I remember having “computer time” in elementary school. We’d go to the computer lab and play games like Oregon Trail and Carmen San Diego. There was another program that I vaguely remember using, something that involved a “turtle” (actually a triangle, but we called it a turtle). I remember that no one in the class had any idea what to do with this, but every once in a while someone would yell out something like “I got it to turn green!” “I made a line!”. That was my experience with LOGO.
When I chose Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert, I figured that it would be mostly a memoir about creating the LOGO programming environment. I was surprised to find the author wrote much more about the actual act of children learning and how programming can help shape the future of education.
“Difficulty with school math is often the first step of an invasive intellectual process that leads us all to define ourselves as bundles of aptitudes and ineptitudes, as being “mathematical” or “not mathematical, “artistic” or “not artistic,” “musical” or “not musical,” “profound” or “superficial,” “intelligent” or “dumb.” Thus deficiency becomes identity and learning is transformed from the early child’s free exploration of the world to a chore beset by insecurities and self-imposed restrictions.”
when I was a kid, mathematics came somewhat easily to me. That was not the case with my wife, however, and discussing this book I found she shared a lot of the frustrations Papert outlined. Math was an especially difficult subject for her since from a very early age she had decided she wasn’t good at it. And that raises an interesting question: why did she feel she wasn’t good at math? and how can parents or educators help a child not let that get in the way of learning?
I agree strongly with Papert that programming can be a sort of “gateway drug” that can get students hooked on problem solving, logical analysis as well as creative and artistic expression. Is this happening in schools? I’m aware of the Scratch programming environment as well as LEGO Mindstorms (both descendants from LOGO), but I haven’t been involved in education. Are these being taught in schools? Are they part of core curriculum or simply electives? I’m curious since I see them as valuable for all students, not just those interested in STEM subjects.
“PLATO WROTE over his door, “Let only geometers enter.” Times have changed. Most of those who now seek to enter Plato’s intellectual world neither know mathematics nor sense the least contradiction in their disregard for his injunction. Our culture’s schizophrenic split between “humanities” and “science” supports their sense of security. Plato was a philosopher, and philosophy belongs to the humanities as surely as mathematics belongs to the sciences. This great divide is thoroughly built into our language, our worldview, our social organization, our educational system, and, most recently, even our theories of neurophysiology. It is self-perpetuating: The more the culture is divided, the more each side builds separation into its new growth.”
I personally agree with this statement, but I’d be happy to know what others think. As one who has never been able to fully identify with either camp, I’ve seen this thinking in action. I’m so happy that ITP does a great job blending the arts with technology, but that wasn’t my experience in high school or my undergraduate degree. I had to choose whether I would pursue art or computer science – even the term computer science lets you know that there won’t be much art involved – for my major. Do you think there is a value to separate the humanities from sciences or are there ways to combine them effectively? Can I ever really sit between the two for a career or will I always have to choose one or the other?
The book was great and I highly recommend it (though it is rather dense). I thought a lot about the attitudes of learning I will work to instill in my own children over the years.
and here’s a house in LOGO:
repeat 4 [