Seymour Papert’s Constructionism


the N word as opposed to the V word–shares constructivism’s connotation of learning as “building knowledge structures” irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe (Papert, 1991)

Seymour, says Idit Harel in his obituary, coined the term to advance a new theory of learning, claiming that children learn best when they:

  1. use tech-empowered learning tools and computational environments,
  2. take active roles of designers and builders; and
  3. do it in a social setting, with helpful mentors and coaches, or over networks.

Influencers:  John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Paulo Freire, Jean Piaget with whom he worked in 1958 to 1963 in Switzerland.

He was also responsible for the academic work for  Logo programming language. He created the Logo Turtle, which was a physical turtle, and later became a virtual turtle which could be manipulated on screen by using the simple Logo programming language. MIT’s Epistemology and Learning Group, which Papert founded, has created many advanced technologies for learners including: robotics, system dynamics, multi-agent modeling, and digital fabrication. In 1985, he began a long and productive collaboration with the LEGO company, one of the first and largest corporate sponsors of the Media Lab. In the late 1990s, Papert moved to Maine and continued his work with young people there, establishing the Learning Barn and the Seymour Papert Institute in 1999


  1. Papert, S., Harel, I., 1991. Situating Constructionism, Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1st chapter retrieved here: (last accessed 09.08.2018)
  2. Harel, I., 2016.  A Glimpse Into the Playful World of Seymour Papert. (obituary), IN EdSurge, 3rd August 2016, full text available here

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Dewey’s notion of experience


John Dewey

One important contributor to the development of pragmatism was John Dewey (1859–1952), whose philosophical interests spanned many areas, including psychology, education, ethics, logic and politics (…) Dewey’s pragmatism examines how the use of different ideas and hypotheses, concepts and theories affects the result of inquiry (…) One common misunderstanding is when educationalists associate pragmatism with ‘learning by doing’ or as mere ‘trial and error’ as this view separates action from thinking in turn preventing learning in an informed way (…) Dewey worked all his life on refining his notion of experience and defined it first as interactional and later as a transactional concept (…) Experience is the concept Dewey used to denote the relation between subject and worlds as well as between action and thinking, between human existence and becoming knowledgeable about selves and the worlds of which they are a part (…) This is why Dewey prefers the term ‘organic circle’ rather than ‘reflex arc’ as a metaphor for the relation between being and knowing (…) experience is a series of connected organic circles, it is transaction, and it is the continuous relation between subject and worlds. Experience is an understanding of the subject as being in the world, not outside and looking into the world, as a spectator theory of knowledge would imply

Five differences between a commonplace interpretation of experience and his own views:

  • experience is usually used as an epistemological concept (purpose is production) while for Dewey is an ontological one and it is based on the transactional relation between subject and worlds. (remember difference of enjoying a painting because of its aesthetic value or studying it as an art reviewer) There are no experiences without some form of knowing but it does not solely depend on conscious thinking.
  • experience is traditionally understood as an inner mental and subjective relation and thus trapped in in the privacy of subjects’ action and thinking. There is no experience without a subject experiencing it but it does not mean that experiencing is solely subjective and private.
  • Third, experience is traditionally viewed in the past tense, the given rather
    than the experimental and future oriented. Dewey’s concept of experience,
    on the contrary, is characterized by reaching forward towards the unknown.
  • experience is traditionally viewed as isolated and specific rather than as continuous and connected. For Dewey, however, experience is a series of connected situations (organic circles) and even if all situations are connected to other situations, every situation has its own unique character.
  • Finally, experience has traditionally been viewed as beyond logical reasoning.
    Dewey argued, however, that there is no conscious experience without this
    kind of reasoning. Anticipatory thinking and reflection is always present in
    conscious experience by way of theories and concepts, ideas and hypotheses

By on the one hand stressing that experience is not primarily an epistemological matter, and on the other hand claiming that the systematic process of knowledge is one form of experience, Dewey wanted to show how inquiry is the only method for having an experience. Inquiry is triggered by difficult situations, and inquiry is the means through which it is possible to transform these situations through the mediation of thinking and action.Further, experience and inquiry are not limited to what is mental and private. (Elkjaer, 2009)

