Week 7 reflection

How do Piaget, Dewey, and Papert fit into the modern day maker movement?


John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Seymour Papert were influential in education in the 20th century.  They believed in active learning. Learning by making, failing, experimenting, and engaging are all examples of active learning.

Dewey (1859-1952) viewed education as self-directed, “He viewed the process of education as continuous growth across a lifetime, resulting from personal motivation and resistant to external forces… He advocated for students to be actively engaged in authentic interdisciplinary projects connected to the real world. In Dewey’s view, education should prepare children to solve problems in a methodical fashion resulting from careful observation and previous experience.” (Martinez, p 14) Dewey believed that the school system should move away from strictly controlled schooling into more of an exploration of real world ideas and practices.

Some of the ideas of Piaget (1896-1980) and Dewey intersected . Piaget believed that schools need to create polymaths. “The Piagetian idea that “to understand is to invent” (Piaget, 1976) shaped how teachers taught and how children learned.” (Martinez, p 1)

Polymaths are people who excel in many different subjects. This is something that is not seen very often today. As Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt discusses in Invent to Learn, “…in the Victorian era, the same people who wrote poetry also built bridges. (Robinson, 2011) Lewis Carroll wrote fairytales and was a mathematician.” (Martinez, p 3)  All children have the potential to be polymaths. In today’s educational system, why are children often reduced to being only good at math, or excel only in reading? Learning should be a process that is filled with activities that promote active learning and participation.  This participation unleashes the curiosity of a child to learn and familiarize themselves with everything; to become polymaths.

Formal education often focuses on the results of test scores, where students are fed facts to memorize answers for tests, not for long-term learning. As Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, believed, “Knowledge does not result from receipt of information transmitted by someone else without the learner undergoing an internal process of sense making.” (Martinez, p 13) Piaget’s theory of learning is consists of making, tinkering, and engineering.

Papert (b. 1928) is a co-creator of Logo, a computer programming language. For Papert, computers were vital to education, even in 1968, “He not only advocated that children should use computers, but that they should make things with them via programming.” (Martinez, p 18) His views on computers were that children should not just learn how to work on a computer, but how they could make a computer work by creating things with it.

Learning is a unique experience, as every person absorbs information differently. The Maker Movement has a strong foundation in the educational theories of Dewey, Piaget, and Papert. True learning by an individual is a very personal experience. Learning styles are unique. This theory has allowed the Maker Movement to thrive. It’s not a one size fits all experience. “Children’s seminal learning experiences come through direct experience with materials…For the first time ever, childhood inventions may be printed, programmed, or imbued with interactivity. Recycled materials can be brought back to life.” (Martinez, p 2) Since learning is a personal process, we should let kids figure out how to learn independently.  We only need to sit back and enjoy watching their curiosity soar.

Martinez, Sylvia Libow, and Gary Stager. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. N.p.: Constructing Modern Knowledge, 2013. Print.



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