by Carol Sperry
Only rarely does some exceptional event lead people to reorganize their intellectual self-image in such a way as to open up new perspectives on what is learnable. -- Seymour Papert
I AM FAIRLY certain that Seymour Papert had no idea when he wrote the above sentence that the "exceptional event" for many people, for many teachers, would be the appearance of his 1980 book Mindstorms. I was one of those teachers, and it is difficult to express the path of my subsequent evolution without sounding a bit melodramatic. I am quite sure, however, that many teachers have had similar experiences. I know this is true because in the past twelve years I have met and worked with teachers from all over the world -- throughout the United States, Lithuania, Russia, Costa Rica, Japan -- who have been influenced profoundly by Mindstorms.
In the spring of 1981, I signed up for a computer workshop at the New York Academy of Sciences. By the time the August. workshop was to begin, I could not imagine why I had done such a foolish thing. I felt like a walking stereotype -- math, science, and technology phobic, as well as confused by the many contradictions found in the bureaucratic structure of the educational system. The motivating force for my participation in the workshop was my fifth- and sixth-grade students and their interest in computers. Just as I occasionally tuned into their favorite television programs, I wanted to know more about this new great passion. But I felt anxious about my own capabilities and dis