Papert’s death this week crossed my timeline in Maha Bali’s blog post and Audrey Watters’ newsletter No.173. I wondered when I had first heard of Seymour Papert. I remember studying Piaget’s work on my PG Certificate of Education course at the University of Liverpool in 1987/88 but can’t recall studying the work of Papert, his protege, at that time. Of course , I have read some of his work since then.
Then I remembered my first practical encounter with his work that is such a good example of what Audrey Watters struggles for, in Seymour Papert’s memory,
And I am committed to fighting for a world in which technologies – educational and otherwise – are not about enforcing control and compliance Newsletter No.173
I was a mother of three young children working part-time at St Alban’s College, teaching whatever classes came my way. The most interesting of these was a Computing class for adults with what were then called Special Needs. What I did was up to me, and I tried to tailor the activities to the individuals in the class. The youngest student had cerebral palsy, with poor motor skills. He could use the BBC Micro computer with an input device, provided by our local SEMERC (Special Education Micro Electronic Resource Centre). Sadly, funding for SEMERCs was removed in 1989 (thanks Maggie) and so this was a moment for me and the young man when we found the turtle robot in a cupboard and tried to work out what we could do with it. He soon learned to programme in Logo and I will never forget the expression of joy on his face when the turtle moved around the floor under his control. It dawned on me that the experience of pushing a toy car or train around the floor that my able-bodied children had from when they could crawl had probably never been available to this young man until that moment.
I was the one learning that day, and it transformed my view of the possibilities of technology, still largely unfulfilled.