Seymour Papert - click to enlarge

MirandaLink Response to the news of his accident in Hanoi

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From Tony Fisher (UK) , forwarded from Mike Sharples (UK)

I am sure ITTE and MirandaNet colleagues will be saddened to hear this news, relayed to me by Mike Sharples.

I've just heard from Richard Noss that Seymour Papert has been hit by motorbike and suffered severe head injuries. He has undergone emergency surgery and is in a critical but stable condition. Richard will pass on further news when he hears.



From Mechelle de Craene, USA


The following was posted about Seymour Papert by Andy Carvin on the Digital Divide Network:

Kind Regards,

Andy Carvin to digitaldivide, wwwedu
show details 5:29 pm (3 hours ago)

Hi everyone,

I've just received the terrible news that education technology pioneer Seymour Papert has been gravely injured in an accident in Hanoi. He was attending a conference there and was hit by a motorbike, sustaining significant head trauma.

The boston globe has a story here:


and I've blogged about it here:


$100 Laptop - click to enlargeSeymour is one of the developers of constructionist learning theory. He helped found MIT's artificial intelligence lab, developed the LOGO programming language and inspired both the Maine laptop initiative and the $100 laptop.

Hopefully he will pull through, but he will need all the thoughts and prayers we can muster.


From Mike Sharples (UK)

Richard Noss, who is also in Hanoi for the conference visited Seymour in hospital yesterday and has reported that he underwent emergency neurosurgery and is now critical but stable.


From Drew Buddie, UK


Although I have never met Seymour Papert nor have I had the privilege of hearing him lecture, this man has been my inspiration. His was the very first name mentioned in my computer studies PGCE lectures long long ago. The news today is indeed a shock and I hope that he is able to reover from his injuries.


From Jan Lepeltak (Netherlands)

The news about Seymour Papert is quit a shock. We owe a lot.

I met him a few times. The first time in the mid 1980's when I interviewed him for a Dutch newspaper at MIT-medialab that just opened it's new building.

Papert was someone who has changed our vision on the use of IT in learning (there was no C there then). His Mndstorms is a classic now. His work and approach is taken over by Mitchel Resnick one of his former students at MIT. Also a man with great vision and idea's. Not enough known in the European circles. His book Turtles, termites a traffic jams should be read more nowedays.

Jan Lepeltak

From Ling Hu (UK, China)

Can not express how shocked i was when i read the news this morning.

I read his articles and had the opportunity to attend his workshop in London for the opening ceremony of london knowledge lab. His talk inspried my research.

Ling Hu

From Tracey Ann Sunley (UK)

I am so sad to hear this. This guy is the reason I did my PhD in Ed tech.


From Daithí Ó Murchú (Eire)

I was recently verbally attacked by members of the academy, for daring to refer to the passé terminology and vision of Mathematics as I challenged some Colleges of Education to look beyond the 'product' and envision the mathematical process.... so outdated that I would surely need a lobotomy or whatever to at least comprehend educational circles!!!... and as for Seymour Papert who dared to propose the mathematical terminology, and whom I affectionately dared to put on the same visionary podium as Plato in his definition and enculturation of Maths etc..... I was crucified.

A rare pleasure in many terms fellows as today, the vision of Seymour still inspires debate and ignorance amongst some, in a time when too often we are overly kind to our colleagues when we ought to challenge their, and our raison d'etre.

The good Lord has not yet a place in his Heaven for the unfinished genius of Papert, so we pray for a speedy recovery and a return to full health.


From Christina Preston (UK)

Very sorry to hear about the injury to this man who has had so much influence on our thinking about constructive learning and digital technologies. As someone suggested read Mindstorms if you have not already. A superbe writer and eminently readable.

I was in a debate with him in Finland about 5 years ago. With his white beard he reminded me of Father Xmas and he certainly was a genial man. However, I was shocked to find him arguing against the use of the Internet for children saying that this was just for information retrieval. He was very fierce about the waste of their time. At that time he did not know about e-communities. By the end of the debate he was beginning to accept that there were some profitable and interactive learning activities to be enjoyed on the web. Good for him that he was willing to change his mind.


From Bronwyn Stuckey (Australia)

I, like so many on this list, was inspired with a vision for ICT after reading, hearing ans seeing Pater. Today I spoke with Etienne Wenger who likewise said that when he was first studying computer science Papert.

Seymour's work convinced him there was much more to all this. We have so much to be grateful for because of him :-) Let's hope all those he touched can beam him healing vibes now.



From Mechelle de Craene (USA)

Hi everybody,

Here's an update on Papert. I hope that he pulls through. It's really sad. He has inspired so many. As a kid in the early 80's some of us kids got to use our school comptuer for mathematics. No doubt, Papert's work influence the pioneering teachers of the time to try computing in the classroom. Still today, he inspires so many teachers and he puts children first. He's also very kind. I remember when I was first researching children with special needs and computers and I had a couple questions about his books he was kind enough to answer my emails. Here I am just an ordinary teacher and he answered my questions. He is very kind indeed. I'm praying for him to pull through. He inspires to many teachers. He inspires the world. But most of all he inspires children.

Kind Regards,


From Douglas Butler (UK, but in Hanoi at the time of posting)

Greetings to all Mirandanetters, from Hanoi

As possibly the only Mirandanet Fellow attending the ICMI Study Conference on Technology in Mathematics Teaching here in Hanoi, I can pass on a few observations.

