Constructionism, Logo, and Seymour Papert

Seymour Papert - Logo

In the mid 1960s Seymour Papert, a mathematician who had been working with Piaget in Geneva, came to the United States where he co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky. Papert worked with the team from Bolt, Beranek and Newman, led by Wallace Feurzeig that created the first version of Logo in 1967.

The Logo Foundation

'Logo is the name for a philosophy of education and a continually evolving family of programming languages that aid in its realization.' Harold Abelson - Apple Logo, 1982. This philosophy is based on Constructivism (a learning theory). The Logo Programming Language, a dialect of Lisp, was designed as a tool for learning. Its features - modularity, extensibility, interactivity, and flexibility follow from this goal. It is used to develop simulations, and to create multimedia presentations. Logo is designed to have a "low threshold and no ceiling": It is accessible to novices, including young children, and also supports complex explorations and sophisticated projects by experienced users. The most popular Logo environments have involved the Turtle, originally a robotic creature that sat on the floor and could be directed to move around by typing commands at the computer. Soon the Turtle migrated to the computer graphics screen where it is used to draw shapes, designs, and pictures.

Further Information

Alan Kay and Seymour Papert envisioned in the 1960's the computer's role as a tool for the mind an 'idea processor'. They have worked at bringing computers into this role for adults and children through Croquet, and several of Croquet's predecessors like the Logo language and environment by Papert, and Squeak, the open source Smalltalk language and environment, by Kay. Squeak and Croquet have developed from the early work in Smalltalk and provided a tool for end user programming, collaboration, visualisation, and simulation.


The work of Seymour Papert demonstrates the approach of Constructionism (Papert and Harel, 1991) (Resnick, 1996). The Constructionism idea is based on the constructivist theories of Piaget. To this theory constructionism "adds the idea that people construct new knowledge with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally-meaningful products" (Resnick, 1996). Resnick goes on to say "This vision puts construction (not information) at the center of the analysis. It views computer networks not as a channel for information distribution, but primarily as a new medium for construction, providing new ways for students to learn through construction activities by embedding the activities within a community." Resnick explains the theory known as Distributed Constructionism. This involves a community gaining an understanding of a problem by interacting with a knowledge building community, the problem to be modelled, and tools to model the problem, and build a solution. An example that Resnick cites is the work of Kimberly (1995) where participants became part of the simulation they constructed in order to understand economic models. The idea of constructionism is related to end user programming, and ontology modelling, and building. Resnick explains his use of interactive web based knowledge building communities to use and test the theory.
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