Re: Re: Small Monumental Buildings . . .

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Another quick quote from Neil Gershenfeld, that I like to interpret in the context of design of spatial environments.

Brian O’ Hanlon.

I vividly recall a particular trip from my childhood because it was when I invented the laptop computer. I had seen early teletype terminals; on this trip I accidently opened a book and turned on its side and realised that there was room on the lower page for a small typewriter keyboard, and on the upper page for a small display screen. I didn’t have a clue how to make such a thing, or what I would do with it, but I knew that I had to have one. I had earlier invented a new technique for untying shoes, by pulling on the ends of the laces; I was puzzled and suspicious when my parents claimed prior knowledge of my idea. It would take me many more years to discover that Alan Kay had anticipated my design for the laptop and at that time was really inventing the portable personal computer at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre.

Despite the current practice of putting the best laptops in the hands of business executives rather than children, my early desire to use a laptop is much closer to Alan’s reasons for creating one. Alan’s project was indirectly inspired by the work of the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who from the 1920s onward spent years and years studying children. He came to the conclusion that what adults see as undirected play is actually a very structured activity. Children work in a very real sense as little scientists, continually positing and testing theories for how the world works. Through their endless interactive experiments with the things around them, they learn how the physical world works, and then how the world of ideas works. The crucial implication of Piaget’s insight is that learning cannot be restricted to classroom hours, and cannot be encoded in lesson plans; it is a process that is enabled by children’s interaction with their environment.

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