Plenary VIII:
Implications for the future

Plenary VIII:
Implications for the future

Sunday, November 23, 2003
11:15 am - 12:00 pm

Presenter:
Alan Kay, President, Viewpoints Research Institute and Hewlett-Packard Fellow

Viewpoints Research is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving both general education and understanding of complex systems, especially through the use of new inventions in interactive constructive computing.

Viewpoints wants to help children develop real fluency in many important areas of learning, including thinking, math and science. Each of these subjects are outside “natural learning” (such as learning to walk and talk). Quite a bit of time and energy needs to be spent to gain an above-threshold fluency. There are interesting similarities to art, music, and sports, each of which also requires quite a bit of time and energy to gain fluency. These arts could be termed “hard fun.” Mathematicians and scientists know they are doing art and hard fun as well. “Thinking” is a higher category than “just” math, science, and the arts. It represents a synthesis of intuitive and analytical approaches to understanding the world and dealing with it.

Montesorri observed that children are driven by nature to learn the world around them by play. Most adult activities in the 21st century are quite opaque to this natural process but can be made accessible through specially designed environments and toys. It is these specially designed environments for many modern ideas, including the powerful ideas of math and science, in which we are mainly interested.

There are no multiple choice tests for art, music, and sports. Nor are there any that really assess mathematics, science and thinking learning and developing abilities. None of them are primarily about memorization. All of these arts are best assessed by observing the artists learning their craft and practicing their art over a period of months and years.