The following article will appear in the Spring 2007 issue of The Creative Educator magazine
You are reading this because you believe that learning and teaching are manifestations of creativity. You also understand that computers offer unprecedented opportunities for children to learn and express their knowledge in countless ways. I share your passion for using open-ended software in ways that empower children to not only learn what we have always valued, but to construct knowledge in new ways in domains unimaginable just a few years ago.
Seymour Papert calls the computer, the “children’s machine,” while Danny Hillis refers to it as “an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we ever could have taken them on our own.”
I first experienced the imagination machine when I learned to program in a 7th grade class back in 1975. The computer allowed me to make something out of nothing and I felt intellectually powerful for the first time in my life. Since I had no idea what was impossible, I thought anything was possible. I’ve dedicated my 25-year career to helping teachers create such productive contexts for learning.
Kids continue to experience the exhilaration that results from making something shareable on the computer. Ironically, despite the enormous investment made in educational technology over the past quarter century, fewer and fewer students enjoy the type of experience I enjoyed as a 7th grader inside of school. Much of the cool computing stuff is happening outside of school. We have an obligation, as educators, to build upon the technological gifts students present when they arrive in our classrooms.
The past few years have not been easy for educators. The political climate surrounding public education has stifled creative teaching and personal expression. Discussions about educational computing have shifted from changing the world to improving test scores, as if those were mutually exclusive goals. The hardware and software industry have largely toed-the-line and marketed products designed to support the top-down impersonal spirit imposed by politicians.
The good news is that you have not surrendered and a handful of small companies have maintained a commitment to producing products that empower students, inspire creativity and support constructivism. These companies have agreed to share their strength and combine forces to create The Constructivist Consortium.
Although still in its infancy, The Constructivist Consortium is working to advocate for the use of creative open-ended technology tools across all grade levels and subjects. Member companies will share resources to make sure that this message is heard far and wide over an otherwise chaotic marketplace. The Constructivist Consortium will be prominent on the exhibit floor of NECC and its first event, The Constructivist Celebration will take place on June 24th.
The Founding Members of the Constructivist Consortium are:
Tech4Learning – Tech4Learning publishes popular software tools and curricular support materials that inspire creativity across the curriculum.
LCSI – Logo Computer Systems, Inc. founded by Seymour Papert more than 25 years ago, is one of the oldest producers of educational software in the world. They are responsible for products like LogoWriter, LEGO TC Logo and MicroWorlds EX.
FableVision – Many of you know artist/author/software designer Peter Reynolds and have have been inspired by his company’s message of celebrating creativity and following one’s North Star.
Generation YES – Generation YES publishes curriculum products that empower students to make their classrooms, schools and communities better through the integration of technology.
Schoolkit - Schoolkit publishes creative activities for using software applications in ways that enrich the curriculum and provide ongoing professional development for educators.
Inspiration Software - Inspiration publishes the popular Inspiration software, Kidspiration and InspireData, all open-ended tools useful across the curriculum.
Executive Director – The Constructivist Consortium
For more information about Gary Stager, click here.