[Fwd: LOGO-L> Papert and the Internet]

Dale R. Reed (dale-reed@postoffice.worldnet.att.net)
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 07:46:38 -0800

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I was wondering what people that believe in "child-power" think about
this posting from another list. What would each of you advocate in the
decision making meetings as everyone is voting about these important
issues?

I will tell you one thing, it is ripping the public libraries apart.
They have always claimed that they did not censor and that the parents
were responsible for what the children learned in the libraries. No
more. The Internet terminals into the libraries are filtered and
everyone knows it. Dale

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Subject: LOGO-L> Papert and the Internet
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Gary Stager's post of the LA Times Papert interview caused me to reflect on
a few personal experiences. I'd really like to hear how others are groping
with these issues. If this list is not the appropriate place to discuss
them, would someone please tell me where I might go?

1. An elementary school I visit regularly has computers in the library
connected to the Internet. The librarian tells me she never lets kids
explore the net without direct supervision so as to prevent them coming into
contact with inappropriate materials. "Keeping the kids safe" is the way she
explains it.

2. A third grade teacher I know was doing a unit on mermaids. Her classroom
computer is wired to the Net. She set off with her kids to search on
Altavista for 'mermaid' and one of the first things to pop up was an
advertisement for a masturbation machine. I'm not making this up. Try it
yourself if you don't believe it. The teacher does not use the Internet anymore.

3. Another elementary school librarian was telling me about a piece of
software called Web Whacker which simulates use of the web. The teacher can
enable or disable links to various pages. Students can only access those
pages deemed appropriate. You don't even have to be on line. Kids using the
software can't tell.

4. A seventh grade teacher who has a classroom computer connected to the
Internet does not allow her children access because "they know where all the
pornography is."

5. In what is probably the fastest response from the government ever, two
boys in a high school just ten miles from where I live sent a threatening
email letter to the president at the White House one morning. That
afternoon, the Secret Service had the boys in custody.

6. In an interview with Maurice Sendak (which can be found at
http://homearts.com/depts/relat/sendakf1.htm), he says of parents reading
aloud to their children, "When my father read to me, I leaned into him so I
became part of his chest... When you not only hear a treasured story, but
also are pressed against the most important person in the world, a
connection is made that cannot be severed. If you're looking for a way to
get closer to kids, there ain't no better way than to grab 'em and read. And
if you put them in front of a computer or a TV, you are abandoning them. You
are abandoning them because they are sitting on a couch or a floor and they
may be hugging a dog, but they ain't hugging you.

7. I was telling a distant teacher, with whom I had one very successful
collaborative inter-class experience, about a study I had read which found
that setting up correspondence between college students and elementary
school children had a positive effect on the children's writing skills. This
occurred without formal instruction. All that was required was to give the
kids 20 minutes when they received mail to read, share, and respond. I asked
this teacher if we might try something similar. The teacher told me that the
school policy forbade such practices. The rule is, 'Kids don't talk to
strangers.'

8. As a result of my frequent writing to this list, I received an email from
a teacher in Argentina who asked if I would write to one of her students who
was learning English. This was the beginning of a very nice experience for
me, and one which I hope will last long into the future. I recently
discovered, however, that the teacher who first approached me was not a
teacher at all, but a student herself, one year younger than the 13 year old
with whom I am corresponding!

9. I was recently working with a fourth grade student who reads second grade
material at the frustrational level. I started her out with a marvelous
interactive fiction story on the web called The Neverending Tale. The use of
the computer was highly motivating, and the interactive quality of the story
permitted the student to choose her own pathway through the story, and even
respond, if she wished, by contributing to the story herself. I found myself
getting very frustrated, however, because I could not control where the
student went. Her path was not following my agenda! She was more intent on
clicking buttons and highlighting text than she was on actually reading
which is what I wanted her to do. I reverted to more conventional reading
material.

Email and the World Wide Web are turning the world on its head. I think
Papert understates the impact of the revolution by equating it to the Wright
Brothers. To me, it's more like the invention of the printing press, but
with immediate world wide implications. Control is a big issue, but what
does control mean anymore? Keeping kids safe is an issue, but what is safe?
Does something like Web Whacker promote safety? Is not talking to strangers
safe?

I wonder if the parents of those girls in Argentina know what their children
are doing? The parents of the boys who wrote the president certainly found
out what their children were doing. Those girls in Argentina, like the boys
who live closer to home, have, to our chagrin, embraced the revolution with
open arms. What do we need to teach them? What can we teach them if we don't
know ourselves? Responsibility? Critical thinking? Judgement? Somehow the
three R's don't seem as important as they used to be. Yet, Sendak's advice
remains crucial if we wish to maintain a semblance to the other older world
of books. Or is that, too, not going to be as important as it once was? What
about Sendak's view of physical contact? Are we abandoning children by
plopping them down to explore the World Wide Web? Is anonymous virtual
contact replacing personal physical contact? So many questions and so few
answers.

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