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.
Journalist Claudio Sanchez, a National Public Radio education reporter as well as a former middle school teacher, offered a presentation, The Three P’s of Education Reform: Politics, Policy, Pedagogy, at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) 2013 conference. If you are like me, you turn up the radio every time Sanchez begins a report or a commentary, and I was eager to hear what he had to say about the world of educational reform.
In his presentation he asked whether education in itself — even a really good opportunity – can compensate for the heavy burdens of poverty such as poverty, access to poor health care (or no access), and violence. He wondered how much a school can really do for a child, and by extension, a family, mired in the cycle of poverty, though he looked at the audience and recognized that many schools are working hard to hasten change.