I'm drawn to Papert's playful parables on learning. Actually, frequent glances back at his work along with Galt's, Holt's, Kozol's, and Applebee's (to name a few) are what are keeping me slogging through the rest; I'm still at the point where, if I want to get through "formal academic papers" on the topic of education (or engineering education), I literally have to force myself to sit and stare at the paper, even read it out loud. Some seem to be written with either too many words for not enough content ("excess padding"). Others seem to be written as humorless vivisections of a topic I love - teaching and learning pinned out on a cold and sterile table, every part tagged with an overly polysyllabic name that ultimately tells you nothing about it.
Learning is not a science. It is not an art. It is both; it is more. It is a human endeavor, although even that falls short of a good description... I seethe in frustration at attempts to block-diagram and standardize it.
Anyway. Parables! In an odd, roundabout way, reading Papert makes me want to study Zen. Here's one of my favorites (on the OLPC project), as told by Nicholas Negroponte and reported by Xavier Leonard. It's one of the least parable-y Papert parables I've read, actually.
[Imagine a school in a country where] the only form of communication is speech. Then, one day, someone invents writing and everyone thinks it great. Trying find a way for students get the greatest benefit from this new technology, the school administrators first discuss putting a single pencil in each of the classrooms. Then they decide that a better idea is to take 10 pencils and put them all into one room, called a "pencil lab." Each student would be able to access a pencil two hours a day, two days out of the week.
I get upset when people say that the point of the laptops is that children can learn “all the time, everywhere.” Of course it’s true. But insulting to children. They are learning all the time wherever they are. Maybe not what you want them to learn – but that’s a very different story.
It is not only insulting, but counter-productive, to count only our kind – or school’s kind – of learning and thinking as real learning and thinking. The central problem of education is not teaching children to think differently, but connecting what we think they should learn with the kind of thinking they can do very well.
Next up: My first attempt at parables (with the assistance of Chris Carrick).