Traditional concept of experience v Dewey’s concept of experience
Experience as knowledge/Knowledge as a subset of experience
Experience as subjective/ Experience as both subjective and objective
Experience as oriented to the past/ Experience as future oriented (consequence)
Experience as isolated experiences/Experience as united experiences
Experience as action/ Experience as encompassing theories and concepts and as such a foundation for knowledge


Elkjaer, B., 2009. Pragmatism: A learning theory for the future. In Contemporary Theories of Learning Learning theorists … in their own words, Knud Illeris (ed.), London & New York: Routledge, pp. 74-89

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4 Types of learning


cumulative: mechanical learning, isolated formation, most common during the first years of life, later occurs only where one must learn something with no context, it is referred to as conditioning in behaviorist psychology

assimilative: learning by addition, new element is linked as an addition to a scheme or pattern that is relatively easy to recall and apply it when one is mentally oriented towards the field in question (Piaget: general sound and normal everyday learning)

accommodative: transcendent learning, when something takes place that is difficult to immediately relate to any existing scheme or pattern, one breaks down an existing scheme and transforms it so that the new situation can be linked in. results of that learning can be recalled and applied in many different relevant contexts (again Piaget: general sound and normal everyday learning, see also zone of proximal development)

significant/expansive/transitional/transformative: learning that involves the changing of the organization of the self, it demands a lot of mental energy, occurs only in situations of profound importance for the learner



Illeris, K., 2009. A comprehensive understanding of human learning. In Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning theorists … in their own words, Knud Illeris (ed), London & New York: Routledge (pp. 7-20)

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behaviorism v cognitivism


Behavioral theories

  • mode of learning: learning as a change in rate, frequency of occurrence, or form of behavior or response, which occurs primarily as a function of environmental factors (teachers therefore should arrange the environment so that students can respond properly to stimuli)
  • learner profile: less importance to learner differences.
  • key words: reinforcement history (the extent to which the individual was reinforced in the past for performing the same or similar behavior) and development status (what the individual is capable of doing given his or her present level of development).
  • memory: neurological connections established as a function of behaviors being associated with external stimuli (forgetting as caused by lack of responding over time).
  • motivation: motivated behavior is increased, or continued responding is produced, by reinforcement.
  • transfer: depends on identical elements or similar features between situations.
  • self regulation: involves setting up one’s own contingencies of reinforcement

Cognitive theories

  • mode of learning: through the formation of mental structures, and the processing of information and beliefs, it is an internal phenomenon (teachers make learning meaningful taking into account the learners’ perceptions of themselves and their learning environments).
  • learner profile: more importance to learner differences. What students do with information—how they attend to, rehearse, transform, code, store, and retrieve it—is critically important. The ways that learners process information determine what, when, and how they learn, as well as what use they will make of the learning.
  • memory: has a prominent role in cognitivism, learning via encoding or storing knowledge in an organized meaningful fashion. information is retrieved from memory in response to relevant cues that activate the appropriate memory structures.
  • motivation: one can be motivated and not learn; one can learn without being motivated/ motivation can help to direct attention and influence how information is processed. when reinforcement history conflicts with present beliefs, people are more likely to act based on their beliefs.
  • transfer: it occurs when learners understand how to apply knowledge in different settings.
  • self regulation: the key element is choice. For self-regulation to occur, learners must have some choice in their motives or methods for learning, time spent learning, criterion level of learning, the setting where learning occurs



Schunk, D.H., 2012. Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. (Sixth Edition), Boston: Pearson

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Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Grudin



1984: twenty people from MIT and Paul Cashman of Digital Equipment Corporation organized a workshop to explore technology’s role in the work environment. they used the term CSCW to describe their findings

Office Automation, an earlier approach to group support, had ran out of steam. The problems were not just technical but understanding human requirements. OA practitioners needed more info on how people worked in groups.

