The Vancouver Sun is running an Op-Ed essay of mine (found here) today, a 20-year retrospective of Seymour Papert‘s visionary book, The Children’s Machine, Rethinking Schooling in the Age of the Computer.
Sy Papert, an MIT professor who trained under Jean Piaget in France and then forged his own path developing LOGO computer language (for children) and then advancing ‘Constructionist’ education at MIT considered computers as ‘Knowledge Machines‘ that would be robust companions for children and youth forging unique (self-directed) learning paths.
On re-reading the book I was struck by how fresh and compelling it remains. Indeed I see lots of reasons why I was so excited on first reading the book 20 years ago, at the time myself and Brent Cameron were launching Virtual High for teens in Vancouver.
Alas, departments and ministries of education and teachers, for the most part, have not been so keen to untether computers for more free-form learning than is the hallmark of conventional schooling.
In The Children’s Machine, Papert writes, “I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge.”
Personally, I’m not interested in wasting energy in a debate over what kind of learning is “best”; I just wish there was equal opportunity for learners (AKA “students”) to be supported in self-directing their learning for special interests and projects. That would be a helpful starting place.