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Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  651 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The book that started the computer revolution in schools

Computers have completely changed the way we teach children. We have Mindstorms to thank for that. In this book, pioneering computer scientist Seymour Papert uses the invention of LOGO, the first child-friendly programming language, to make the case for the value of teaching children with computers. Papert argues that
Paperback, 252 pages
Published August 4th 1993 by Basic Books (first published 1980)
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Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review is cross-posted from my personal site: Computers As Objects To Think With

Bret Victor wrote an essay in 2012 that left me desperately wishing I were a computer engineer. "Learnable Programming" was a critique of 1) Khan Academy's newly released intro course on programming, 2) the Processing language the course focused on, and 3) decades of stagnation in programming pedagogy. The essay was funny, visually stunning, provocative, and so convincing in its presentation of an effective foun
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am in agreement with Papert's theories of child learning. In particular, while reading Chapter Two ("Mathophobia: The Fear of Learning"), I had to suppress the urge to open the windows and shout, "Yes, dammit! This!" to anyone who would listen.

You see, I was one of those kids who thought math just wasn't for them. I did fine when we were learning whole new subjects like geometry or algebra for the first time. But when things devolved into endless repetition and (seemingly) mindless rote work,
Anna Anthropy
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
the irony of this book is that if seymour papert had his way, WE'D BE SEEING A LOT LESS PAPERT.

this book is about how a computer age can move away from the assembly-line model of teaching of american schools - in which typically memorization, not learning, happens - toward a learning environment in which children are actually allowed to learn and to direct their own learning. he uses as his example LOGO - the program where you type instructions to a turtle about how to move and draw a picture. h
Gleb Posobin
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I was in middle school, we had “informatics” classes. I remember that at some point we were shown the Logo environment and were tasked with drawing various objects on the screen. I don’t remember much beside that, but if you had asked me prior to reading this book what I thought about Logo, I would have said that I don’t see how it is better than e.g. python or pascal with imported module for drawing, and Turtle is no more than a gimmick added to make the language “child-friendly.” Turns ou ...more
Katie Dunn
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it

(Note that I’ve liberally repurposed some quotes from the book in my notes to self, which I then copied here. No plagiarism is intended.)

Raising an eyebrow at the description, I approached this book cautiously, unconvinced by the “algorithmic thinking” craze in education and fully unenthused by the prospect of teaching small children to program a “turtle” to draw shapes on a screen. (For some context, I was underwhelmed with my own experiences in LOGO, and was generally wary of another nonfi
MacRae Linton
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really inspiring book about learning and teaching and computers. The author, Seymour Papert, invented LOGO and wrote this book about how he thinks we think and how we can learn to think better by building knowledge cumulatively.

He describes the mind as essentially a multitude of small rules that generally add to much more than we prune, or even modify. Understanding then is mostly a processes of apply old rules to new situations, and deciding which ones are useful in thinking about this new thi
Oct 24, 2011 added it
This book provides persuasive explanations deriving what had only been intuitions for a great number of my long-held vague suspicions. Which is critical, of course, to building on these ideas: we can't compose or leap well without error correction, and an explanatory framework allows us the ready error-checking of emergent ideas which dogmatic belief does not.

Papert's epistemological ideas are radical but convincing: that derivational learning trumps the mechanical (for the reasons I describe ab
Jeff Cliff
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book concurrently to Free For All, which showed science as it was practiced in the time this book was written in. In the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, there was a disconnect that they found between the 'action' and 'research' team. Like other disconnects that people complained about in the 20th century, this begins to point to a problem at the heart of the 20th century's conception of culture within the free world. However, something new was happening, in 1980, when Paper wrote; ...more
Jan Martinek
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Simply wow. People, knowledge and learning and in a book on “recasting powerful ideas that are as important to the poet as to the engineer” in an environment that is made possible thanks to computers.

It's the possibility to tell the computer what to do, to program it, that makes the huge difference (most of its “users” don’t ever use the computer that way): you can create simple and complex worlds, watch them and learn from them in rapid feedback loops—while still being able to go the tiniest de
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book because it's considered the book to read for anyone interested in the use of computers in education. However, this book fell short of my expectations. I found the writing style somewhat difficult to read, though I did have some takeaways, all of which came from the chapter on turtle geometry.

Syntonic learning = learning that is coherent with children’s sense of themselves as people with intentions, goals, desires, likes, and dislikes

In LOGO, the [mathematical] c
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book explores different approaches for reconceptualizing learning. It shifts the focus on debugging and encourages not to fear mistakes, but recognize it as an intrinsic part of the learning process. Papert remains loyal to the Piagetian theory of cognitive development throughout the text. He pushes for learning that takes place as naturally as possible vs. through dissociated learning, which we are very accustomed to in the classroom. He argues that dissociated learning often detaches the ...more
Lawrence Linnen
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Papert created the computer language, LOGO, and discusses how the use of LOGO enhances problem solving and the learning of mathematics for children. He describes the book as "an exercise in an applied genetic epistemology expanded beyond Piaget’s cognitive emphasis to include a concern with the affective." In his studies he noticed how children who had learned to program computers could use concrete models to think about thinking and to learn about learning, enhancing their power as psychologist ...more
A Mig
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
While playing Lego Mindstorms with my kids, I wondered about the origin of that amazing project. A quick online search led me to the MIT Media Lab, and then to this book. It was not as entertaining as I thought it would and it took me several months to finish. The author uses highly technical terms coming from mathematics, psychology and philosophy, making it really a treatise on early cognitive development. It's "vintage" and at first, I was taken back by the long tutorial pieces on the LOGO pr ...more
Jeremy Keeshin
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
A good book. I decided to read it from the programming essay by bret victor. At times a bit long-winded, but motivates the problem well. I'm truly blown away about when this book was written, because it seems very ahead of its time. Many things that seemed obvious to Papert then I think are much more obvious now, but still not all are realized. It is strangely more philosophical than I would have expected.
Filip Kis
Very interesting and educational. Even though a book is about programming language LOGO it's much more than that. It is a book on how computers can be used not only to revolutionize the education, but to improve how children learn. It is quite philosophical and I believe I'll need to read it couple of times more before I get the full grasp of it.