CSCW: it started as an effort by technologists to learn from economists, social psychologists, anthropologists, org theorists, educators etc/ it became a place for system builders to share experiences and tell others about tech constraints through tele-videoconferencing, collaborative authorship applications, electronic mail.

CSCW draws from all rings and from preexisting development culture. There is however, a great interest in small groups applications. Product developers focus more on human-computer interface/ Organizational system developers fixate on functionality.

The greatest challenge of CSCW is being multidisciplinary: it represents a merging of issues, approaches, languages, making sense is a lively process. It can be frustrating when the others are ignorant of work one considers to be basic. Participants from different domains use the same terms in subtly different ways.


References + Image

Grudin, J., 1994. Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: History and Focus. In Journal Computer, Volume 27 Issue 5, May 1994, Page 19-26, available here

The Rich Gold matrix


The map—a rectangular plot—was parceled into four quadrants, each devoted to a unique view by which to read, and act upon, the world: Science, Engineering, Design and Art. According to (John) Maeda, to each plot a designated mission: to Science, exploration; to Engineering, invention; to Design, communication; to Art, expression. Describing the four “hats” of creativity, Rich Gold had originally drawn the matrix-as-cartoon to communicate four discrete embodiments of creativity and innovation. Mark your mindset, conquer its little acre, and settle in. Gold’s view represents four ways-of-being that are distinctly different from one another, separated by clear intellectual boundaries and mental dispositions. Like the Four Humors, each is regarded as its own substance, to each its content and its countenance. Stated differently, if you’re a citizen in one, you’re a tourist in another.



Oxman, N., 2016. Age of Entanglement. In JoDS, Vol. 1, January 2016. Mentioned here

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The need for a new spirituality/ homo sui transcendentalis


The first motivation for a new spirituality is technoscience, with its associated fabulous economic power, which is simply incompatible with present spiritualities. It drives a hugely irrational force of efficiency for efficiency sake: everything which can be done will be done, for the worst or the best. The second motivation for a new spirituality is the difficulty of the dialogue between different spiritualities, which often appear as antagonistic, as we can testify in our everyday life. The new phenomenon of a planetary terrorism is not foreign to these two problems. In simple words, we need to find a spiritual dimension of democracy. Transdisciplinarity can help with this important advancement of democracy, through its basic notions of “transcultural” and “transreligious” (…) This evolution of mentalities could be achieved only if we perform the unification of Homo religious with Homo economicus (…) Transdisciplinary methodology is able to identify the common germ of homo religiosus and of homo economicus – called homo sui transcendentalis in my Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity



Nicolescu, B., 2010. METHODOLOGY OF TRANSDISCIPLINARITY – LEVELS OF REALITY, LOGIC OF THE INCLUDED MIDDLE AND COMPLEXITY. In Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science Vol: 1, No:1, (December, 2010), pp.19-38

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Methodology of Transdisciplinarity, by B. Nicolescu or ‘We have work to do till the end of time’


Trandisciplinarity is both unified and diverse.

  • Theoretical: general definition of transdisciplinarity and a well-defined methodology (a methodology corresponds to a great number of methods) (Piaget, Morin)/
  • Phenomenological: it implies building models that connect the theoretical principles with the already observed experimental data in order to predict further results. (Gibbons, Nowotny)
  • Experimental: it implies performing experiments following a well-defined procedure

There are degrees of disciplinarity which can more or less completely take into account the three methodological postulates of modern science.

Three axioms of methodology of transdisciplinarity:

