Farewell Dr. Papert: May Your Technology & Learning Vision Live Forever!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Professor Seymour Papert passed away recently.

A picture I took onside the MIT Media Lab.

A picture I took inside the MIT Media Lab.

While he had been fragile for some time following an accident, his extraordinary influence on teaching and learning, including how he really created the maker movement more than 25 years ago, will continue for many years to come.

Without his wisdom and vision, many educators in the school technology fields, where I spent most of my career,  would not have been fortunate enough to pursue exciting and deeply meaningful vocations. Every school, every teacher, every educational technology specialist, and every K-12 technology director can trace their professional activities back to Dr. Papert’s deep understanding of the power of learning with computers and digital devices. The Media Lab remembrance page notes that:

Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves.

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Innovation & Coding — Fine Tuning the Mission

How can we ensure that young people, who enthusiastically embrace innovation, creating, and coding, also associate their work with the fundamental concepts of empathy, humility, and conscience?

As we adults thrill to help children learn, imagine, ideate, explore, and make things, we also need to define a compelling mission for each of our innovation and maker spaces — a mission that emphasizes the significant values that young people should apply to the problems they identify and try to solve. An innovation mission provides a foundation for children, illuminating important issues and providing benchmarks that help them to consider and choose problems. It should also help young learners differentiate between the significant problems that need to be solved from those that are insignificant.

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Electronics Tutorial Helps Parents & Teachers Gain Deeper Understanding

Click on this icon at the top left of the webpage to access the tutorial.

Click on this icon at the top left of Paul Mirel’s webpage to access the tutorial.

As exciting makerspaces spring up all over the place, I wonder how much attention is given to leveling the makerspace playing field in order to ensure that everyone in a 21st Century group, class, or school community has the basic knowledge for exploring and innovating.

Take understanding basic electricity, for instance. At a conference that I attended last year — an amazing event filled with countless  maker opportunities —  some people seemed to understood electricity’s basics and lots of others did not. The people without the knowledge, the “have-nots,” frequently appeared to lurk on the periphery of projects.

A friend and former colleague, physics teacher Paul Mirel, recently developed an introductory electronics tutorial for his art students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD. It’s written in a way that is easy to understand and also easy to follow. He thinks that his students need an elementary understanding of basic electronics if they are to fine tune their maker skills. Check it out!               Continue reading

Makerspaces Are Amazing, Yet I Remember When…

My local makerspace in Washington, DC — FabLab.

My local makerspace in Washington, DC — FabLab.

I am so energized by makerspaces, where people — children and adults — have access to all sorts of equipment to invent, try out ideas, and make things. I’ve spent some time in makerspaces at a number of conferences, and last summer I wrote about my experience at Gary Stager’s Constructing Modern Knowledge 2014 (CMK14) conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Read CMK post # 1. Read CMK post #2).

At my school our fifth graders have a small but lively makerspace where they can try ideas, often fail, and always have an opportunity to keep going and try again and the room is awash with small motors, LED devices, needles, fabrics, and even a few arduino boards. Parents and teachers should become aware of the trend for these innovative spaces and learn more about them. It will only benefit the learning of their 21st Century children and students.                        Continue reading

Collaborative “Maker Team” Aims to Improve Ebola Protective Equipment

A maker table filled with supplies at the Constructing Modern Language conference in July 2014.

A maker table filled with supplies to help innovate and solve problems at the Constructing Modern Language conference that I attended in July 2014.

If you want a perfect example of people coming together —  as makers —  to work on a critical and life-saving  project, read the article How a Wedding Dress Maker is Trying to Stop the Spread of Ebola, in the Washington Post. The November 9, 2014 article describes how John Hopkins University biomedical engineers brought together a group of people to generate ideas about how to make a safer and more comfortable protective suit for the medical personnel who care for Ebola patients.

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