Old School

Posted by on Jan 14, 2011 in General | One Comment

My son was recently assigned a project on the state of Washington for school. He decided he wanted to program his Lego robot to draw the state of Washington. The teacher sent a list of suggestions like make a brochure, bake something using the state fruit, or create a poster about the state. Programming a robot wasn’t on the list.

Micah searched for example programs that make Lego robots draw. He came up empty. So we decided to ask Dr. Keith (a recent Drexel grad in robotics and good friend) to point us in the right direction. Keith’s first question for Micah was if we wanted the robot to write with ketchup, chocolate or a pen. Thankfully Micah thought a pen sounded like a good idea.

One of the links Keith sent was to this article. I find myself excited and frustrated when I read articles like this.

“A key component of Papert’s educational philosophy is self-directed learning. As kids build cool things in Mathland, they naturally encounter problems which require creative mathematical solutions. As a result, formerly abstract mathematical concepts take on a real meaning, and there are tangible rewards for tinkering with these concepts.”

Really smart people have been thinking about good education for a long time. Why hasn’t education changed more in the last 40 years? Our hope for the Workshop is to create the space where kids and adults can ‘tinker with these concepts.’ We have a lot to learn from the Old School.

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Riggan
    January 15, 2011

    So true.

    One of the greatest myths about school reform is that progressive education has been tried and found wanting. E.D. Hirsch and other (small c) conservatives state this as if it were beyond argument. In fact, there are not a whole lot of examples of schools where ideas like Papert’s were implemented fully over an extended period of time.

    There are two lessons here. One is that we need to continue to push back forcefully on this point of view. The other is that while the Old School can teach us quite a bit about the ideas we’re trying to implement, its members struggled with implementation and faced constant attacks on their legitimacy the same way our contemporaries do. There is a long history of ideas about what to do. The history of how to do it is a good deal shorter; maybe this is where we really can add something to the conversation.


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