Thoughts on Mindstorms (Through Chapter 3)

Papert presents educators with a challenge of grounding content in a relevant context and allowing them to explore that content freely. As they try new things, they run into bugs, fix them, and try new approaches, giving meaning to otherwise abstract concepts. I find myself thinking of Kapur  and Bielaczyc’s productive failure (2012). Failure is inevitable, but failure is not scary or bad, it is part of the process. And it is through failure and working through the bugs that learning occurs. 

I think that teaching students how to deal with failure is an important skill. I saw many students come up against a challenge or a minor failure and, not knowing how to proceed, tried to give up. It tool a lot of convincing to get them to work through the problem and revise their work so that they could learn from their mistakes and improve. LOGO and other programs that present failure as something natural and something to overcome teach learners an invaluable skill that they can carry throughout their lives. 

I’ve only read through chapter three, so perhaps this will be addressed later, but one criticism I have of LOGO so far is that, while it is great that students are learning these mathetic and mathematical skills in LOGO, it is not clear that they are “attuned to the constraints and affordances” (Greeno, 1997) of the system so they can transfer this knowledge to a new, dissimilar context. I understand that they are embodying the mathematical concepts, but I am not convinced that, given a problem outside of LOGO, students would be able to demonstrate their knowledge of geometry. Papert asserts that they are learning several important mathematical principles, but are they ever told that they are learning them? At some point it will be important to assign the real labels to these concepts if students are to successfully use this knowledge in other contexts including other math classes. Perhaps Papert will address this later in the book, but these are my thoughts for now. 

– Rebecca

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Mindstorms (Through Chapter 3)”


  1. 1 sophiabender February 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I agree that Papert does not adequately address how he knows that the learning he’s claiming in LOGO environments actually happens. Perhaps this can be found elsewhere in his writings. But at this point, we just have to take his word for it that learning procedures and “powerful ideas” is happening.

  2. 2 Kylie Peppler February 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Indeed — this actually parallels one of the famous critiques of the LOGO movement by Roy Pea, which ultimately undid the momentum behind the software. That said, we see very different things emerging with Scratch. From my experience, it’s just important that we ultimately frame the activity in particular ways (connecting it to the arts or programming — depending on the goals) and give youth the right language to support/name their emerging understanding. Much less complicated than the attunement process in my mind.


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