Seymour Papert’s ideas in “Mindstorms” were particularly reinforcing for my own ideas that are being generated through our other readings. Coming from a very small school system, I cannot say that I experienced a lot of advanced computer programs that stimulated me to “think about thinking.” I think that process came about through other experiences but I did come in contact with a lot of interactive “cultural tools” that make complicated concepts easier to understand. For example, Oregon Trail was a very popular game in elementary school and provided a more interesting approach to the subject of history and the trials and tribulations of those heading west in the days of pioneers. There were also games like Zoombinis that focused on complex puzzles and such however for the most part, my teachers used the computer in a systematic way. In other words, I was not using the computer for “personal purposes” just like I was not learning a lot of material in classes for “personal purposes.”
However, Papert foresaw the price of computers falling to the point that each individual could have private/personal access. Once this happened, I believe people started exploring, on their own out of sincere interest. This is when computers started fostering more intellectual, individual action. This is happening right now. The only thing I fear is what Papert calls the QWERTY phenomenon, wherein there is a “tendency for the first usable, but still primitive, product of a new technology to dig itself in.” We are at a fork in the road if you ask me; although our technology does not seem primitive…do the ways in which we use them sometimes seem a little primitive? Do the ways in which teachers incorporate computers into their curriculum come off as primitive to you? Typing class…what? To think I spent a whole year in typing class during middle school, what a waste. How primitive. It is socially drilled into us to justify what we are used to, to revel in our comfort zones. Papert predicted it then and I believe it applies now to some extent:
“The computer revolution has scarcely begun, but is already breeding its own conservation.”
Where do we go from here?