Posts Tagged 'Mindstorms'

When Are Labels Appropriate (or are they?)

After finishing Mindstorms, I have a better sense of the kinds of learning that happen in LOGO and the concepts of which students make sense. I really like the idea of experiencing and exploring concepts  prior to learning the “official definitions” and terms used in a particular domain. It allows the learner to make sense of the material in a way that is meaningful to them, so that when labels are attached, those concepts have more meaning than they would if they were being memorized for an exam.

I am still curious, though, about how readily the knowledge learned in LOGO can transfer to a physics class. When do you start teaching the labels for the concepts the learners are exploring. It is a delicate issue because the learners need time to internalize the concepts before making them formal, but I feel like they should become formal at some point so that they are recognizable when learners run into them again in a different setting. Or should they? I’m not sure.


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