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Inspiration from Seymour Papert

November 02, 2018

This last week, our friend Chris Connors (a teacher at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School) shared a quote with us from one of our most revered educators, Seymour Papert. It was via a pamphlet from the Creative Computing Team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. (This is the same awesome team that brought you the “Getting Unstuck” challenges this summer using one of our favorite coding platforms: Scratch!) This quote is a great reminder for teachers new to maker education that one doesn't have to know everything before diving into the world of creation and invention.


What Papert explains here is that it is even better for your students to learn alongside you. If as a teacher, you share a new tool with students and are open with your students that you don’t know how it works either, it shows your students that you are a learner too.


By sharing your own learning process, you are actually modeling for students all of your own risk taking, problem solving, and perseverance techniques as you learn together. Which is something our students don’t see often! Adults struggling to learn and understand new things.


By learning how something works together, both student and teacher get to benefit from discovering this technology side by side.


One of the reasons we made Makey Makey, is because we wanted everyday people to be able to invent things with everyday stuff. We wanted to break down the barriers to creation and let every kid experience what it means to be an inventor.


Part of our philosophy is that being open to creating and inventing includes not knowing all the answers. The process of problem solving and discovery is really the magical ingredient to making, inventing, and education.  It’s why hands-on learning is so effective.


To learn in this way is to discover how things work, something we call “Invention Literacy.” To quote Jay Silver, “Invention Literacy is the ability to understand the objects in the world and create new ones.”


Invention literacy is creating the future in your hands. It is is an integral part of hands-on learning.


As educators, we understand this is hard for some teachers to let go of being the "sage on the stage." It might seem scary to learn alongside your students. However, if you start modeling for students that it's okay to not know things, you can reintroduce the lost art of curiosity about our physical world.


In fact, by risking learning alongside your students, you are sharing with kids how to:

  • Take Risks
  • Creatively problem solve
  • Make mistakes and persevere
  • Become Invention Literate

If you are still afraid to make the leap of learning alongside your students, just take baby steps at first. Try letting the students take the reins on a small project, and you’ll be amazed at their awesomeness and leadership. The next thing you know, you’ll be ready to make the full plunge into learning through exploration and discovery!



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