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Motivating ideas from Papert and Crook

Seymour Papert: Mindstorms

Papert refers to two trends:

  • ubiquitous computing that people accept as part of the reality of everyday life
  • a social movement afoot: "an increasing disillusion with traditional education"

"... these two trends can come together in a way that would be good for children, for parents and for learning. This is through the construction of educationally powerful computational environments that will provide alternatives to traditional classrooms and traditional instruction."

"I do not present LOGO1 environments as my proposal for this ... too primitive ... too limited by the technology of the 1970s ... The role I hope they fill is that of a model. By now the reader must anticipate that I shall say an object-to-think-with, that will contribute to the essentially social process of constructing the education of the future."


Charles Crook: Computers and the Collaborative Experience of Learning

Crook emphasises "the central importance of intersubjectivity":

"... analysing zones of proximal development (ZPD) ... has furnished useful insights into the character of instructional interactions ... However ... much real instructional discourse is ... embedded in a more open-ended and communal kind of interaction ... Not as intimate as ZPD conceptions suggest ... not simply concerned wth supervising the actions that might effectively complete some current problem-solving task ..."

Computers have "a special potential for resourcing the social construction of shared knowledge" however "... the meaning of some teaching utterance is rarely to be located in, or made manifest through, its simple surface features - as if such meaning were something to be generated by a rule-bound system of the sort that computer-programmers would seek to construct"


Both Papert and Crook

  • recognise the importance of the social dimension in learning
  • believe that there is great potential for the computer in this regard
  • look for a role beyond simply programming
  • emphasise the need to develop richer conceptual frameworks

Social dimension in learning ...

Papert: constructionism: learning through building artefacts publically etc

Crook: "the central importance of intersubjectivity"

Crook: seeking to understand the process of creating common knowledge, and the role that instruction and construction can play in this

Papert: syntonicity – continuity with other experiences of learning (cf. his own childhood love of gears)

Crook: lateral continuity ("transfer of learning") and longitudinal continuity ("common knowledge")

Potential for the computer in this regard ...

Papert: implicit reference to the experience that computers can offer in constructionism

"[The computer] is unique in providing us with the means for addressing what Piaget and many others see as the obstacle which is overcome in the passage from child to adult thinking. I believe that it can allow us to shift the boundary separating concrete and formal. Knowledge that was accessible only through formal processes can now be approached concretely2. And the real magic comes from the fact that this knowledge includes those elements one needs to become a formal thinker. "

Crook: the factor snake3 – animation, "detailed records of what the pupils were actually doing"

Papert: A child "mastering the art of deliberately thinking like a computer" - becomes aware of mechanical thinking as one of many 'styles of thinking' - thence learning to think articulately about epistemology.

Crook: Computers have "a special potential for resourcing the social construction of shared knowledge"

Beyond simply programming ...

Both Papert and Crook express concern about the limitations of computers for learning when applied as processing rules

cf. Papert: "I do not present LOGO environments as my proposal for this ... too primitive ... too limited by the technology of the 1970s ..."

"The central role of the Turtle in this book should not be taken to mean that I propose it as a panacea for all educational problems. I see it as a valuable educational object, but its principal role here is to serve as a model for other objects, yet to be invented. My interest is in the process of invention of "objects-to-think-with", objects in which there is an intersection of cultural presence, embedded knowiedge, and the possibility for personal identification."

Mindstorms, Introduction

Crook: loss of context is especially problematic for the case of activities supported by computers

"... the meaning of some teaching utterance is rarely to be located in, or made manifest through, its simple surface features – as if such meaning were something to be generated by a rule-bound system of the sort that computer-programmers would seek to construct"

Richer conceptual framework ...

Papert (citing Timothy Gallway): People need more structured ways to think and talk about the learning of skills. Contemporary language is not sufficiently rich in this domain.

Crook [more than discourse analysis]

"studying discourse in order to clarify that shared knowledge is in place" as problematic

"... the meaning of some teaching utterance is rarely to be located in, or made manifest through, its simple surface features – as if such meaning were something to be generated by a rule-bound system of the sort that computer programmers would seek to construct" (p119)

Need "to understand more about how structural details of educational software support or constrain the possibility of collaborative work"

Need "to develop a conceptual vocabulary for talking about cognition as distributed, or shared achievement"

MCE illustrations
  1. The MCE repository includes a basic LOGO simulation.
  2. This principle is illustrated in the construal of fundamental concepts of linear algebra this is presented in the MCE script loaded via this link.
  3. The "factor snake" activity that Crook alludes to is simulated by this MCE script. It can be constructed as a construal by following the guidance in the MCE script loaded via this link.