I am quite an introvert, and this book raised the value I put on connecting with other people, not only because it anecdotally shows how helpful such I am quite an introvert, and this book raised the value I put on connecting with other people, not only because it anecdotally shows how helpful such connections may be, but mainly because it makes interactions and relationships seem easier and more fun by giving loads of advice on how to run them. I hope it will stick and will indeed push me to be more open to people around me....more
When I first read about “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series, I couldn’t understand how it was possible to write a biography in five volumes that woulWhen I first read about “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series, I couldn’t understand how it was possible to write a biography in five volumes that wouldn’t bore a reader like me to death. Now, after finishing the first book of the series, I am looking forward to reading the next ones and think that five volumes may be a perfectly reasonable size for such a biography.
The amount of research that must have gone into “The Path to Power” is mind-boggling, but it would have been for naught had it been just dumped on the pages. Thanks to the Caro’s writing style, this book is a pleasure to read, at no point does all the information overwhelm you and every bit of it seems to be in its right place. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me how much I would enjoy reading dozens of pages on central Texas’ geological features and their effects on the early dwellers of this region, but here we are. Fabulous book!...more
Incredibly thought-provoking and thus enjoyable. Fun to spot the sprouts of Alexander's later works here.Incredibly thought-provoking and thus enjoyable. Fun to spot the sprouts of Alexander's later works here....more
By the end of the book I realized that what makes it great are not the many (many) particular insights that Holt dishes out or his clear writing styleBy the end of the book I realized that what makes it great are not the many (many) particular insights that Holt dishes out or his clear writing style that's for some reason associated with 1960s in my mind, but the fact that he loves children and cares about them: it shines through the whole book, overpowers his desire to accept that he is a great teacher instead of digging deeper and figuring out whether children have actually learned anything or just pretended to (included are lots of examples of children guessing a teacher's answer and the teacher is happy to believe them), whether whatever he taught changed a student's world model or was forgotten after the following test (pre-announced, of course, could you imagine giving an unexpected test on the whole college class so far: the prof would be eaten alive; what does it say about education?).
Come for the insights, stay for the excellent display of "caring so much that you can't fool yourself"....more
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 drawiWhen 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 out, I did not get the ideas behind Turtle and Logo at all.
This book is not about Logo, though. Logo is just a product of the ideas in it, and a useful example to showcase them. “Mindstorms” is about how people learn and think, and what opportunities computers create for helping children with that. Of course, when you hear about computers used for teaching anything besides programming, probably the first image that pops into your mind is the one you would see in many classrooms: using computers to plot graphs of functions so as not to waste time drawing them by hand, using them for calculations, showing presentations or some visualizations, or using them to create documents instead of writing them by hand. Do you notice a thing in common among these examples? They all are not really adding anything fundamentally new—just taking a thing that we were doing before we had computers and using computers to do the same thing faster with a more appealing output. Better ink and paper, more powerful calculator, a slightly more interactive TV, a typewriter on steroids. This does not seem groundbreaking, and you certainly can’t get a radically better education out of that—these all are quantitative changes, not qualitative ones.
It took years before designers of automobiles accepted the idea that they were cars, not “horseless carriages,” and the precursors of modern motion pictures were plays acted as if before a live audience but actually in front of a camera.
Papert shows a way to use computers for a qualitative difference in education: to let children learn about procedural thinking. Surprisingly, until fifth or sixth grade, given a set of beads of different colors children can’t construct a list of all “families” (unordered pairs) of these colors. This requires a systematic way of thinking, and children do not have any examples of that in their environments because our culture is not reach in necessary examples.
There is no word for “nested loops” and no word for double-counting bug. Indeed, there are no words for the powerful ideas computerists refer to as “bug” and “debugging.”
