Foundations of Constructivism/Contributors/Seymour Papert

CHAPTER 2: Major Contributors to Constructivist Theory: Seymour Papert

Overview edit


Constructivism proposes that by reflecting on our experiences and ideologies, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. It is through these channels that all generate their own cultural and moral values and beliefs. The learner selects and processes this information to make sense of the experiences he or she acquires. Each person builds and constructs a framework of knowledge based on what they already know prior to anything new being useful to them. The philosophy of Constructivism purports the idea that how one thinks is more important than the accumulation and recyclying of information.

Dr. Seymour Papert is a mathematician and one of the early pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, he is internationally recognized as the seminal thinker about ways in which computers can change learning. Born and educated in South Africa where he participated actively in the anti-apartheid movement, Dr. Papert pursued mathematical research at Cambridge University from 1954-1958. He then worked with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from 1958-1963. It was this collaboration that led him to consider using mathematics in the service of understanding how children can learn and think. Papert contended that technology should be used far more extensively in education to prey on students' inherent motivation to play ("Seymour Papert", n.d.; Papert, 2005a). By adding more technology to classroom practices, Papert believed interest in science, for example, would increase substantially among learners

Publications Pertinent to Constructivism edit

Ackermann, E. K. (2004) Constructing knowledge and transforming the world. in A learning zone of one's own: Sharing representations and flow in collaborative learning environments [M. Tokoro and L.Steels (Eds.). Amsterdam, Berlin, Oxford, Tokyo, Washington, DC. IOS Press, 2004. Part 1. Chapt 2. pp. 15–37. Available at:

Constructivist approaches for teaching computer programming.

Thurmond, A. (1999) Constructivism and Constructionism Available at:

Key Concepts Contributed to Constructivist Theory edit

Papert used Piaget's work in his development of the Logo programming language while at MIT. He created Logo as a tool to improve the way that children think and solve the problems. A small robot called the "Logo Turtle" was developed and children used it to solve problems. A main purpose of the Logo Foundation research group is to strengthen the ability to learn knowledge. Papert insists a simple language or program that children can learn—like Logo—can also have advanced functionality for expert users.

Evidence of Papert's Ideas in Today's Constructivist Practice edit

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (1980), published by Basic Books, is a book by Seymour Papert. He proposes a unique computer-based learning environment called the Microworld. His primary belief about the Microworld's design is that it compliments the natural knowledge building mechanisms of children, known as a constructivist approach to knowing and learning. His primary implication is that Microworld learning will profoundly affect the quality of knowledge gained. This work is one of the first large-scale attempts to mediate educational computer-based technology with Piagetian-based theories of learning and knowing.

The Lego Mindstorms programmable construction set system is named after the book.

Conclusion edit

People laughed at Seymour Papert in the sixties when he talked about children using computers as instruments for learning and for enhancing creativity. The idea of an inexpensive personal computer was then science fiction. But Papert was conducting serious research in his capacity as a professor at MIT. This research led to many firsts. It was in his laboratory that children first had the chance to use the computer to write and to make graphics. The Logo programming language was created there, as were the first children's toys with built-in computation. The Logo Foundation was created to inform people about Logo and to support them in their use of Logo-based software for learning and teaching. Today Papert is considered the world's foremost expert on how technology can provide new ways to learn. He has carried out educational projects on every continent, some of them in remote villages in developing countries. He is a participant in developing the most influential cutting-edge opportunities for children to participate in the digital world. He serves on the advisory boards for MaMaMedia Inc. (whose founder, Idit Harel, was once a doctoral student of his at MIT) and of the LEGO Mindstorms product line (which was named after Papert's seminal book Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas). Papert lives in Maine, where he has founded a small laboratory called the Learning Barn to develop methods of learning that are too far ahead of the times for large-scale implementation. He has been named distinguished professor by the University of Maine and is credited with inspiring the first initiative aimed at giving a personal computer to every student of a state. He spends a large part of his time working in the Maine Youth Center in Portland, the state's facility for teenagers convicted of serious offenses. Papert's contributions go beyond the field of education. He is a mathematician and is a cofounder with Marvin Minsky of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT and a founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab, where he continues to work. Papert collaborated for many years with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Glossary edit

Construction set- a set of standardized pieces that allow for the construction of a variety of different models or buildings. The pieces avoid the lead time of manufacturing custom pieces, and of requiring special training or design time to construct complex systems. This makes them suitable for temporary structures, or for use as children's toys.

Logo -software, which is used in math programs in schools throughout the United States

References edit

Papert S. and Caperton, G. (1999) Vision for Education: The Caperton-Papert Platform. 91st annual National Governors' Association meeting. St. Louis, Missouri. Available at:

Cash, J. (1991). Evaluating the Microworld - An evaluation of predictions made by Papert about learning in the microworld. Available at

Chapter Quiz edit

1. Papert developed a robot to aid children in problem solving called the,

a. MIT Creation

b. Mindstorm

c. Logo Turtle

2. A set of standardized pieces that allow for the construction of a variety of different models or buildings is called a

a. Construction set

b. Logo

c. Artificial Intelligence

3. True or False Papert worked closely with Dewey

4. Discuss the ideology proposed in Papert's book "Mindstorms".