Why Education Reform Will Work This Time

This is a remarkable piece of video from 1998 unearthed by Gary Stager. In it, Ryan Powell, then a GenYES middle school student, interviews Seymour Papert and John Gage about the model of students learning technology in order to help teachers in their own schools. Both of these heavyweights of educational technology say some really interesting things about the model, including Dr. Papert saying that it’s the best thing the US Department of Education has ever funded! Pretty nice to hear that.

As further background, Dr. Papert is the father of educational technology, a colleague of Jean Piaget, and an internationally renowned educator famous for the theory of constructivism. His advocacy of student laptop programs extends around the world including the XO laptop for developing nations, and he invented the Logo programming language for children. John Gage, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, started the NetDay movement to wire schools and originated the phrase, “the network is the computer.”

About halfway through this clip, Dr. Papert talks a bit about why he believes that education reform can happen now, even though decades of reform efforts have not had much impact.

He says there are two things that are different now. One is that school was designed to fit the previous “knowledge technology” of chalk, blackboards, paper and pencil. These technologies match quite well with the prevailing pedagogy of the last century, which relied on instruction, teacher as the center of all knowledge, and delivery of content. So criticizing it was a bit idealistic and theoretical. But now we have new technology that directly enables construction, connection, and distributed expertise. These new knowledge technologies tip the balance and as a result, new pedagogy can become reality.

The second factor is what he calls “Kid Power.” The technology amplifies the voices of people who are traditionally without voice or representation in our society.

For more explanation of Papert’s view on why technology will power education reform, check out this speech: Chlld Power: Keys to the New Learning of the Digital Century.

In Gary’s post about this video, he also recalls some of the early days of Generation YES, when Dennis Harper had this “crazy idea” of kids being at the center of changing education with technology. Seymour Papert on Generation YES & Kid Power : Stager-to-Go

By the way, Ryan is now a college graduate serving in the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa with his wife Kimberly.

Sylvia

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