Computer allows us to create the only environment which can specifically teach children to think in procedures. Using computers, we could stop hoping that children would accidentally pick the procedural style of thinking up from their environments. And having this style of thinking in their toolbox could help them learn other skills more efficiently. Papert gives an example of a kid who learned to walk on stilts faster than his friend thanks to thinking in procedures and understanding the idea of debugging—he isolated and corrected the part he was doing wrong, instead of trying the same thing over and over again until he accidentally got the right movements like his friend did.
Turns out, Logo’s ultimate goal is not to teach children programming. Its goal is to teach children to think in an important new way, give them a new lens through which to look at the world, themselves, and how they learn. And Turtle itself is no gimmick—it is the main point of contact with the child, an anthropomorphizable object they can pretend to be to see where the program goes wrong, which also at the same time teaches them “powerful” geometric ideas. How do you draw a circle when you can only go forward and turn in place? Pretend to be Turtle yourself and find out how you can walk in a circle, then tell Turtle to do the same.
“Mindstorms” is 39 years old. It makes you wonder how different schools would have been today had its ideas been heard. Computers in various forms are in every home, but mathophobia Papert writes about still permeates our culture thanks to the fact that math is still being taught like it was a century ago, “debugging” is still a specialized word without synonyms, and from the outside it does not look like the situation is changing. Papert has a separate chapter on what would be required for his ideas to be implemented, and he says that the only possible source of change is the culture itself. And it looks like our culture has not been changed much by computers in the domain of education. Is it because there has not been a critical mass of parents that would be interested in such changes? Or because too few people realize that these changes are possible? Many (most?) cultural changes in the last decade happened because of tech startups: is it possible to create a viral educational app that could change our attitude towards education, math, programming? It seems to be a useful question to ponder. How could we help spread these ideas and improve education?
This is a fascinating book. It made me think about thinking, learning, psychology, programming languages, math, and I learned something new about each of these topics and their interplay between each other, and you probably will too. You should definitely read it even if you are interested in just one of these topics, and even if you are afraid of math or programming yourself. I am sure you will have much to think about afterwards....more
Concise, easy and fun to read, much better than any summary of Boyd's ideas you will find on the web. The advice in the book seems useful and explanatConcise, easy and fun to read, much better than any summary of Boyd's ideas you will find on the web. The advice in the book seems useful and explanations from both warfare and business perspectives help understand the core ideas better. And it has a great list of references: this is not the book I would have expected to cite "A New Kind Of Science" (which came out only 2 years before this book by the way!)....more
Obviously, “Means of Ascent” will be compared with “Path to Power”. But the fact that this volume pales in comparison with the first one does not meanObviously, “Means of Ascent” will be compared with “Path to Power”. But the fact that this volume pales in comparison with the first one does not mean that “Means of Ascent” is a bad book, or even a simply good book, it only further highlights how great the first volume is. The main reason that “Means of Ascent” compares poorly is simply because during this eight-year period of Lyndon Johnson’s life there were much fewer interesting events to speak of than during his first 33, though this does not make this period any less important. Caro’s writing is as impeccable and joyous to read as in “Path to Power”, his research is as thorough and every bit as relevant as before.
In the last third of the book, in its main part—the stealing of 1948 Texas democratic primary—Caro grabs your attention and doesn’t let you go until the end, and you root for Johnson’s opponent, idealistic conservative Coke Stevenson, and hope with all your heart that he might win, might overcome Johnson’s ugly and shameless tricks, even though you of course know the outcome the whole time. A sad book—these were dark eight years of Lyndon Johnson’s life, during which he didn’t do almost anything positive—but, as Caro himself writes in the introduction, these eight years are crucial for understanding Lyndon Johnson and to what lengths this man was willing to go to achieve his goals....more
I don't know any economics, but I enjoyed this book a lot (and I think understood most of it) and want to learn macroeconomics now. The writing is greI don't know any economics, but I enjoyed this book a lot (and I think understood most of it) and want to learn macroeconomics now. The writing is great, I was laughing every couple pages....more