Seymour's opening keynote was totally memorable - here was the 79 year old genius we had all revered for his work with Logo, and, now I read, so much more:


We all found his main theme was inspirational - to encourage us all to reserve 10% of our work to look at the 'bigger picture'. He also brought along the first pre-production $100 laptop for us to see, and he nearly got it going for his talk! No moving parts, all flash memory, wireless internet, and driven by open source software. He was able to announce that a number of developing countries are planning to order large quantities.

That day we had all been joking about the Russian roulette of crossing the very wide road by the campus - a marked zebra which was totally ignored by the hundreds of mopeds constantly streaming by. The next day it was no joke at all, and poor Seymour was in hospital. A dreadful and unnecessary accident. This was one of the major roads in Hanoi still not controlled by any traffic lights or pedestrian signals.

The only stroke of good fortune was that the excellent French hospital was close by. I am not aware of any recent bulletins, so we all continue to pray for his recovery.

The conference is over and the hard work begins - to write it up!

We also visited one of Hanoi's three elite schools, a large and imposing institution on the shore of West Lake (built by the French). 3000 students aged 15-18. They were handsome, alert, articulate and friendly. If the future of Vietnam is in their hands we had all better take note - this is a country on the rise!



From Henry Liebling (UK)

Just returned home to find this sad e-mail. I along with so many other teachers were inspired by Seymour's writing, LOGO itself and his presence at early BLUG conferences in UK. We were given permission to put learning into the hands of the learners and learn alongside them (we didn;t know much more than they did). The windows into their and our thinking have stayed with us and urged us on. Let us hope he gets better soon.

Henry Liebling

From Roger Broadie (UK)

Hi All.

I met Seymour in 1998, in Lund, when Apple asked him to address one of the European Strategic Education Conferences that I was coordinating.

My abiding impression is of a gentle man, who only wished to provide in his keynote the things that we needed to make the conference a success.

He spoke not so much of computers but of thought and learning, and of how they could be liberated.

As with all, my thoughts are in Hanoi.



From Francis Howlett (UK)

Dear all

Along with many other MirandaNetters, I have my personal memories of hearing Seymour speak at a conference, and my personal memories of seeing kids who previously displayed no interest in anything educational becoming engrossed in Logo experiments.

I have been scouring the news feeds for an update on Seymour Papert's progress, but there is little other than that he remains in a coma.

This item has little more information:


and this one reminds us that Seymour is not the only person who has been affected by mad traffic in Hanoi - a leading physicist was killed only a few days earlier:


One of the many MirandaLink messages came from Douglas Butler, who was at the Hanoi conference and who had heard Seymour speak. Douglas also sent me a couple of pictures which wouldn't go round MirandaLink because of the file size limit on the message system, and I have published these on the front page of MirandaNet (http://www.w/) with Douglas's message. I propose to compile the other messages into a single web page at some time, but you will all understand my reluctance to publish a tribute when we are all hoping for a recovery. Which is why I put Douglas's forward-looking remarks on the site as well.

Kind Regards

From Tony Fisher (UK)

Very good idea, Francis and a highly appropriate response to the situation.

How encouraging too, to hear that Seymour Papert in his keynote was suggesting we all reserve 10% of time to consider 'the big picture' . However, having spent a considerable portion of the last few years trying to get my head round aspects of that big picture (including the relationships among globalisation, national education policy, and the day-to-day work of teachers) I wonder if 10% may be a mite conservative! Having said that I would certainly be interested in discussing such 'big picture' issues with fellow MirandaNetters, either on or off list.

Kind regards
Tony Fisher

From John Cuthell (UK)

From time to time something happens to stir MirandaLink into action. The flurry of messages about the impact of Seymour Papert's work and ideas have all identified the ways in which he changed the ways in which people thought about technology and learning. Or learning and technology.

I'd like to support Tony's suggestion that we use MirandaLink to discuss the 'Big Picture' - and now that it's nearly the end of term, we might be able to find the 10% to reflect on these issues.

Your starter, Tony, for 10.


From Steven Coombes (UK)

I fully support Tony's comments regarding the "big picture". I think we are all distracted by the individual processes of doing our job, and indeed often discouraged from wanting to understand the big picture, from which to contextualise our actions. More critiquing of our context is needed, and then we might stand a chance to improve things for the better. Sometimes bad news is a pause for positive reflection. Cheers -- Steve.

From Roger Broadie (UK)

Hi all,

I reckon the time is absolutely right to discuss 'Big Picture'.

To quote from a school I was interviewing recently re learning platforms, "Some big thing is beginning to happen".

I am coming to the view that there is an 'inflexion point' in school improvement, when a school gets serious about implementing a digital environment to complement its physical and social environment. After this point momentum develops and I am in contact with a number of schools who are saying 'change is happening faster than we expected'.

There seem also to be a number of accelerators that can then come into play,including:

- teachers finding digital approaches that save time and make life easier.

- admin staff adopting digital approaches that push teachers into using digital online approaches.

- enabling the kids to make full use of the learning platform functionality, which results in them pressurising teachers to use the online approaches the kids find more amenable.

- getting parents into the loop of online communication.

- senior staff using things like putting SEF online and making it interactive for staff to continually update it, as management tools to develop an approach to improvement that is more informed by data. And integration of MIS, behaviour management, etc etc into the learning platform is aiding this to.

And then quite quickly things like collaborative projects, often internationally, become very much easier for teachers to contemplate doing.

As does development of learning resources that can support autonomous learning.

And a sharing culture starts to develop amongst the teachers in the school, with more collaborative working.

Taking all this lot together I think the Assistant Head I was talking to was right, something big is happening - but currently only in some schools, and the gap is widening.


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