  • ontological_there are different levels of Reality of the Object and the Subject (…) reality is both pragmatic and ontological (…) one has to distinguish the words “Real” and “Reality.” Real designates that which is, while Reality is connected to resistance in our human experience (…) no level of Reality constitutes a privileged place from which one is able to understand all the other levels of Reality (…) Every level is characterized by its incompleteness (…) a finite topological distance could contain an infinite number of levels of Reality. We have work to do till the end of time (…) The Gödelian structure of levels of Reality implies the impossibility of a self-enclosed, complete theory. Knowledge is forever open (…) The zone of non-resistance corresponds to the sacred (…) The unity of levels of Reality and its complementary zone of non-resistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinary Object, Nicolescu asserts that the different levels of Reality of the Object are accessible to our knowledge thanks to the different levels of Reality of the Subject (…) Our ternary partition (Subject, Object, Hidden Third) is, of course, different from the binary partition (Subject vs. Object) of classical realism.
  • logical_the passage from one reality to another is ensured by the logic of the included middle (…) one necessarily discovers contradictions in the theory describing the respective level: one has to assert A and non-A at the same time (…) in the history of science a theory leads to contradictions and one has to invent a new theory solving these contradictions (…) one has to abandon the third axiom of the classical logic [there exists no third term T which i at the same time a and non-A] , imposing the exclusion of the third, the included middle T.
  • complexity_the structure of the totality of levels of Reality or perception is a complex structure, every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time (…) It is useful to distinguish between the horizontal complexity, which refers to a single level of reality and vertical complexity, which refers to several levels of Reality. It is also important to note that transversal complexity is different from the vertical, transdisciplinary complexity. Transversal complexity refers to crossing different levels of organization at a single level of Reality (…) complexity is a modern form of the very ancient principle of universal interdependence (…) The principle of universal interdependence entails the maximum possible simplicity that the human mind could imagine, the simplicity of the interaction of all levels of reality. This simplicity cannot be captured by mathematical language, but only by symbolic language. The mathematical language addresses exclusively to the analytical mind, while symbolic language addresses to the totality of the human being, with its thoughts, feelings and body (…)



Nicolescu, B., 2010. METHODOLOGY OF TRANSDISCIPLINARITY – LEVELS OF REALITY, LOGIC OF THE INCLUDED MIDDLE AND COMPLEXITY. In Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science Vol: 1, No:1, (December, 2010), pp.19-38

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Knowledge and Design, 1972


Design proceeds by conjecture-analysis than by analysis-synthesis (…) if research is to make an impact on design it must influence designers at the pre-structuring and conjectural stages (…) regardless the quality of research work itself, the history of attempts to link research to improvements in environmental action is largely one of confusion and failure (…) there is a widespread feeling that an ‘applicability gap’ has developed between research and design (…) far from being removed from the field of science, the cognitive schemes by which we interpret the world and pre-structure our observations are increasingly seen to be the essential subject matter of science (…) we cannot escape from the fact that designers must, and do, pre-structure their problems in order to solve them (…) Popper: science could be contained within a hypothetico-deductive scheme/ Kuhn: science as a puzzle solving activity until the next paradigm switch/ Lakatos: science as conflicting sets of inter-related theories (…) the object of science is cognition (…) remaking cognition (…) SO FARthe role of scientific work is to provide factual information that can be assimilated into design; second that a rationalised design process, able to assimilate such information, would characteristically and necessarily proceed by decomposing a problem into its elements, adding an information content to each element drawn as far as possible from scientific work, and “synthesizing” a solution by means of a set of logical or procedural rules (…) design as we know it can be seen as the socially differentiated transformation of the reflexive cognition of the maker in terms of the latent possibilities of his tools, materials and object types. Its object is not the building, but at one remove, sets of instructions for the building (…) NOW: we can imagine a man and an object he will create as though separated by a space which is filled, on the one hand, with tools and raw materials which we can call his ‘instrumental set’, (or perhaps technological means) and on the other, a productive sequence or process by which an object may be realized (…) we would argue that design is essentially a matter of pre-structuring problems either by a knowledge of solution types or by a knowledge of the latencies of the instrumental set in relation to solution types, and that is why the process of design is resistant to the inductive-empiricist rationality so common in the field. A complete account of the designer’s operations during design, would still not tell us where the solution came from (…)  the polarization between rational and intuitive design should be reformulated as a polarity between reflexive design and non-reflexive design (…) four main types of elements: instrumental sets, solution types, codes and information (…) at this point of time a building is a climate modifier, a behavior modifier, a cultural modifier ad a resource modifier



Hillier, B., Musgrove, J., O’ Sullivan, P., 1972. Knowledge and Design. In William Mitchell (ed.), Environmental design: Research and Practice, edra3/ar8 conference, UCLA, January 1972

