Hackers, Computers, and Cooperation: A Critical History of Logo and Constructionist Learning

Colloquium | October 15 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 1215 Berkeley Way West

 Morgan Ames, School of Information and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, UC Berkeley

 Graduate School of Education

Tracing the tumultuous history of the learning theory "constructionism" and the Logo programming language, Morgan Ames discusses the origins of some present-day assumptions regarding the universal appeal of learning to program computers and the individualistic process of doing so that are behind many more recent educational technology initiatives including Scratch, FabLabs, the Hour of Code, and One Laptop per Child. Drawing on material from her forthcoming book, Dr. Ames will unwind the puzzle of why constructionism has remained so 'charismatic' to the technology world despite evidence against many of its central tenets. The answer to this puzzle has to do with the learning theory's close parallels with MIT's hacker culture - especially their shared social imaginaries of the 'technically precocious boy' rebelling against a stultifying 'school-as-factory.' These imaginaries are important not only in these worlds but across American culture more broadly. This talk exposes how projects that rely on these imaginaries tend to develop deeply atomized and even oppositional notions of collaboration and learning, neglecting the social and institutional worlds in which learning is embedded. This limits these projects' effectiveness as well as their influence in the institutions they seek to reform or replace.