When people own their computers they can control and choose which ideas to engage in and when and why. This idea comes from Seymour Papert’s landmark text Mindstorms, which inspires me on every page! Written in 1980, it came before the proliferation of not only the actual computer devices but the Read/Write Web that we know so well.

 

Seymour Papert, 1980, Mindstorms
Seymour Papert, 1980, Mindstorms

And it’s the WikiPower that makes owning our own computers transformative in nature. We can make our own servers, our own web hosts, our own software engines, and we can invite others to join in and interact and interface there. We can create our own Internet-connected spaces to work and skip over any commercially-owned content provider or online forum, although we likely won’t completely opt out there because we all have friends and family posting items of interest elsewhere. And truly, unless we are going to generate our own electricity to run our own server farm, we cannot unhitch ourselves from the central brain (and only a few call for that approach).

img_4554_2Seymour Papert called upon us to think WITH computers. To learn WITH computers. Our 2016 privilege to have a vast array of devices available for processing and working at lightning speed is often coupled with a fear that computers will take over. That fear was alive and well many years ago. We continue to make the error of handing over the job of teaching to a computer and pride ourselves on the computer that sits in a corner for a student to learn FROM. The computer takes over because we assigned it the function of taking over the job of instruction.

Further, the software designed for educational usage is often “edutainment” and combines a narrowly defined data set with some gaming or artistic principles that capture attention long enough to deliver the information to the student. This counters the research which demonstrates that students best learn when they experience the material and play with the material in an open and expansive or boundless manner.

STEAMHAMLET encourages students “to bang their heads against the world”™ and innovate new concepts, theories, and mechanisms.

Seymour Papert, you are with us.