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Battle For Access Running head: Battle For Access

Paulo Freire, Seymour Papert, and the Battle For Access Rajesh Barnabas EDTS 525h Nazareth College


Battle For Access Abstract This paper highlights the contributions Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert made to the pedagogical school loosely defined as Constructivism. The major point of the paper is to track how they arrived at their controversial prescriptions for teaching, and survey the resistance by the establishment to change. How Freire and Papert’s efforts now play out in the Open Source Movement is also briefly discussed.


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It is fitting that as I begin to type this paper, I am left out of all the WiFi umbrellas surrounding. I am in a high rise downtown in the midst of a virtual downpour of internet communities; “B8Bf”, “DENETROUTER”, “f0ab”, and eerily “allsensesfail,” – all of which pop up with little lock icons. This term paper is about the historical battle for information access. Of course there is the option “Fon-public” which I can pay for internet access by the minute, hour, or day rate. If I click on the link to find out more information about this Fon-public company, of course I need internet access to do that. In other words, and a underlying theme in the research for this paper, money both buys and denies access to technology.

There is a war taking place over the control of information. It is an age-old conflict that education theorists Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert became cartographers of during the second half of the 20th Century. Not only did these men become legends in their respective fields of work; literacy and computer science, their philosophies on learning was percussive enough to be heard beyond the walls of their specific science. With the points of political entry narrowing for lower classes, these revolutionaries put in motion systems of learning that were in direct defiance of the dominating class’s designs.

It is now the 21st C., still the dawn of the “Information Age”. The on-going clamor for information has gone cyber. A soft war is fought now over software and the revolutionary Open Source Movement is carried out by a handful of “subversive” programmers. Their

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mission is to keep tools and access to information free. The Open Source Movement is a direct descendant of the movements Freire and Papert began roughly a half century ago.

This paper will follow a simple structure representing the four parts of the definition of epistemology: a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge. In other words; the knowledge of knowledge.

Origin The individual formulates his existence and responds to the world based on his experiences. Context is important to these two progressive thinkers – Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert. For this reason, I begin with some biographical information about these two men and intermittently permit my own experiences to enter in.

First, there was the literacy teacher, pedagogy theorist and one who Peter McLaren called “the man with the gray beard” (McLaren, 2000). Paulo Friere was born a Brazilian, which begs further description. Not mulatto nor black, this placed him, based on appearance alone, in the premier league of economic class in 1921 Brazil, the year he was born. But given his family’s modest financial situation (his father died when he was 13) and the economic downturn of the global Great Depression era, young Paulo interfaced with all classes playing pick up soccer games with children from poor rural families (McLaren, 2000, p.142). So at an early age Freire was already becoming what McLaren describes as “borderless”.

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By the age of 40, Freire had achieved his doctorate with a thesis titled “Present-day Education in Brazil.” He became a Professor of History and Philosophy of Education at the School of Fine Arts in Recife. He was then invited by the Mayor of Recife to develop a literacy program for that city. He attempted new methods, which will be discussed in more detail later on in this paper. These methods were heavily influenced by his activities in the Catholic Action Movement and involved living communally among his students, which were peasants and workers. His intimacy with disadvantaged groups early in life shaped his positions politically and influenced his theories on education (McLaren, 2000, p.153). Hence, the title for his most widely read and revolutionary work: The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Childhood experience played an important part in Seymour Papert’s formulations on education as well. Papert was born in South Africa in 1929. Whereas Freire in early childhood had first scribbled text with twigs from mango trees, Papert at the age of two became enamored by automobiles. “The names of car parts made up a very substantial portion of my vocabulary,” Papert writes in his first book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Papert, 1980, p. vii). Authoring this book opened up a dialogue between Papert and an audience he had once dismissed. He writes:

There was a time when I believed, as many people do, that teachers would be the most difficult obstacle in the way of transforming School…I remember being impressed in junior high by George Bernard Shaw’s cynical aphorism: “He who can, does, he who cannot, teaches.”…As a rebellious child I saw teachers as the enemy…

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I disliked School’s coercive methods, and it was the teachers who applied the coercion. I disapproved of judgment by grading, and it was the teacher who gave the grades (Papert, 1993, p. 56).

Then as hundreds of letters began arriving in his mailbox from teachers who had read his book and wanted to relate their experiences and similar constructs of learning to the author, Papert began to disassemble the two parts; educator from system of education. And here is where Papert joins Freire in making correlations and simultaneous condemnations of a school system when it embodies that of a dictatorial structure. Papert prescribes the need for “megachange” and Freire identifies with the revolutionary socialist leaders of the time - Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Nature Both Papert and Freire are full of mischievous hope despite their dire descriptions. McLaren presents Freire’s message from Pedagogy of the Oppressed as this. Freire proclaimed: “more and more of the world’s peoples are no longer feasting at the grand banquet of capitalism; they are spending ever more of their time under the table groveling and scrounging with the dogs, searching for scraps at the feet of the ruling elite” (McLaren, 2000, p. 149).

