Education loses a guiding light
3 August, 2016
Members of the Educational technology community have been saddened by the death of Seymour Papert, one of their favourite sons.
Papert, previously emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of the seminal text “Mindstorms: children, computers and powerful ideas”, died in his home in Maine on Sunday.
He was revered for his take on learning and how educational technology can enhance the learning process; a move from instructionism where the teacher delivered content, to constructionism, where the learner built their view of the world by guided, hands-on exploration.
He subverted the view that computers in education were to be used only for drill and practice and built his theses on the idea that the emphasis should be on the child’s learning by programming, building familiarity with some of the deepest ideas of Mathematics and Science rather than learning to program for its own sake.
His philosophy rose from the foundations built by the Swiss educational philosopher Piaget, with whom he worked after gaining his second PhD in Mathematics from Cambridge University.
With others, he developed the programming language “Logo” to explore mathematics and logic. Logo has since morphed from its text based roots into a variety of visual languages such as Scratch, SNAP, StarLogo and Tickle, to name a few.
After a traffic accident in 2006 in Hanoi, where he was attending a Mathematics education conference, he suffered extensive injuries, including to the brain.
It is particularly appropriate that his successful rehabilitation after this accident used the same principles of hands-on, experiential learning that he worked with in his research—principles that have engaged, delighted, and enthused learners for many years.
ACCE offers its condolences to his family, and shares with many educators a great sadness.
Martin Levins, President, ACCE.
The ACCE (the Australian Council for Computers in Education) is the peak body for Australia’s state Computer Education Groups: Australian Capital Territory: INTEACT; New South Wales: ICTENSW; Queensland: QSITE; South Australia: EdTechSA; Tasmania: TASite; Victoria: DLTV; Western Australia: ECAWA.