Mobile Technology is for Kids. Right?

CTR April 2015, Page 4

A fictional conversation at MIT in Cambridge, MA

by Warren Buckleitner, Children’s Technology Review.  April 2015 Volume 23, No. 4, Issue 181. Download the page as a PDF.

It’s a sunny day in the spring of 1977 at MIT, and Alan Kay is in town to chat with Seymour Papert about his Dynabook concept. He’s wondering if he could actually make a functional unit for less than $500.

Suddenly, with a puff of smoke, Steve Jobs appears. “Gentlemen,” “And ladies,” he said, acknowledging Cynthia Solomon and Edith Ackermann with a twinkle in his eye.

“Put your Dynabook away. Woz and I have something better. It has a clear color multi-touch screen, built in Wi-Fi, all day batteries and it’s revolutionary.” He places an iPad Air 2 on the table.

Kay’s cheeks become red. “Seymour and I have been talking about what Piaget would do with this mobile technology. We want a computing environment that allows children to construct knowledge, not just consume pre-digested ideas. Can a child make things, break things and try out powerful ideas with your iPad?”

Papert and one of his young programmers, Hal Abelson, have been exploring the iPad. They’ve become transfixed by Monument Valley. “I have to say I agree with Alan,” said Papert. “This is an incredible device, and I offer my congratulations to the designers. But it is the programmers like Woz who have experienced the power from the code. So it has been their mindstorm. I’m thinking about the children who will use this. We need computing tools that will put the common child in the driver’s seat, so they can experience the power.”

Hal Abelson pipes in. “If you really want a revolution, make Xcode (Apple’s exclusive authoring language) available to every middle schooler.

“You can, snapped Jobs, ” “Xcode is free to download from my personal cloud.”

“But it’s $99.99 per year to actually publish something,” argued Abelson. This iPad won’t be able to run the open source stuff we’re thinking about making, like Logo, Scratch or MIT App Inventor. I’ll stick with Alan’s open source option, or hope that something else comes along.”

Ackermann agrees. “While Steve’s iPad has huge potential, it increases the chance that a child will spend time using powerful technology to do un-powerful things, like watching a cartoon, or slingshot a bird for hours on end.”

Jobs’ eyes flash angrily. “Face it, the SDK (Software Development Kit) behind this tablet is insanely powerful. It will enable an army of motivated designers who will make apps like Crazy Gears, Slice Fractions and Monument Valley. And we can all share the loot.”  He paused. “Did I mention we’re going public? Stock is only $.53 cents per share.”

Suddenly, without warning, more smoke filled the room. Jobs was gone and Abelson looked sheepish.

“It appears that our Dr. Who team has been fooling around with the space-time continuum again.” “But look!” said Ackermann. “He left his  iPad.”

“Hmm…” Papert said. “Imagine if it could fit in your pocket and make calls.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This page was written as an exercise, inspired by an actual conversation with Ackermann,  Solomon and Abelson. What do you think they’d say? 


Filed in: Articles, News Tags: 

Get Updates

Share This Post

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment

© 5232 Children's Technology Review. All rights reserved.