety of contexts. And in noticing this difference children learn two kinds of lessons. They learn a general "mathetic principle," making components to favor modularity. And they learn to use the very powerful idea of "state." (emphasis added)

First (at least in the context of LOGO computers), the Total Turtle Theorem is more powerful: The child can actually use it. Second, it is more general: It applies to squares and curves as well as to triangles. Third, it is more intelligible: Its proof is easy to grasp. And it is more personal: You can "walk it through," and it is a model for the general habit of relating mathematics to personal knowledge.

If children really want to learn something, and have the opportunity to learn it in use, they do so even if the teaching is poor. For example many learn difficult video games with no professional teaching at all!

Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn math and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.

So, rather than stifling the children's creativity, the solution is to create an intellectual environment less dominated than the schools by the criteria of true and false.

The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.

You can't think seriously about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.

A programming language is like a natural, human language in that it favors certain metaphors, images, and ways of thinking. The language used strongly colors the computer culture. It would seem to follow that educators interested in using computers and sensitive to cultural influences would pay particular attention to the choice of language. But nothing of the sort has happened. On the contrary, educators... have accepted certain programming languages in much the same way as they accepted the QWERTY keyboard. An informative example is the way in which the programming language BASIC has established itself as the obvious language to use in teaching children how to program computers... Today, and in fact for several years now, the cost of computer memory has fallen to the point where any remaining economic advantages of using BASIC are insignificant. Yet in most high schools, the language remains almost synonymous with programming, despite the existence of other computer languages that are demonstrably easier to learn and are richer in the intellectual benefits that can come from learning them. The situation is paradoxical. The computer revolution has scarcely begun, but is already breeding its own conservatism.

For what is important when we give children a theorem to use is not that they should memorize it. What matters most is that by growing up with a few very powerful theorems one comes to appreciate how certain ideas can be used as tools to think with over a lifetime. One learns to enjoy and to respect the power of powerful ideas. One learns that the most powerful idea of all is the idea of powerful ideas.

Imagine that children were forced to spend an hour a day drawing dance steps on squared paper and had to pass tests in these "dance facts" before they were allowed to dance physically. Would we not expect the world to be full of "dancophones"? Would we say that those who made it to the dance floor and music and the greatest "aptitude for dance"? In my view, it is no more appropriate to draw conclusions about mathematical aptitude from children's unwillingness to spend many hundreds of hours dong sums.

Now more people are doing work that requires individual decision-making and problem-solving, and we need an educational system that will help develop those skills.

Technocentrism refers to the tendency to give a ...centrality to a technical object - for example computers or Logo ... (this) betray(s) a tendency to reduce what are really the most important components of educational situations - people and cultures - to a secondary, facilitating role. The context of human development is always a culture, never an isolated technology.

The success of a mathematical theory served across more than an instrumental role: It served as an affirmation of the power of ideas and the power of the mind.

First Name
Seymour
Last Name
Papert, fully Seymour Aubrey Papert
Birth Date
1928
Death Date
2016
Bio

South African-born American Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Educator, Teacher and Researcher at MIT