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Leading Educational Theorist and Father of Educational Computing Seymour Papert Dies

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Education has lost a profound influence following the death of Seymour Papert at age 88.

Papert dedicated his life to finding effective ways for children to learn and grow, successfully pioneering movements in child development, educational technologies and more.

According to MIT, the "central tenet of his Constructionist theory of learning is that people build knowledge most effectively when they are actively engaged in constructing things in the world.”

MIT attributes Papert to being one of the first individuals to recognize the learning potential of computers in classrooms as early as the late 1960s. Even further, Papert is one of the first individuals to understand the benefits of teaching computer science to children.

"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. Children used Logo to program the movements of a ‘turtle' — either in the form of a small mechanical robot or a graphic object on the computer screen,” MIT said.

Papert was also a principal founder of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which helped deliver over 3 million laptops to 40 countries as of 2015.

Often referred to as the Father of Educational Computing and the Maker Movement, Papert inspired countless minds throughout his life.

Specifically, Papert inspired Maine’s 2000 proposal, "From Lunch Boxes to Laptops,” one of the first statewide programs that considered "a child's ownership of a personal computer as much an inalienable right as the right to attend school.” Indeed, the proposal made Maine the first state to ever provide laptops to all middle schoolers in their teachers, a move that was at the time thought to be crazy and excessive. 

Cut to 2016, and we now know about the benefits of one-to-one technology initiatives. In essence, we have Papert to thank for this. 

In an interview with Meme, Papert proved his deep understanding of how educational technology works by highlighting the problems many schools currently face when trying to integrate tech:

"Here is this institution called school, and this new thing comes along, the computer, and we say, 'How is this going to change school?' We should not be surprised that in the end school changes the computer. It would be unnatural if school didn't. Because school is a living, natural institution it is going to do that. So if the purpose of school is to keep itself going, then it is using computers very well. It is a use of computers that is inevitably associated with this phase of development. If you asked the question differently and said, 'What is the worst, most dangerous limitation of computers?', then it is the assumption that everything will be the same and computers will just help us do things better. That is a disastrous assumption.”

Read more about the late Seymour Papert here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

8/2/2016

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