[Its.an.education.project] Another set of thoughts
alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Sat May 3 14:02:11 CEST 2008
Hi SJ --
The highly successful ARPA research in the 60s (and its offshoot, PARC in the 70s) were animated by Licklider's vision, that "the destiny of computers is to become intellectual amplifiers for all, pervasively networked worldwide". As the initial funder, Lick avoided trying to articulate goals, and instead tried to fund good "problem finders" who thought they could do something with the vision. This allowed him to fund researchers who sometimes didn't agree with each other, avoided a deadly party line, and instigated a much wider spectrum of interesting and important results.
I still like "The ARPA Dream" (as Lick's vision was sometimes called). Similarly, "education" has connotations of both growth and change, and it is likely that a lot of "angels on the head of a pin stuff" can be avoided by thinking about "growth and change" rather than trying to come up with direct definitions of a word that has always had deep idiosyncratic subjective interpretations. So "visions" or "dreams" about growth and change are likely to work better. I dream about helping to grow adults who internally have qualitatively more perspective about the world they live in (including themselves and other humans), and externally are able to cooperate qualitatively better with each other and the systems in which they are embedded.
I still like Seymour's characterization of "Powerful Ideas" as those insights and inventions that make huge differences in the ways we are able to think. Powerful ideas could also be called "brainlets" because once learned they act like little extra pieces of brain/mind we've been able to grow.
There are political, moral and ethical considerations. A vision about these could avoid picking a current political system, but could still have something to say about roles and rights. I still like Jefferson's view: "I know no safe depository for the ultimate
powers of a society but the people themselves; and if we think them
not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome
discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to better inform their
discretion by education."
To me, this in a nutshell is what public education is first and foremost about. If the vision is for all people to not just be equal under the law, but to have equal participation in their society, then it is very likely that most of the culture have to be "grown and changed through education" to be able to deal with not just the issues of their society, but also the structures of their society.
If this is not the vision, then education is much simpler and becomes more like "training for one's own sport". If we do want to deal with societal issues then we as educators have created the very difficult mission of finding ways to teach certain powerful ideas to an "all" that is really composed of very different kinds of people with different outlooks, motivations and interests.
In all these cases, the thresholds are about fluency in the ideas, and for many of the powerful ideas, fluency of understanding and using is generally not obtained by the simple memorization of facts and rituals that are built into us genetically. Generally "more and differently" has to be accomplished to successfully absorb the "brainlets". This leads from a vision of "people with powerful ideas" to questions about how the powerful ideas can be learned by the wide variety of personalities, and also how educators can help this learning take place.
----- Original Message ----
From: Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com>
To: Kim Rose <kim.rose at vpri.org>
Cc: its.an.education.project at tema.lo-res.org; Greg Smith (gregmsmi) <gregmsmi at cisco.com>
Sent: Friday, May 2, 2008 6:38:12 PM
Subject: Re: [Its.an.education.project] Another set of thoughts
Thanks for sharing these essays. I still hold out hope that this book in its entirety will one day be available under a free license, as Squeak By Example is!
On the subject of large questions, Antoine asks:
On Fri, May 2, 2008 at 12:48 PM, Antoine van Gelder <antoine at g7.org.za> wrote:
....and one question:
What is the goal of a project if it's an education project ?
There's some relation here to questions about how much research and introspection is considered fundamental.
On Fri, May 2, 2008 at 2:55 PM, Kim Rose <kim.rose at vpri.org> wrote:
Hi, Greg -
The book Alan refers to is "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" by BJ
Conn and me -- you can see more here:
The essay Alan "passed around" was originally the foreword for this
On May 2, 2008, at 11:51 AM, Greg Smith (gregmsmi) wrote:
> Hi Alan et al,
> Great article, thanks. I'm struck by how similar it is to Marvin
> Minsky's recent post on learning mathematics
> Interestingly, both use the same topology (mapping) analogy for
> The end of your article refers to a book and projects in it. Can you
> send a link to that?
> I really like your case that children have to try it out for
> to fully appreciate the meaning of length or size.
> Understanding what science means by "knowing" was brought home for me
> when the Children's Museum in Boston took out the old T-Rex model (now
> outside) and replaced it with a new very different one. Until I was
> about 20 years old, everyone said the old one represented what T-Rex
> really looked like. Then he changed!
> Greg S
> Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
>> At the risk of trying to talk about education, here is another little
>> essay with a few observations...
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> Its.an.education.project at tema.lo-res.org
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