R.I.P. Dr. Seymour Papert

Dr. Seymour Papert with a Logo Turtle
Dr. Seymour Papert with a Logo Turtle

This morning I learned that Dr. Seymour Papert died yesterday at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. Dr. Papert was a pioneer in the world of computers and children, the LOGO programming language, co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence lab (now CSAIL) and a founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab. Papert has also been called the “father of the maker movement” for ushering the constructionist learning theory into schools decades ago. Each time I speak to a group of educators, parents or students it is grounded in what I have learned about constructionism, a theory of learning by Dr. Papert inspired by his work with Jean Piaget. So great is Papert’s influence on my thinking that I can never know learning as I did before.

While I never met Dr. Papert in person, over the past 10+ years I have grown to know him through studying his work and through many friends, mentors and colleagues who have shared personal accounts of working and spending time with him. His work has been shared with me first hand by many close friends and colleagues. Dr. Gary Stager, Sylvia Martinez, Dr. Cynthia Solomon, Dr. Edith Ackerman, Artemis Papert, Brian Silverman, Dr. Claudia Urrea, Dr. Mitchel Resnick, and many others were my open door to the work that Dr. Papert pioneered in thinking and learning with computers. Dr. Papert’s words will forever be foundational in our thinking, learning, and work in education.

I hope that those that have known him will continue to share his important work with new generations of educators and learners. This closing excerpt from a post by Paulo Blikstein captures how we might honor and continue the work Papert laid down before us.

In the famous Gears of My Childhood preface to Mindstorms, Papert states what he has always considered“the fundamental fact about learning: Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models. If you can’t, anything can be painfully difficult.”

Education needs a collection of models demonstrating the impact of implementing Seymour’s ideas in school. Maybe then they will not anymore be painfully hard to implement, but a lot easier. And it is our job to build those models. So go forth and construct.

There is no better way to thank Seymour Papert than to live out his vision of learning. Dr. Papert, you will be dearly missed. Rest in Peace.

Books

Mindstorms – Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas

The Children’s Machine – Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer

The Connected Family – Bridging the Digital Generations Gap

Videos

YouTube Playlist

Vimeo Search – Seymour Papert

Websites

Works by Papert – papers and periodical articles

Daily Papert – excerpts and quotes from Papert’s talks, papers and other work

Planet Papert – a comprehensive collection of Papert’s work by Dr. Gary Stager

Seymour Papert – Wikipedia entry for Dr. Papert

UPDATE: I originally wrote Papert was a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, he was a founding faculty member of the Media Lab.