Diversity in Learning

I didn’t write this, but I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share it.  It comes straight from mouth of Seymour Papert, one of the most influential thinkers of our time.  This quote comes from a speech Papert gave, and is worth reading the whole thing.

“School as we’ve known it is based on an assembly-line model. And the assembly line was a great invention when Henry Ford made it. And the school might have been a great invention when it was made, but it is an assembly-line model. You come into school, you’re in the first grade, in the first period of the day. You do what the first chapter of the textbook says. You go to second period, third period, second grade, third grade. It’s an assembly line; at each point some new pieces of knowledge are put in.
Why we did this was because we had only such primitive knowledge management technology as chalk and blackboard–and even printing is inflexible, impersonal. With our new forms of knowledge technology, there is no reason why we should have the assembly-line model. There is no reason why we should segregate people by age, rather than bring together people who share an interest, who share a style of doing things, who can do things in common.
When we break away from our mental blinkers enough to be able to throw off the idea that math means adding fractions and this other stuff that we learned in elementary school–which nobody ever does–we spend all that expensive money, and time, and frustration, and psychological damage for the people who don’t take to it, in order to program our children to do what a $2 calculator could do better.
We will break away from this one day. We will allow people to learn by following the things they believe in with passion and interest. They’ll learn more deeply. No, they won’t all learn the same things, but we don’t need them to learn all the same things. We want them to be diverse. We want them to be able to do different kinds of activities and bring different points of view.
But in order to do this, we have to break away from this idea that by a token presence of technology–which is all that a pencil in every classroom, or a computer in every classroom, or an Internet connection in every classroom, can be.
We have to break away from that, accept the fact that we have to give every child–not just one maybe, maybe several, but at least one–personal computer to be his or her own thing, to be used not to follow a curriculum, but to follow creative, personalized, diverse learning. That is possible. I think it’s just obscene to suggest that the richest country in the world can’t afford it.”

Diversity in Learning: A Vision for the Next Millennium

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Diversity in Learning by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

One Reply to “Diversity in Learning”

  1. Thanks for pointing me to this amazing speech. How amazing (and kind of sad) that he gave it in 1999. I love this quote from part 2 of the speech: “…the personal computer, is not a teacher’s technology, it’s a learner’s technology. And it’s a technology that can be appropriated, taken over by young people, who can use it to feel the power of their own individual intellectual personalities.”
    -Liz

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