Educational computing: how .

Educational Computing: How Are We Doing? Educational Computing: How Are We Doing?
By Seymour Papert This article appeared in the T.H.E. (Technological Horizons in Education) Journal in June, 1997, pp.
In a Silver Anniversary issue of T.H.E. Journal, it is appropriate to think about where the whole enterpriseof educational computing is in its life cycle. Since this is too broad of a topic, I focus here on a specialcase and leave it to readers to generalize my line of thought.
In the first part of this article I offer an explanation of what I mean by life-cycle in the form of a series ofexamples to serve as metaphors. In the second part I look at the life cycle of a specific piece ofeducational technology -- the programming language LOGO -- with which I have been closely associated.
How Big is the Baby
First metaphor: suppose you have a baby and want to know how it is doing. You call a pediatrician andsay "my baby measures 22 inches, is this good or bad?" If you get an answer at all it can only be becausethe doctor knows the age of your baby and can attempt to place its measurements in an expected patternof growth. Yet apparently serious commentators on the development of educational technology seemwilling to decide that it is doing very well or very badly without any consideration of what kind ofdevelopmental pattern is to be expected.
Second metaphor: pediatricians can evaluate the progress of a baby because observing a lot of otherbabies gives them a series of benchmarks. One might try to do the same here by observing thedevelopment of other technologies.
The history of aviation provides a tempting metaphor for those of us who like to believe that educationaltechnology will eventually lead to megachange in how people learn, for it is easy to ridicule in hindsightthe critics who ridiculed the performance of the Wright's flying machine in 1905. To see a flight of 22 feetas the birth of a transformative technology needed imagination much more than measurement! However, I find this metaphor pertinent but too "technocentric" to be really useful. On the positive side,one can inject a little historical perspective into the discussion of technology in education by askingpeople where they would place its development in relation to the evolution of aviation from the Wrightbrothers' Flying machine to Boeing's Jumbo jet.
My own view is that we have gotten beyond the stage of the barnstormers and first mail flights in thetwenties and are perhaps at a stage comparable to the launching in the mid-thirties of the great DC-3, thefirst really successful airliner. Most people in the transportation industries were still skeptical about theidea that aviation could really transform the way people moved around the planet. But at least they had acommercially viable example.
The negative side of the aviation metaphor is that it too easily leads to placing too much emphasis on theevolution of the power of a technology. Transferred to our problem of judging educational technologies,this encourages understanding the difference between the early eighties and the late nineties in terms ofmemory size, modem speed and numbers of available software packages. Of course these technologicalfeatures are relevant, but a different metaphor does a better job of placing them in the context of a verydifferent kind of feature.
Educational Computing: How Are We Doing? Third metaphor: the precursors of what we would call a movie consisted essentially of placing one of thenewly invented movie cameras in front of a stage and acting a play as if for a live audience. The evolutionfrom theater + technology to modern cinema took about as long as the maturation of aviation to the pointwhere it became a dominant form of transportation. But it is more instructive for our purposes inhighlighting the fact that this is not simply a story of the development of a technology. It is betterdescribed as the development of a culture.
Theater + camera illustrates a natural use of a new technology: keep on doing what you did before withminimal change to make use of the new tool. The analogy with School + Computer is quite close. The firstuses of computers in schools simply added a new tool to old practices. On the whole, this is still wheremost schools are today.
The evolution of cinema has certainly been supported by the growing power of the technological tools.
But what makes the story interesting is that the use of the tools allowed a slow evolution of otherdimensions of theater. For example, the idea of a "close up" must be counted as an original discovery and,like most original discoveries, encountered resistance. (It is worth doing the exercise of trying to imaginehow an actor might have felt about being treated in this way!) An even deeper transformation of the art of acting is seen in the differences between acting out a wholecontinuous story and the modern technique of assembling a movie from multiple shots of tiny fragmentsof action that might not even be made in chronological sequence.
But these are just isolated samples. A large tome would be needed even to mention all the richcomponents of what has evolved as cinema… and then the story would move on to television and beyondthat into the still-speculative realms of what digital technology is now spawning. And even this is only onefacet: to give it full understanding the story must be placed in the context of deep changes in ways of life,in the nature of dating and family relationships, and in the symbology of Hollywood with its stars andhoopla.
This is obviously not just a story of technology helping lead to "improvement" of theater. It is the story ofthe emergence of something very different, better described as a culture than as a technology, which I seeas the best model I know for thinking about the nature of the developmental cycle of technology ineducation.
Ten years before T.H.E. Journal was launched, LOGO was designed as a programming language thatcould be accessible to children. The spirit of the enterprise was like the way the Wright brothersapproached aviation: I thought of giving children the power to program computers as a tiny first step in acomplex process whose details could not be anticipated.
What is most impressive for me looking back now from the vantage point of seeing the best recent uses ofLOGO, is a sense of the richness of these unanticipated developments. The three metaphors discussedearlier, especially the cinematic metaphor, serve as prisms to understand this evolution.
