[Its.an.education.project] Constructionism (was Re: XP on OLPC - a contrarian view)

info at olpc-peru.info info at olpc-peru.info
Mon May 19 05:49:32 EDT 2008

Edward Cherlin wrote:
>> You can't expect every kid to spontaneously
>> generate the sum of human knowledge by playing with plastic blocks.
> You don't have the slightest idea what Constructionism is, as this
> demonstrates. 

Edward: as far as I remenber you told the same some time ago: "do you 
know what is construccionism?"...
well... it seems that I knew it, but I studied (a lot more) some of the 
papers and documents that are around...
from the same Papert, from the very same Alan Kay, and all document that 
I was able to pick up... so
(if my 2 neurons are working) now I am sure that I know what is 
construccionism.  But.. again... as far as I remenber you have
stated (or it was Papert?) that construccionism is not to be explained 
in just a few words.

I hope that this aproach changes because IF we can not explain it in few 
words then I have to wonder
how we can think that the peruvian teachers have caught the 
"construccionism" idea when they took those
"prussian" and "instruccionist" order to study the construccionism 
around year 2000.

I think that construccionism is not working fine in Peru.  Or it was not 
correctly taught, or it is not implemented,
or the whole idea is too big (too much words for something that is 
natural to the human been: adapt to the
circumstances.  Everything (even the most prussian or isntruccionist 
method get assimilited by the human
been by a construccionist process).  Everyone can play if this is 
construccionism or constructivism. 

By the way, all the people that is worried about construccionism, should 
train his dog.  IF you are not able
to train your dog using construccionist methods (constructivist, ok?) is 
lacking a deep understanding of
the principles (learning by doing).  Or... let's be fair... they don't 
like dogs! (but a good reading about
all the dog training methods will bring a big surprise... dogs are 
trained with some constructivist methods
from many years ago... ask the germans BEFORE the 1st world war).

All the people that is worry about IF construccionism works or not... 
they can come to Peru and develop a serious
study about how it is working in Peru.  As far as I have learn there are 
hundreds of schools in all social
levels that are applying this "construccionism".

I ask myself somethings related to construccionism:

a) Who decided that our peruvian children needs XOs with construccionism 
inside and not a plain Laptop?
(what studies and previous experience have been around the whole world 
to prove that this works... or is
that the peruvian children have taken as "guinea pigs" to develop and 
prove some educational theories).
ohh... I remenber who... our Minister of Education knew Mr. Papert some 
time ago... well.. the same:
where is the BASE LINE ?  What are the guaranties that this "peruvian 
deployment" will not fail as the
previous one that were develop in other countries?

b) Please Edward don't cite some obscure document written about some 
schools or some experiment.  That is not
good enough.  You, as any person that develop science, knows that this 
is a pilot and after your pilot
succeed you need to *_VALIDATE_* the data. And for validation you need 
*_BIG numbers of tests_* and analysis.

Are the peruvian kids the one that are going to validate the 
"Construccionism/XO" as a tool for the
development and poverty solution?  If that is true then you got by 
blessings.  But, honestly, you,
specially you Edward, you need to lower your tone.  Our kids are doing 
you a favor, we, all peruvians
are doing you a favor.. what if ALL THIS FAILS? Some humility and 
recognition that this whole
things is walking on thin ice should be good for the sake of the children. 

Saying all the time "I have the reason and all the other ones are wrong" 
put the whole project in a very bad situation.
Why? Becuase some peruvian politics believe in what you are saying. IF 
the project fails I will live
in MY country for the rest of the life with all the damage that can 
happen (in educational and
politic affairs), you, Edward, will come back to your daily life.  Who 
is taken the risk? We, the
peruvians.  So, please, don't present the whole thing as the "holly 
grial" because you are doing
damage to the future not only of the kids but for the whole peruvian 
population. Let's don't play
with the expectations of humble people.  Let's deliver a computer that 
works, first point.  Then
we can add some "fireworks" and in a very humble tone we can speak about 
the way that the
peruvian teachers will teach to the peruvian kids.  These, in some 
sense, are more my kids that
your kids, Edward.

b) You don't need to brake a leg to know that it will hurt. This simple 
fact can be seen as an instruccionist
way of learning or a construccionism (deduction) way of learning.  Both 
things are sides of the same
coin.  And both things are natural to the human.  The mother that tells 
his boy "don't touch the fire"
is pure instruccionist.  If she allows that the child feels the heat of 
the fire then it is a "constructivist"
education, but... it is not practical! (please, don't answer with a 
simple interpretation of my words,
you are an intelligent and educated person and you know what I mean with 
this example.  Sorry
about my poor English).

c) It is very educative to read your post and chat with your brilliant 
mind.  Unlucky we
are that you, Edward, don't have a deep knowledge about the peruvian 
society and you
think that your thoughts are the only true.  That is not very 
construccionist by the way.
You are telling us, in a very instruccionist way, read this, think that, 
check this, and
review that.  Very funny situation!

