In search of an authentic and fun education


In a talk given by Guy Brousseau at the Public University of Navarra several years ago, he said that one of the most important challenges of compulsory education was having to teach people who may not want to learn and who are also obliged to do so.

The background of the question of this reflection greatly conditions the processes of teaching and learning, both for students and teachers in the first instance, but also for the administration, families and society itself. Can we have fun, teaching and learning, teachers and students in our daily work?

Schedule in the 80s

Already in 1690 John Locke said that complex ideas are formed in our minds by combining simple ideas. We can have a set of ideas (simple or complex) and see how they relate and, when we are able to separate this set of the rest of ideas, we get a general idea, also called abstraction.

Abelsson spoke of “primitives”, as the simplest entities of a language, of “complexification”, being the complex elements constructed from simpler ones, and of abstraction, by means of which a complex object can have a name and can be manipulated as a unit. This is the essence of programming: the program as a set of simple instructions, or primitives, that create something more complex and, finally, the application of abstraction through variables or procedures.

The programming language Logo arose in 1968, from the hand of four MIT researchers (Danny Bobrow, Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon) who were working on Artificial Intelligence. It was born with the idea that students could use it to build their own knowledge.

Until the 90s, Logo was used in the world of education, both in primary and secondary school. The result that each program gave was a drawing and there was the possibility of having an additional device, a “turtle”, that could paint the resulting program on paper.

The great novelty of this programming environment was that, in a simple way, it offered “primitives”, different ways of complexifying the programs from these “primitives” and, finally, the possibility of abstraction through variables and, above all, procedures . The teachers set out to use it in their teaching and learning processes.

Little by little, its use with multimedia evolution was disappearing. Other languages ​​and environments appeared like Hypercard or Lingo / Director, to finally arrive (nowadays) to Scratch or other dialects of Scratch like Snap , that are used in schools, clubs or even at home, with a wide community of users / all the world.

Schedule and, in addition, manipulate

At the end of the 80s, Seymour Papert introduced constructionism. At a conference for Japanese teachers in 1980, he states: “Teaching is important, but learning it is much more. And constructionism means ‘giving children things to do so they can learn by doing much better than they did before’. “

The constructionism for Papert is to provide students with the means to manipulate their own digital artifacts and learn by using them. They can be programs or they can be objects. It is the logical evolution of Logo.

At the end of the 80s, Papert and Resnick, along with other researchers from MIT, developed the Lego Mindstorms project , which marked the beginning of Educational Robotics, with the appearance at the end of the 90’s of the first commercial Lego Mindstorms robot (RCX ) “Apt for school”.

Working with educational robotics reinforces students’ formal hypothetical deductive thinking. They have to use programming languages ​​to solve problems by exploring with their robots modeled scenarios that represent the space where the solutions must run.

A primary teacher who works with educational robotics stated that “it is a motivating tool that gets more attention from the students and helps to acquire or consolidate different contents, both in mathematics and in other areas that we teach in the classroom: interpretation of instructional texts, use of graphic resources in written communication, planning and realization of projects, implementation of strategies to learn to learn … “.

Schedule, manipulate and manufacture

Arduino arises in 2005 and is a programmable free hardware electronic platform that allows to design digital artifacts with sensors and actuators. It is the step that the maker movementneeded to be able to create, invent, build, programmable objects by hand, in a creative and fun way, and at reasonable prices.

3D printing has favored this maker culture , a term coined by Dale Dougherty , and the web is full of projects that are freely shared and that anyone can replicate, expand or modify to share again.

This technology allows the manufacture of the parts necessary for the “inventions” at a very reasonable price. And the design of a piece for 3D printing entails a significant creative and abstraction capacity, since formal languages ​​are used again and it is necessary to be able to relate the use of those languages ​​with the product that one wants in 3D space.

These makers need places where any creator can find the necessary resources for their designs and realizations and also meet other makers to share ideas and projects. The fab labsare an example of local spaces that favor spaces and digital manufacturing tools for makers . Even the new libraries are incorporating them into their facilities .

And at school …

If from the school, with the collaboration of families, the Administration and society, the three successes of each of these “milestones” (constructivism or the capacity for abstraction that arose with LOGO, constructionism or the possibility of manipulating our own artifacts that arose with LEGO, and the possibility of doing anything ourselves or the essence of the MAKER movement), the result could be the way to get an education in accordance with these movements.

The objective would be to generate authentic and fun learning, with an active participation, in real and live environments. Interdisciplinary learning and suitable for use both in school and in the leisure of young people, with gratifying results, using cutting-edge technologies of the latest generation and with costs that do not represent a barrier in a large part of the population.

Johan Cruyff said : “We showed the world that you can have a lot of fun as a footballer, that you can laugh and have a great time. I represent an era that made it clear that nice football is fun and that, in addition, triumphs are won. ” The same thing we can do at school.

Author Bio: Alfredo Pina Calafi is Proesor titular of University, area of ​​Languages ​​and Computer Systems at the Public University of Navarre