[Squeakland] the non universals

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Thu Aug 23 19:04:18 PDT 2007

Mark Guzdial's blog is a great discussion point (in general I think Mark's
blog is really good but he has slipped up here). Alan has left a
comprehensive response there, which does refute part of what Mark is saying

"Doing with images to make symbols" (derived from Bruner) is a good slogan
here I think, the gradual process of linking the kinesthenic to the visual
to the abstract. Play, play, play in a suitable rich environment and later
there maybe a significant AHA experience at the level of abstraction. So, we
need great teachers who can construct these environments and gently nudge
children down these pathways. Then we will build the great education system
that we presently and most definitely do not have. Yes, it takes time, but
is a very worthwhile path to go down.

The same point is stressed on the etoys car tutorial from the squeakland
list (I've left it in bold it needs to be  shouted out, maybe).

For children of this age, the textual form of these properties doesn't look
> as exciting as the iconic car that can be directly manipulated.
>  *The "Montessori game" here is for the children to get most of their
> pay-off playing in the hand-eye arena, while gradually and subliminally
> gaining fluency and appreciation of the power of symbols.*

A couple of other related points.

A Harvard course is using Scratch as an introduction to Java!
Scratch for budding computer scientists

> "We propose Scratch as a first language for first-time programmers in
> introductory courses, for majors and non-majors alike. Scratch allows
> students to program with a mouse: programmatic constructs are represented as
> puzzle pieces that only fit together if "syntactically" appropriate. We
> argue that this environment allows students not only to master programmatic
> constructs be fore syntax but also to focus on problems of logic before
> syntax. We view Scratch as a gateway to languages like Java."

The feedback section of this paper contains this gem:

> Comments from one negative respondent were bitter-sweet:
> "I feel Scratch negatively influenced me for the rest of the course.
> Scratch was a lot of fun to use, and it was really easy. Then we started
> coding in Java and its [sic] about 100 times harder than Scratch, and the
> results are much less enjoyable than what I could easily achieve in Scratch.
> I think Scratch would have been better to have fun with after . . .Java."

I think this is relevant in showing the importance of "Doing with images to
make symbols" for more adult learners as well as children

With regard to the related issue of using blogs to establish meaningful
writing, writing that actually alters semantic relationships. Konrad
Glogowski's blog of proximal development provides evidence that children
need to immerse themselves in writes for at least 18  months with a teacher
who is sensitive to their needs for exploration  before meaningful change
happens. I'll dig up some direct evidence from Kondrad's  blog (I had a
quick look then but have lost it - it's buried somewhere in a comment on my
blog) if anyone wants to follow up on this. This relates to a point Alan
made in his comment on Mark's blog:

The most important piece of knowledge from cog psych is a study done in the
> late 60s or early 70s that showed exposure to any enriched environment for
> less than 2 years was not retained. But two or more years of exposure tended
> to be retained. This also correlates to habit formation and habit
> unlearning.

Konrad's blog relates more to Vygotsky but that can be connected back to
Papert's constructionist learning theory, eg. when keeping a journal about
logo learning for instance, as happened with Idit Harel's ISDP work.

Bill Kerr

On 8/24/07, Brad Fuller <bradallenfuller at yahoo.com> wrote:
> though I'd pass this along for another viewpoint. Mark Guzdial's latest
> perspective on powerful ideas, abstractions and design patterns:
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNK13L1MC1Q3613J
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