Highly recommended for passionate about education and/or math.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are few books inspiring enough that they can define a reader's career. Mindstorms presents a deep, fundamental problem in the education system of now, and provides a grounded toolkit and beautiful vision to construct what education could become. The book's age only speaks to the timelessness of its vastly unimplemented ideas. It is remarkable how much work is left to be done in this space.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The philosophy behind the LOGO programming language as a method for teaching mathematical thought to children -- I remember doing some of these exercises in Grade 3 or 4. Look up Bret Victor to see some very interesting contemporary programming tools/UI inspired by this work.
Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it
A protégé of Piaget, Papert was one of the first to espouse the benefits of teaching though computer programming. He suggests learning through tinkering and approaching concepts in smaller "mindbites".
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting insights, but ultimately fails to move beyond the premise introduced in the first few pages. Classic example of a non-fiction book that would have been a much more effective fifteen page article.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Good ideas. Needlessly philosophically complicated writing style. I wanted something more concrete.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Educators, read this.
Cvetelin Andreev
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First-stop book for teachers in IT and Math
Seán Mchugh
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s incredible to me that this book was originally published in 1980. When I was only 10 this guy was already predicting the future of education—what we now have the gall to call 21st Century education, he described 20 years before. And here I am nearly 40 years later, reading his ideas with awe, and they are as relevant and as contemporary as anything else I’ve read in the intervening years.

The insight of this man was nothing short of astounding. I’ve believe fervently, that counter to popula
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is about how children learn "a way of thinking". Seymour Papert has a background as "a mathematician and Piagetian psychologist" (p.166). He writes about "what kinds of nurturance are needed for intellectual growth" and "what can be done to create such nurturance" (p.10). The book is about children, but the "ideas" are relevant to "how people learn at any age" (p.213).

Two "ideas run through" the book: 1) change in "patterns of intellectual development" come about through "cultural chan
Tom Hutchinson
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Some of my favourite parts:

"But we must not forget that while good teachers play the role of mutual friends who can provide introductions, the actual job of getting to know an idea or a person cannot be done by a third party." (page 137)

"The subjective experience of knowledge is more similar to the chaos and controversy of competing agents than to the certitude and orderliness of p's implying q's. The discrepancy between our experience of ourselves and our idealizations of knowledge has an effec
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book has some five star parts and some four star parts.

The five star parts are where Papert gets into the philosophy that drove the creation of LOGO - his thoughts about how learning occurs, why it's important to empower children to think about their own thinking, and his vision for a "learning society." It reads like a manifesto and goes so much past "hey, let's put computers in schools, it'll be great." He also showed me the power of thinking about environments as sources of "raw materia
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author takes a pitch at the core of MAD (math acquisition device) in the following manner.

the computers of future will be the private property of individuals, and this will gradually return to the individual the power to determine patterns of education. Education will become more of a private act, and people with good ideas, different ideas, exciting ideas will no longer be faced with a dilemma where they either have to "sell" their ideas to a conservative bureaucracy or shelve them. They
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: digital-media
seminal thoughts how computers can change the learning methods of the children. Very good points which I personally liked about comparison and provokation on the theme like aesthetic versus logic. Expressed the thoughts of mathematician like Poincare and comparison of cognitive psychology. Also comparison of conscious and unconsciousness made the reading process more fascinating. At the end representation of root 2 example and connection of pleasure with solving or arranging mathematical problem ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
New (at the time, though still underutilized I expect!) ideas in education using computers as a medium for learning in a "natural" way. Growing up computers were utilized mostly in a "take a test, but on a computer!" kind of way, or educational games -- evolutionary, but not revolutionary. Papert suggests a greater and more fundamental change in how computers are used in education.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reflect on learning. Learn about learning itself. Everyone can learn anything, in their own unique way. We need to find/discover/build a personal gateway towards ideas. Learning can only be appreciated by combining the picture of knowledge and the picture of man. Computers provide an unprecedented opportunity for individuals, cultures and societies for better learning and understanding.
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Educator Book Club: Computing, science and maths 2 32 Oct 26, 2014 04:18AM  

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32 likes · 3 comments
“In many schools today, the phrase "computer-aided instruction" means making the computer teach the child. One might say the computer is being used to program the child. In my vision, the child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.” 2 likes
“The mathophobia endemic in contemporary culture blocks many people from learning anything they recognize as ‘math,’ although they may have no trouble with mathematical knowledge they do not perceive as such.” 1 likes
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