STEM in Primary

STEM in Primary
A blog for those interested in primary school STEM education

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Who in the world was Seymour Papert?

Stuff this week - Who in the world was Seymour Papert?

Image result for seymour papertSeymour Papert was a mathematician, computer scientist, and educator who sadly passed away on 1 August 2016 aged 88. Some would argue that his work has had the greatest ever impact on children’s learning with digital technologies.
In the pencil-and-paper world of the 1960s classroom, Dr. Papert envisioned a computing device on every desk and an internet like environment in which vast amounts of printed material would be available to children. He put his ideas into practice, creating in the late ’60s a computer programming language, called Logo, to teach children how to use computers.
Yet his vision was not the usual way computers are used by children today. Papert was inspired by his former colleague Jean Piaget, the Swiss developmental psychologist whose study of child development has often been compared to Freud’s work in its influence on the science of human intelligence. Jean was known for his constructivist theories of education. Papert extended this theory of constructivism to formulate his own which he called constructionism. This is the way in which students can build knowledge by working with concrete materials rather than abstract propositions; that is, by creating artifacts they can share. Papert said:
“In this particular art class they were all carving soap, but what each student carved came from wherever fancy is bred, and the project was not done and dropped but continued for many weeks. It allowed time to think, to dream, to gaze, to get a new idea and try it and drop it or persist, time to talk, to see other people’s work and their reaction to yours — not unlike mathematics as it is for the mathematician, but quite unlike math as it is in school.”
These ideas were revolutionary for the time and still so today but they have spawned some of the changes that we now see such as the introduction of Makerspaces, the proliferation of educational technology and the introduction of coding into the curriculum.
Yet we still see the typical siloed by subject school timetables. The application to the real world is lacking and the opportunity for children to create is limited. One approach in education which attempts to solve this is Problem Based Learning (PBL). PBL is a constructionist method which allows students to learn about a subject by exposing them to multiple problems and asking them to construct their understanding of the subject through these problems.
What else can we do to embrace Seymour Papert’s ideas? Programming in Scratch, programming robots and exploring real world maths problems are three ways that are easily accessible. Anyone who has seen children engaged in solving these sorts of problems knows the value that they have for broader education.
So the ideas that Papert formulated back in the 60s are finally coming to the mainstream. We need to continue to think about ways in which our kids education can be enriched by following his lead. Watch this 2 minute video to see Seymour Papert talking about the classroom of the future in 1986.

Stuff in the news

Seymour Papert dreamed of a learning revolution — why hasn’t it happened? - The legacy of AI’s founding founder hangs in the balance
Half of the high-paying jobs in America now require this skill - If terms like SQL, Python and JavaScript aren’t on your radar, employers may not be interested in hiring you. An article from Market Watch 22 March 2017.
If You Want to Survive in Design, You Better Learn to Code - An article from Wired Magazine 15 March 2017.
Talking to children about STEM fields boosts test scores and career interest - An article from Science Daily 18 January 2017.

Stuff to buy

Makedo - Makedo is a cardboard construction system for 21st century thinking, making and play.
*At this point in time I earn no money from any product I list and I am not affiliated with any other company.

Stuff in education

One of the earliest videos of Seymour Papert's work with children can be seen on YouTube. Fascinating how ahead of his time he was.

Stuff to do Australia Wide

Young ICT Explorers -  A non-profit competition, which has been created by SAP to encourage school students to create their best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related projects. Registrations are OPEN. See the YouTube video here!
Edutech 2017 - EduTECH is the LARGEST education event in Asia-Pac and the Southern Hemisphere. 7-9 June 2017 in Sydney.
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Young Engineers Australia - Provides an engaging, hands-on learning platform using LEGO® and K’nex® assembly kits
CoderDojo - A volunteer run programming club

Stuff to do in Brisbane

It's Rocket Science School Incursions - Educational and fully interactive project based rocket science incursions for primary and secondary schools in a safe and empowering learning environment.
Robotronica 2017 - Robotronica is a groundbreaking one-day event showcasing the latest developments in robotics and interactive design. QUT's The Cube 20 August 2017 
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Brisbane Library Service has purchased the very flash NAO Robot and is showing it off in various libraries.
The Cube at QUT has a number of changing programs. 
Brisbane Planetarium - Features entertaining and informative shows for adults and children
Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane

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