Honoring Seymour Papert and Helping the World, Too
Some ideas and the efforts resulting from them deserve encouragement and, when possible, tangible support. But all too often even effective, efficient, and good-hearted organizations receive little or no recognition and sensible funding. Without a major family-brand name obscurity, ineffectiveness, and, ultimately, dissolution typically result. With that in mind, I’m noting two organizations with good intentions and viable approaches to helping some kids and their mentors make the world a little better.
On Wednesday, December 4, One Planet Education Network (OPEN) and Small Solutions, Big Ideas (SSBI) hosted an event honoring education and classroom technology pioneer Seymour Papert. Experts and innovators shared their experience and insight about current developments in educational gaming and related products and approaches.
Sandra Thaxter, Executive Director of SSBI, and OPEN Executive Director George Newman opened the night’s presentations, discussions, and demonstrations. SSBI provides computing technology that enables better communication and children’s education in Africa. OPEN has established a system of educational games and media approaches that facilitate a broad, hands-on education about such problems as poaching of endangered species, environmental degradation, and hurdles to effect and enforce progressive, humane policy change.
Constructionist and former MIT Professor Seymour Papert was honored for his prescience and contributions to children’s education, including his promotion of technology use in classrooms. Speakers included Mitch Resnick of the MIT Media Lab; artificial intelligence and education expert Cynthia Solomon; Brian Silverman; publisher and author Meredith Hamilton of BumpBump Books; Artemis Papert; and Gary Stager.
The night’s event underscored cooperative problem solving: The technology available and provided by such non-profits as SSBI helps OPEN connect students worldwide, students who not only learn about math, science, and basic humanities, but also about the world and its ways in politics and business and the role of cultural difference in both causing problems and finding solutions to them.
Inspired by Papert’s thought and work, the organizations promote collaborative projects to improve educational, environmental, and human rights conditions, particularly by developing effective education systems in the world’s deeply impoverished areas. SSBI’s unique access to emerging market economies and its partners for development and field use of products and programs enables it to both provide students with necessary items and teach them skills that will enable them to work in the global milieu even if they continue to address global conservation or human rights challenges. OPEN’s series of educational programs encourages students to learn of real-world challenges, communicate and partner with others wherever they may be, and pragmatically address the problems. OPEN’s boots on the ground, cross-cultural games-based learning is exemplified by New York City elementary schoolteacher Johnny Ronelus, whose pupils are working with others in Africa to end poaching and save the Black Rhino from extinction. OPEN is currently in the second phase of Kids Worldwide Unite: Save the Black Rhino and is preparing a major undertaking to further education about and address the depletion and degradation of the ocean environment.