Thank You Seymour Papert

childrensmachineWhen I was a fledgling doctoral student, my mentor Ralph Ginsberg introduced me to the work of Seymour Papert. Reading The Children’s Machine profoundly changed my thinking about teaching and learning … his books continue to influence all of my work — whether I’m teaching children or adults, whether my focus is on teaching specific content, or coaching, or supporting groups to strategize. Constructionism always informs my purpose.

As I prepared my dissertation proposal defense years ago, I struggled with my literature review. My committee chair suggested I get in touch with Papert, since I relied so heavily on his work. I felt as though I was reaching out to an ancient greek philosopher and couldn’t believe he’d have time for a lowly Penn student. But Seymour replied quickly to my email, patiently answered my questions, and shared several articles (some of them unpublished) to assist me. He didn’t just accommodate my requests — he also encouraged me to push my thinking and consider aspects of instructional design that I hadn’t previously considered. As impressed as I am with his theories and passion about education, I will never forget that he took the time to support me (a complete stranger) in learning.

The world lost a great mind and a superb teacher yesterday. Let’s continue his work.

Google Tools — New Templates

Many of my colleagues are reluctant to use google docs, spreadsheets, or presentation slides because of perceived limitations — but they have improved steadily over the past few years. And now there are some great templates available to make collaborative work easier and more professional. Visit,, or to check out what’s available.

Technology Alone Can’t Fix Schools

In The Atlantic, Kentaro Toyama writes:

…technology’s “Law of Amplification”: Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. Amplification seems like an obvious idea—all it says is that technology is a tool that augments human power. But, if it’s obvious, it nevertheless has profound consequences that are routinely overlooked …

If a private company is failing to make a profit, no one expects that state-of-the-art data centers, better productivity software, and new laptops for all of the employees will turn things around. Yet, that is exactly the logic of so many attempts to fix education with technology … At a talk Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave at the South by Southwest conference, he pressed the case for more technology in education (mentioning “technology” forty-three times, and “teachers” only twenty-five). He claimed, “Technology can level the playing field instead of tilting it against low-income, minority and rural students—who may not have laptops and iPhones at home.” But this is wishful thinking; it’s misleading and misguided. Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement …

…what the U.S. education system needs above all isn’t more technology, but a deliberate allocation of high-quality adult supervision focused on those who need it most. The specifics are daunting and complex, but inequity in educational opportunity isn’t a problem that technology can fix. Without addressing the underlying socio-economic chasm, technology by itself doesn’t bridge the gap, it only jacks it further apart.

Read the entire article here.

It’s not just about connecting the educators…

Cross-posted at Education Is My Life

It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea of “Connected Educator” month. I work with school administrators and teachers all over the world. Quite simply, educators either embrace the potential of connectivity or they don’t. It’s not really about the technology any more, because there are very few folks out there that don’t have a smart phone, and therefore the ability to connect with a network at any given time. Building a personal learning network comes from a desire to be connected, or a frustration in not being connected.

So educators have this amazing potential to connect with each other and continue to learn and grow. How about the students? If connected educators really practice what they preach, they are providing connection opportunities for their students as well.

I can’t help but quote from David Price’s new book Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future

Going ‘open’ is a social revolution that represents a fundamental challenge to the established order of things – one that cannot be ignored. It disrupts and changes, so things can never be the same again. But, as with all revolutions, there are winners and losers. The winners are ourselves, happily connecting and collaborating through global networks of friends, colleagues and online acquaintances. We are powerfully motivated by the easy access to ideas and information, and the informality, immediacy and autonomy that it brings. The losers are our formal institutions: businesses, schools, colleges and public services that are failing to grasp the enormity of the change taking place. Price, David (2013-10-02). OPEN (Kindle Locations 58-63). Crux Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Price goes on to suggest that schools and colleges don’t have to be losers, as long as they embrace the open nature of knowledge and intrinsic human motivation to learn, while shifting away from our current industrial model of schooling to embrace learning as it was originally conceived: an act for public good, collaboratively pursued, for the betterment of all citizens. At its heart is this core principle:

No one can be ‘made’ to learn anything: for knowledge and understanding to stick, we have to have learner intent. The quality of one’s learning is directly related to our desire to learn. This is why progress made in learning socially, voluntarily, is invariably far greater than in the formal, compulsory context. Price, David (2013-10-02). OPEN (Kindle Locations 1112-1114). Crux Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So, yes, connected educators are modeling learning the way it should be done – by personally embracing their own need to grow personally and professionally. How is that translating into classroom practice? When it does, we’ll really see things change for our students.

Post-it and Evernote together? Mind-blowing …

Wow. I’m a post-it AND evernote addict … so now they’ve joined forces:

Evernote Gives Iconic Post-it® Notes a Digital Life.

Some products are so perfect, so essential and so important that they become part of the fabric of our daily experience. There are few examples more iconic than the Post-it® Note. They’re so easy to understand that the objects themselves have become symbolic of simplicity. While Post-it® Notes do not need a manual, there seem to be an almost infinite number of applications and uses that span industries, ages and cultures.


The Classroom of the Future …

Gary Stager:

In the future, schools will no longer enjoy the same monopoly on children’s time. I know I am correct because politicians say the exact opposite when they advocate longer school days and years. That is just the last gasp of a dying bureaucracy.

School itself is a technology, and like all other technologies, has affordances and constraints. School leaders need to determine how and why young people and a teacher should be co-located in the same physical space when more parents work from home, and the Web allows for all sorts of information sharing.

Great interview.