Looking to the Future


Download article (.pdf) | By OECD/CERI Secretariat | Published in Learning to Change: ICT in Schools, 2001


So to round this up, what is the problem with school as we have moved into the twenty-first century? Society is changing with a rapidity that accelerates, but school has changed hardly at all… This in turn produces a sense among children all over the world that school is not seen as a bridge to the future, but as a bond to the past.

—Dr. Seymour Papert


The main input to the “ICT and Education” forum held at OECD 2 April 2001 was a keynote address from Professor Seymour Papert, of the Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States. In his speech, Papert drew attention to the need for radical changes in education, if the full potential of ICT is to be exploited. The text of his address is reproduced in the article.


Concerning the current educational system, he states, “[C]ontemporary neuro-biologists who are studying the brain and many people who have looked at the problem of learning, find our system at fault. They have recommended a method of learning based more on experience, more on doing projects and less on getting facts and knowing the right answer.”


Papert gives examples of hypothetical societies in his address to emphasise the importance of expansive ICT use in schools. Opening today’s students to ICT opportunities will revolutionise future societies. It is not enough, he stresses, to have one or six computers per classroom; each student must make use of the computer in classroom learning. 


ICT can not only improve learning; it can also break down teacher and student stereotypes and boost self-esteem. He cites the example of a project with which he has worked of “a little computer… that can be programmed by a child and built into a model.” He saw some little girls “construct something they could dance with… It made a real difference to the way in which some people learned and how their teachers saw them, because no one who has seen this any longer believes that girls are less attracted to technological fields or less capable of working in them.”


Papert’s address requests schools use technology as an integral part of the learning process so that they may be updated from the industrial to the current technological society. 


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