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Linkages between research and teaching

Classification of disciplines

  • BIGLAN: hard pure – soft pure – hard applied – soft applied
  • KOLB: abstract reflective – concrete reflective – abstract active – concrete active

Linkages between research and teaching:

  • In terms of CONTENT: the linkages are more difficult to enact in hard disciplines because of the more hierarchical and cumulative construction of knowledge
  • In terms of SOCIAL PROCESS: it is the other way around as students from hard disciplines often work with staff as part of their research
  • In terms of PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: these bodies may influence the attitudes of staff and students towards research-teaching links, particularly where they accredit entry into the profession by controlling the curriculum



Healey, M., 2005. Linking research and teaching: exploring disciplinary spaces and the role of inquiry-based learning. In Barnett, R (ed) (2005) Reshaping the University: New Relationships between Research, Scholarship and Teaching. McGraw Hill / Open University Press, pp.67-78

Research in teaching


  • university research often detracts from the quality of teaching (Pocklington and Tupper 2002: 7)
  • courses taught by those at the cutting edge of research will necessarily be of higher quality than those taught by those merely using the research results of others – whatever the apparent quality of their style of delivery (Lee 2004: 9)
  • there is clear evidence from a range of studies in different types of institutions of students valuing learning in a research-based environment (Jenkins 2004: 29)
  • students are likely to gain most benefit from research, in terms of depth of learning and understanding, when they are also involved in research (Healey and Roberts 2004)

A range of terms is used in the literature, often interchangeably, to describe the research-teaching nexus. Griffiths (2004) suggests that a distinction might be made between teaching which is predominantly:

  • Research-led: where students learn about research findings, the curriculum content is dominated by staff research interests, and information transmission is the main teaching mode;
  • Research-oriented: where students learn about research processes, the curriculum emphasizes as much the processes by which knowledge is produced as learning knowledge that has been achieved, and staff try to engender a research ethos through their teaching;
  • Research-based: where students learn as researchers, the curriculum is largely designed around inquiry-based activities, and the division of roles between teacher and student is minimized
  • Research-tutored: top left quadrant, which, although not recognized by Griffiths (2004), is student-focused and emphasizes research content (see image above)

research is context specific and multidisciplinary rather than pure and discipline based; it has social relevance rather than being hypothesis led; it uses fuzzy, rather than empirically based data; it is problem solving rather than deductive. In what might be termed the commodification of knowledge, how knowledge is managed, synthesized and adapted become as important as knowledge itself (Jenkins and Zetter, 2003: 11)



Healey, M., 2005. Linking research and teaching: exploring disciplinary spaces and the role of inquiry-based learning. In Barnett, R (ed) (2005) Reshaping the University: New Relationships between Research, Scholarship and Teaching. McGraw Hill / Open University Press, pp.67-78

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From Mode 2 to Mode 3 Knowledge


On one hand there is the educational task of preparing students for a complex world. On the other, there is the educational task of coming to a position where one can prosper in a situation of multiple interpretations where incomplete judgements or decisions must be made either because of a. the press of time, b. insufficient evidence, c. outcomes are unpredictable/ all above forms are not mutually exclusive and there is no security available

Mode 2 Knowledge responds to task no 1, thus, problem-solving in situ/creative knowing in situ. In the end one has to rely on one’s capacity for seeing a way forward in a particular setting. This form of knowledge is necessarily creative because of its particularity. However, the character of the complex world must always elude our attempts to understand it and the central idea of Mode 2 Knowledge that with sufficient creativity and imagination a solution can be designed is problematic.

Mode 3 Knowledge beckons that knowing the world is a matter of producing epistemological gaps. Knowing produces further uncertainty. In supercomplexity, the world is not just unknowable but also indescribable. So, the educational task is not an epistemological task but an ontological one; it is the task of enabling individuals to prosper amid supercomplexity.



Barnett, R., 2004. Learning for an unknown future. In Higher Education Research and Development, Vol. 23, No. 3, August 2004.

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