Thursday, July 13, 2006

Staying on Message

I was reading this cool paper on using Logo to teach programming to kids. The idea being that it's better to teach kids to "program the computer" than to have the "computer program the kid."

This of course makes terrific sense, because the skills one learns when programming are essentially just problem solving skills that can be applied to much of life. The paper is also written in the form of a collection of ideas for using a computer and programming fairly non-traditional things, like generating movies, music, robots, which I also enjoyed

I realized that the author of this paper, Seymour Papert was also part of the One Laptop Per Child project. This makes a lot of sense, because the OLPC project is essentially building on the idea in this paper - give every kid a computer, so they can learn to program, so they can learn to think.

No surprises there.

In fact, the paper ends with the comment:

Only inertia and prejudice, not economics or the lack of good educational ideas, stand in the way of providing every child in the world with the kind of experience which we have tried to give you some glimpses [of in this paper]. If every child were to be given access to a computer, computers would be cheap enough for every child to be given access to a computer.

Again, no surprises there.

Well, maybe one surprise. The paper was written in June 1971. Yes, that's right - 1971. Sure, it mentions the expensive cost of teletype interfaces - but the concepts in it are just as sound now as there were 35 years ago.

If you are an educator, I encourage you to check out the above paper, as well as other logo papers. No matter what subject you are teaching, do your students a favor and teach them how to program

For the rest of us, this is a great example of taking something you believe in and sticking with it no matter what. Sure, the technology may change, but the ideas don't.

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