>> Spoon-feeding facts into a kid
> That's would be Instructionism, with the correction, "alleged facts".
> I can cite plenty of experts on the fact that current textbooks are
> full of errors and outright lies. Richard Feynman on math and physics
> books up before the Los Angeles textbook committee, for example.
d) Edward, I am very old guy.  I have seen many times how someone cites 
the work of a third
person, this cites the words/work/studies of a fourth guy, then this one 
cites the works of
the first person.  All of them sit on the same table, know each other, 
are friends, work in
the same fields.  Citing this or that paper doens't help.  (well it 
helps... just a little... just
in the first moment.. but then MANY PEOPLE realize that it is a closed 

Sometimes this happens by the worst of the reasons: money, fame, ego, 
power.  In
science issues it has been saw many times, in many fields.

The only thing that can be a valid demonstration or a valid path is to 
tell us when,
where was done a study about the education in Peru (I speak about what I 
and establish a BASE LINE.  Then we can be able to do comparisons: how the
kids were BEFORE the "XO/Sugar/Construccionism" and AFTER 2 or 3 years
of working with the model.  If those studies exist under 7 keys and away 
from the
public eyes then we need to think how to get them  and publish them.

The whole energy issue (that is so different in Peru) is a demonstration 
that the
right information was not collected in the proper time.  Who did it in 
the wrong
way? It doesn't matter.  The true thing is that a lower profile must be 
with the whole project because things are not happening as they were 
intended for.

Don't cite books or scholars.. come to Peru with a team to pick up the 
data of
the pilots and the data about construccionism.  I am sure that the 
people in charge
of the education in Peru will welcome you and will work with you.  All 
the other
happenings are just words.  Let's hit ground, let's go to the field.

e) As you have noticed I am friend of the XO/Laptop idea.  But I don't 
see the point
in doing a "dead or live" issue with the fact that construccionism IS 
WAY to teach to the peruvian children (I don't know about other countries,
each place is different.  In my own country there is HUGE difference 
with the kids
on the jungle and the kids on the Andes mountains, let's don't speak 
about our
kids on the coast). 

f) For the record: I don't like the idea that Microsoft comes with the 
XOs but if it
comes.. we can manage it, we have managed in the last 20 years.  No big deal
here in Peru.  For you it can be the end of the world, for us it is just 
issue.  I have work more than 30 years with computers in Peru, so I know 
I am telling you: no kid will die.  You, all americans, should be more 
in asking your congressmen why they don't order to divide microsoft in 
companies.  It works with the Standard Oil (and the more powerfulll Mr. 
and with the original Bell Company (that became separated in the Baby 
But I am peruvian and I can not tell you what you need to do.  I ask 
myself only.
I know many good american fellows that do the same: they don't try to give
solutions before they ask questions.

>> might not be stylish, but it works.
> No, it doesn't work as education, only as social control. You can't
> show me a single study demonstrating that it works better than real
> education, and I can cite dozens to the contrary.
g) Social control? Edward! EVERYTHING in the human race is social 
control, fight for power,
and survival.  It is the same in the animal and vegetal world. 
Show me one human society that has not a strict structure of dominance 
or power.
 From the old times until today.  You are American... (I think so) so I 
don't want to take
many examples of your society, so I will speak about MY society: 
Peruvian society.  Here,
my dear Edward, the poor kids are not worried about WHO will apply 
"social control"
over them, they look for more simple things that can be solved (with 
good will and some
effort) inside ANY social control structure.  Furthermore, some day, 
this kids will
dominate and they will be the ones in charge of the "social control" of 
other kids.  It is not
"social control" what worries me.  Is that some kind of social control 
is develop on such
a level that involves hungry and death of many people.  But some form of 
"social control"
will happen all the time. 

h) Republican or Democrat? uhhmmmm... are we talking about
the peruvian kids in the middle of the Andes Mountains?.. Remenber that 
for american
people (U.S. Citizens) their personal economy improve on the Democrats 
and for foreing people (like us, peruvians) we enjoy a better economy 
when the
Republican are in charge.   So, if we care about the peruvian kids, 
let's try to develop
things beyond the local (U.S.) political preferences.

I hope that this pill is not too big for you, for the list or for any 
adult person subscribed
to this lists.  Many times people is manipulated saying that this or 
that should not be
talk because more damage will show up.  I don't think so.  Somepeople 
say that they
understand that some "negotiations" with top companies (like Microsoft) 
and some
governments (like my government) should be kept confidential.  I think 
it is wrong. 
Transparency during the whole process is necessary because this is a 
public affair
that will affect the life of so many people.

Know I will look for my iron suit (flames, rocks, and poisoned arrows 
will come!)

This remind me when the first mail lists were "invented"... war! 
Sometimes me, as many
of you, think that we invented the game! (sorry "less than 40 years old" 
kids!)... but
that is an illusion that we talk many times with late John Postel (who 
invented this or
establish this... well other day we can share those old stories).

Best regards,

Javier Rodriguez
Lima, Peru

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