The first published criticism of this project, at about the time of the birth of T.H.E. Journal, was in thespirit of those who dismissed the Wright brothers' flight on the grounds that a hop of 22 feet was of no serious importance. (1) The conclusion that should be drawn is that simply injecting any single idea into an otherwise unchanged school situation would not have transformative effects. (2) It says something aboutthe culture of educational psychology that the actual conclusion drawn was that "LOGO had failed." To bring out the differences between "injecting a single idea" and "the growth of a culture around a newtechnology" I look at several steps in the development of LOGO at the Hennigan Elementary School in Educational Computing: How Are We Doing? Boston, Mass.
Early Uses of LOGO
At the start, LOGO was being used mainly for writing programs to produce geometric figures inshort-term projects that would be completed in, at most, a few hours of work. We were relatively satisfiedwith the fact that children were interested and were picking up concepts of programming. Both forms ofsatisfaction were exploded, however, when new developments opened our eyes to something richer.
One of these was the development (to which Steve Ocko and Mitchel Resnick made important contributions) of a new use of programming by interfacing LEGO constructs to the computer. (3) (LEGOconstructs are interactive, physical objects built with LEGO plastic blocks, gears, pulleys, etc., which arethen controlled by a LOGO program on the computer.) Giving children the opportunity to program behaviors into vehicles, robots, dinosaurs and other constructsof their own design opened a new horizon onto the possibility of engagement: many children who weremildly interested in the graphics programming showed high degrees of enthusiasm in this new sphere. Atthe same time many kinds of program structure that were not spontaneously picked up in the old contextnow seemed obvious to the children. The conclusion to be drawn was not that LEGO constructs werebetter objects for programming than graphics, but that variety offered more chances for more children torelate to more concepts.
Uses of LOGO Mature
The second development was based on a concept introduced by Idit Harel. (4) Instead of thinking ofLOGO work as a series of isolated programming projects in a computer lab, Harel proposed the metaphorof children working for much longer periods of time (for example an hour a day for most of a school year)on designing and producing "real products." In the first round, each student had the assignment of producing a piece of educational software --meaning not only the programming but the instructional design, a user's manual and publicity materialssaying why it should be used. In the following round, Yasmin Kafai took over from Harel and changed the assignment to making a complete video game with all the supporting materials.(5) At Hennigan Elementary, the LEGO direction and the software studio direction were operated as separateactivities. In more recent developments, the two are being put together, thus creating even moreopportunities for a wider range of forms of engagement and forms of computer competence to grow.
But with this greater complexity of activities comes greater problems of access to knowledge: theproblems and difficulties that come up are increasingly beyond what a teacher can be expected to handle.
The entire process would eventually grind to a halt in intellectual gridlock but for a new line ofdevelopment. Michele Evard working at Hennigan Elementary School has pioneered what I see as one ofthe most important new techniques in educational computing. This is a first shot at creating an onlineconsultation system that allows a student who encounters a problem to throw it out to a virtual communityof other students (or in principle, simply other people) who collectively know much more than anyteacher possibly could! Looking at the complex texture of LOGO development (of which I have mentioned only a sample of whatalready exists and barely a foretaste of what might come) provides a new perspective on the problem ofdeciding not only whether LOGO succeeded or failed, but whether all endeavors in the field have Educational Computing: How Are We Doing? succeeded or failed.
The problem is not so much solved as dissolved: the real problem is not whether LOGO "succeeded," butunderstanding the growth of a computer learning culture in which LOGO plays an important, but notdetermining, part. Does this mean we can simply drop LOGO? Yes but only when LOGO is given itsultimate success by the evolution of the next stage of programming systems for children.
(1)Pea, R., and Kurland, D.M. (1984), "On the Cognitive Effects of Learning Computer Programming,"New Ideas in Psychology, 2, pp. 137-168. (2)Papert, S. (1987), "Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking," Educational Researcher, 16(1), pp. 22-30. (3)Resnick, M., Ocko, S. and Papert, S. (1988), "Lego, Logo and Design," Children's Environmental Quarterly, 5(4), pp. 14-18. (4)Harel, Idit (1991), Children Designers, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp. (5)Kafai, Yasmin (1995), Minds In Play:Computer Game Design as a Context for Children Learning, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence ErlbaumAssociates.


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di Giosue Carducci Letteratura italiana Einaudi Edizione di riferimento:a cura di Luigi Banfi, Mursia, Milano 1987 Letteratura italiana Einaudi Alla signorina Maria A. 1Nel chiostro del Santo 2Jaufré Rudel 3In una villa 4Piemonte 6Ad Annie 12A C. C. 13Bicocca di San Giacomo 14La guerra 20Nicola Pisano 23Cadore 26Carlo Goldoni 33A Scandiano 36Alla figlia di Francesco Crispi 37Alla città di Ferrara 39Mezzogiorno alpino 46L'ostessa di Gaby 47Esequie della guida E. R. 48La moglie del Gigante 50Per il monumento di Dante a Trento 52La mietitura del Turco 54La chiesa di Polenta 55Sabato Santo 60In riva al Lys 61Elegia del Monte Spluga 62Sant'Abbondio 64Alle Valchirie 65Presso una Certosa 67Congedo 68