RIP Seymour Papert

Papert_MIT

My post today is to acknowledge the passing of a truly inspirational leader in the field of educational technology – Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, who died on Sunday aged 88. He was an educational-technology visionary and a founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab.

Papert was among the first to recognize the revolutionary potential of computers in education. In the late 1960s, at a time when computers still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Papert came up with the idea for Logo, the first programming language for children. I used this with my students to program the movements of a “turtle” around the screen, learning as they did so some of the essentials of programming.

As a young lecturer in educational technology at the CHCH College of Education back in the early 1990s I immersed myself in his book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas” (1980), and from it gaining insights into Papert’s position that it “should be the child who programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.

Despite the fact that we’ve seen generations of change in the form and nature of technology that we’re using in classrooms,  I find this to be as true a statement today as it was when it was written, and it continues to influence the way I think about how we integrate and use technology in education.

Papert has influenced a generation of educators such as myself, and the legacy of his work will continue to influence generations more I’m sure.

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