Where are the Learners?


As we welcome back many teachers and learners from northern hemisphere summer vacation, we would also like to feature some thoughts from Cecilia de la Paz. Cecilia was Cluster Lead in Uruguay, and now works from New Zealand as a member of the NPDL Capacity Building Team.

Reflecting on the passing of Seymour Papert in July, Cecila challenges us to connect, engage and ignite learners and learning…….

Where are the Learners? Honoring Seymour Papert 1928-2016

I have been visiting schools, reading, thinking and co-creating with teams from different parts of the globe, aiming to find new or more effective ways to engage children in learning. As years go by I am more convinced that what professor Seyomur Papert stated is true ¨the best learning takes place when the learners take charge¨.

As early as 1968, Papert introduced the idea that computer programming and debugging could provide children a way to think about their own thinking and learn about their own learning. In 2016 we are still asking questions about the role of technology in our schools: looking for answers about the relationship between the learning, the learner and the digital tools. Papert´s vision in the 70´s was to see the computer as a space where different worlds co-existed, labs where children could experience, get it wrong, test boundaries and learn from their mistakes. papert-with-logo-robot

But the learning experience must go beyond the tool. The learning experience may be inspired by technology, but needs be more complex and trigger an emotional connection between learning and learner – in the way we see education and gamification. Sad for recent Papert´s lost, I started to think what are the essential elements that combined surpasses systems, standards, curriculum and/or environmental conditions to inspire learners. What is the underlying essence that makes or could make teachers around the world, the ones that could successfully inspire a new generation to connect with themselves and the world in an exciting revealing way?

And it is true that ¨you cannot think about thinking, without thinking about thinking about something¨ as Papert stated. Maybe Andrea Schleicher could add ¨It is not about knowing everything but thinking as a mathematician¨ and that was precisely what Seymour shared with the world, a tool where you could just do that, unleash the thinking, igniting their inner fire.

Where everybody saw computers as big calculators, he saw beyond, and called them ¨the machine of the children¨ working to provide a tool that could convey his vision to give children more freedom and trust to learn. So what are the elements we are seeing today at school that could be changed, twisted, merged to other things to ignite the learner´s inner emotional connection with learning so it transforms them as human beings?

As G.Frasca reflected on Papert´s legacy…

¨we remember Prometheus for stealing from the Gods and distribute among men. But we hardly have examples of people that steal from the adults´ world, to give so generously to the children¨.

Let´s do that.

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