Archive for Reflections

“Gears of My Childhood”


I’m participating in the second round of Learning Creative Learning from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Lab. This is in response to the first prompt: Read Seymour Papert’s essay on Gears of My Childhood and write a short description about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you. 

My thesis could be summarized as: What the gears cannot do the computer might. The computer is the Proteus of machines. Its essence is its universality, its power to simulate. Because it can take on a thousand forms and can serve a thousand functions, it can appeal to a thousand tastes. This book is the result of my own attempts over the past decade to turn computers into instruments flexible enough so that many children can each create for themselves something like what the gears were for me.

–Seymour Papert, Forward to “Mindstorms


In the essay linked above, Papert describes how a simple toy, in this case gears from a car, built a powerful framework upon which his future learning hung. Some mathematical and scientific concepts were completely intuitive to him because he had, as a very young child, experienced the operation of gears. Because he had a concrete understanding of that mechanism, underlying principles of it became very easy for him to grasp. In essence, because he understood the “what” so personally, the “how” and “why” fit themselves neatly into his understanding even years later. Reading his experience, I immediately saw two “gears” of my youth reflected therein: the computer and the piano. Just as with Papert’s gears, I believe that these two tools formed for me what he refers to (extending Piaget) as “intellectual structures [that] grow out of one another and […] in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.” Read more

What Real Digital Citizenship Looks Like

I recently set up a hallway station with Scratch and a MaKey Makey to invite students to play with basic programming. The hope was that students would do this relatively unsupervised– for much of the day, I wasn’t around and just let the station run. Obviously, there are a lot of risks in this approach: I felt like in our school community it was a relatively safe activity to run.

I came back at one point and saw that a student had entered the following program for one of the six inputs:

  1. Set Volume=500%
  2. Play “Meow”
  3. Repeat 12001 Times

Who knows how long it had been running before I got there, but the program was happily meowing away (although mercifully, capped at 100% volume). Just after I walked up, an 8th grade student came over to look at the program. I asked him what he thought we should do about it. He thought for a second, and said “add another program that stops it. That way people can start it and see what happens, but then stop it.”

What would the “responsible adult” suggestions have been?

  • Turn off the speakers
  • Delete the offending program
  • Take down the station or add supervision

The student’s suggestion both preserved the learning opportunity of the original looped statement, as well as providing an easy way to manage the consequences. I stepped back and told him to make it happen. He grabbed a friend walking by and the two of them figured out the necessary steps in a few seconds’ time and continued on to class.

Problem-Solving and Collaboration, applied to responsibly solving a problem that had arisen. All this in a non-destructive, non-restrictive solution which allows further development/forward progress. To my mind, a perfect encapsulation of what we want digital citizenship to look like.

Personal Knowledge Management and Student Process

@KimKierkegaardashian - A mashup of Soren Kierkegaard and Kim Kardashian. Demonstrates understanding of irony?

How do we learn and process vast amounts of information in the digital age? How do we practice filtering and deep thought in an information deluge? Why do we have such rampant disagreements on whether the Internet is a “good place to learn?” For many of us it’s an exciting time to be in education because of these questions. Pedagogues and thinkers from diverse fields are combining their expertise to form a new set of learning strategies that reflect both the myriad sources of information available via networking and the ease with which anyone can demonstrate their thinking and learning for examination, critique and sharing. Going by terms such as “connectivism,” or “personal knowledge management,” many attempts to build a framework of digital-age learning share common threads which highlight the essential skills and processes of a modern learner. Regardless of any particular preferred framework or methodology, these common threads reveal general stages that we can practice, develop, model and instruct. Read more

Products, Process and the Digital Native Fallacy

This is the second episode of my faculty development program. The video is here, but there are additional links and reading, as well as our faculty discussions, at the University Prep Technology Integration Exchange (UPTIE). Enjoy!

Tech Integration: Begin with the End in Mind

Here’s the first episode of my new faculty development program. The full package (some useful links and the discussion) is at the University Prep Technology Interaction Exchange (UPTIE).


Open Question for You: 2nd Semester Resolution


In the spirit of the New Year and the changing of the semesters, what’s one reflection/resolution (Reflect-olution? Reso-flection?) from 1st semester that you’ll try or carry into 2nd semester? Share your thoughts and discuss below! Read more