Categorie: filosofie


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Lessons from Logo
There is much to be said for the Scratch programming language or one of the dialects such as Scatchjr, Sniff or Snaas becoming the standard coding language for education. What makes a language suitable for education? The simplest answer is: simplicity of use. But that is not enough. You should be able to see results quickly, sound and image (video or graphics) can be added, but there is more. During the opening night of the successful Scratch2015 conference in August 2015 in Amsterdam (nearly 300 participants from over 25 countries), there was a very interesting lecture by the guest of honour Cynthia Solomon on the prehistory of Logo.
Why now focus on Logo? If you want to know something of the Scratch backgrounds you arrive at Logo. The principles (‘philosophy’) and the objectives of Scratch are essentially those of Logo. When I was in 1986 in Cambridge (Mass.) visiting Logo developer Seymour Papert in the new MIT Medialab, I had mistakenly thought that they were still in the pioneering stage. The opposite is true. Cynthia Solomon was with Seymour Papert since the late 60s and 70s trying to develop on the basis of developing psychological principles of Piaget education using ICT for children. For the interview (in Dutch) with Papert see.
Solomon wrote together with Papert in 1971 a still interesting article titled Twenty Things To Do With A Computer. It was then when they introduced the first version of Logo. Compared with Scratch Logo it was not such a simple language.
Solomon discussed the concepts of constructivism vs. constructionism and took a moment out to the maker movement:
1. constructionism is makings things to make sense
2. constructivism is making sense without doing things
3. maker movement is making things without attention to making sense
Cynthia went a little too simplistic and that was not appreciated by the people from the maker movement who were in the audience. But there was some truth in. In maker education workshops it is not always sufficiently clear what the learning objectives are or what the link is with curriculum.
Solomon had wit her beautiful photos and video footage. We saw a young hippie-like figure with long hair and beard who gave explanations of demonstrations. That hippie was Seymour Papert years before he wrote his famous Mindstorms, Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas (1980).
The core of Papert’s ideas is that not the computer should be ‘in command’ but the students and therefor he developed his famous ‘turtle’ language Logo, using a ‘virtual’ and later  a ‘physical’ (toy) turtle that you  could program. How powerful Papert’s ideas are still is proven by the rise of Scratch.
The technological possibilities were 30 years ago compared to now very limited. Schools in USA used Atari’s and the first Apple computers. A graphical interface did not exist. Because of the addition of audio and video and many other features Scratch now becomes a beautiful example of the idea that it is not about learning to code but coding to learn (to use the words of keynote speaker Mitchel Resnick).
Mitch Resnick, which I met him in 1986 when he was still a MIT PhD. , agrees that the basic principles have not changed. He told me, laughing at Scratch2015 that people sometimes say, “Hey man what you claim said Seymour Papert already in the 80s.” Mitch agrees and finds that just great, it proves the power of the Logo / Scratch approach.
The Netherlands also experienced in the 80s and 90s, a small but lively Logo community. We had the LOGO Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. And yet LOGO never spread really wide. In the project Informatics of the SLO (National Institute for Curriculum Development), where I was part of the development group, there were two colleagues who were LOGO enthusiasts: Paul Jansen and Ries Kock.
But the government opted for fairly generic computer science goals and SLO-developed learning materials. They also chose the MS-DOS standard. Thereby Learning’s focus shifted from Learning to Use Using to Learn.
Why Logo was not broadly implemented
I do not intend to describe the history of Logo, how interesting it is, but try briefly to explain why Logo never really caught on in the (Dutch) education and why I think this will be different with Scratch. But first, why not then?
1. In the 80s the emphasis was on learning to use. There were only command-driven operating systems. The more DOS commands you knew by heart the better. Later in 1984 the Apple Macintosh was introduced.

2. Learning to use applications such as word processing, databases, spread sheets, and possibly programming in Basic predominated. The necessary hardware knowledge was part of the new Information Science curriculum.
3. Training of teachers in the secondary education (elementary was later join) was time consuming and only for three teachers per school accessible, content was difficult. The idea was that they would share there knowledge with colleagues but that didn’t happen often and moreover many teachers changed job and went to industry.

4. There was no World Wide Web to share material. Schools were only in the late ‘90s for the first time connected. Internet is now available in every school.
5. Each PC or laptop or tablet has now a multimedia Internet connection
6. The teaching was highly focused instruction
7. There was hardly a relation with the existing curriculum
8. There was no community

9. Computing science was not a mandatory subject.
Why is this the moment for Coding?
In the 80s and 90s, the focus was on working with computerized databases (databases) and application software. A major goal was the development of knowledge on automation of data and processes.
With the rise of internet early 90s and especially the World Wide Web with hyperlinks (1994), information retrieval became increasingly important.
– Our present time is characterized by its attention to the development of creative applications. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. are all creative and highly successful examples of creative ideas who combine coding and internet. All kind of (educational) smartphones apps are developed. We have now days tools that lets kids create their own apps. To summarise we see that coding is becoming less something for nerds/ Learning to code is coding to create. It is cool.
– The role of the traditional linear curriculum is reduced. If we now look at Scratch, we see alongside the similarities in educational psychology and educational vision but there are also some clear differences with Logo. Scratch has an active community that shares material, scenarios, and ideas, etc. That was the case not in the Logo-years. Internet and social media enable this. The Logo adepts were often united in little esoteric groups and they sometimes behaved like members of a cult. Scratch users are now days much more pragmatic and say a bit of instruction is OK.
– We now see active forums where questions can be posted and one get almost instant answers. Developments in Dutch primary school and the new curriculum proposals for computer science in secondary education there is more  room for coding and Scratch in the curriculum. The present education secretary Sander Dekker (40 years) seems to have an open toward ICT and innovation.
– Scratch (unlike Logo) is free. It is easy to access and runs on many platforms. In particular, the community building makes Scratch increasingly helps to Scratch to become a de facto standard. It was developed by a prestigious institute (MIT Media Lab). It is also well maintained and it is open source. Scratch2015 organizer Joek Montfort can be satisfied. I think Scratch going to make it.


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Ivo van Vulpen deeltjes onderzoeker Nikhef
Ivo van Vulpen
deeltjesonderzoeker Nikhef

De ontdekking van het higgsdeeltje

Ivo van Vulpen was nog een kleuter toen theoretisch natuurkundigen het standaardmodel formuleerden. In dat model ontbrak één deeltje. Het deeltje dat er voor zorgt dat alle andere elementaire deeltjes massa krijgen. Inmiddels is Ivo van Vulpen gepromoveerd, deeltjeswetenschapper en een enthousiast ambassadeur van het onderzoek naar de allerkleinste bouwstenen van ons universum. Ik sprak  hem op het nationale instituut voor subatomaire fysica (Nikhef) in Amsterdam.
Wat is het belang van het higgsdeeltje?
“We konden nooit verklaren hoe een deeltje aan zijn massa komt. Dat deeltjes massa hebben is duidelijk anders zouden we niet kunnen verklaren dat de elementaire deeltjes samenklonteren, wat uiteindelijk leidt tot het ontstaan van sterren als de zon. Maar het laatste puzzelstukje in de theorie ontbrak, namelijk het antwoord op de vraag hoe die deeltjes aan hun massa komen. Als deeltjes geen massa hebben dan zouden atomen niet kunnen bestaan net zo min als ons eigen zonnestelsel. Door de ontdekking van het higgsboson kunnen we een verklaring geven hoe de wereld in elkaar zit. Dat is dus een belangrijke mijlpaal voor de wetenschap”. (meer…)