Freire describes in general terms how invaders use technology to impose their own view of the world on their subjects:

To this end, the invaders are making increasing use of the social sciences and technology, and to some extent the physical sciences as well, to improve and refine their action. It is indispensable for the invaders to know the past and present of those invaded in order to discern the alternatives of the latter’s future and

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thereby attempt to guide the evolution of that future along lines that will favor their own interests (Freire, 1970, p. 153)

On the other hand, Freire does take note of the benefits of technical (medical) skills when used by the revolutionary Che to ingratiate himself among the peasant community of the Sierra Maestra. He quotes from Che’s diary:

As a result of daily contact with these people and their problems we became firmly convinced of the need for a complete change in the life of our people…Guerillas and peasants began to merge into a solid mass. No one can say when, in this long process, the ideas became reality and we became a part of the peasantry. As far as I am concerned, the contact with my patients in the Sierra turned a spontaneous and somewhat lyrical decision (to overthrow the Cuban government) into a more serene force, one of an entirely different value (Freire, 1970, p. 170).

Freire emphasizes Che’s “capacity to love that made possible his communion with the people.” All I would add to this interpretation is that it didn’t hurt that Che came across as a “healer” with Christ-like skills in a poor remote Cuban community.

Papert also wrestled with the dual use of technology. It could be an assistive tool to the masses and also be used to assure and administer systematically their continued dependence on the technical class.

Not since the printing press has there been so great a surge in the potential to boost technicalized learning. But there is also another side: Paradoxically, the same technology has the potential to detechnicalize learning…What is necessary is to recognize that the great issue in the future of education is whether

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technology will strengthen or undermine the technicalness of what has became the theoretical model, and to a large extent the reality, of School. My paradoxical argument is that technology can support megachange in education as far-reaching as what we have seen in medicine, but it will do this through a process directly opposite to what has driven change in modern medicine. Medicine has changed by becoming more and more technical in its nature; in education, change will come by using technical means to shuck off the technical nature of School learning (Papert, 1993, p. 55-56).

There certainly is a market in keeping medical help mystical. In the richest country in the world 40 million Americans can’t afford health care. Compare that to medical access in Cuba, where the country has such an abundance of doctors and nurses that they have become a primary exporter of medical professionals.

In 1971, (when Pedagogy of the Oppressed was first published) Freire was an admirer of the system of education and socialist government Fidel Castro had put in place, and explained away any dissatisfaction with the revolutionary leadership as this:

Due to certain historical conditions, the movement by the revolutionary leaders to the people is either horizontal – so that leaders and people form one body in contradiction to the oppressor – or it is a triangle, with the revolutionary leaders occupying the vertex of the triangle in contradiction to the oppressors and to the oppressed as well. As we have seen, the latter situation is forced on the leaders when the people have not yet achieved a critical perception of oppressive reality (Freire, 1970, p. 165).

In considering dissatisfaction, the role of the revolutionary leader, Freire suggests providing also insight into his prescription for teachers, is “to consider seriously, even as they act, the reasons for any attitude of mistrust on the part of the people, and to seek out

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true avenues of communion with them, ways of helping the people to help themselves critically perceive the reality which oppresses them” (Freire, 1970, p. 166)

Papert, who corresponded with Freire in writing his most recent book The Children Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer, would agree with the Brazilian: “Like any other social structure, School needs to be accepted by its participants.” More will be said on the process by which Freire and Papert went about inspiring participation in self-learning, suffice it to say, the process is not dictatorial. The evidence is there, that these two theorists saw the world through similar viewfinders. The following are excerpts from The Children’s Machine, where he often discusses the interrelation between economics, politics, technology and education:

What is true for individuals is even more true for nations. The competitive strength of a nation in the modern world is directly proportional to its learning capacity; that is, a combination of the learning capacities of the individuals and the institutions of the society (Papert, 1993, p. vii)

Rather than Cuba, Papert’s shining example is Japan:

Japan is the striking example in the contemporary world of a nation that has built success on the learning ability of the society – the capacity and willingness of its institutions and individuals to learn. America often complains that Japan has taken advantage of technical discoveries made in the United States…The complainers would do well to relearn from the Japanese the skill of learning, at which America was once the world’s champion (Papert, 1993, p. viii)

Schools are not adapting to world realities:

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In the wake of the startling growth of science and technology in our recent past, some areas of human activity have undergone megachange. Telecommunications, entertainment, and transportation, as well as medicine, are among them. School is a notable example of an area that has not….Why, through a period when so much human activity has been revolutionized, have we not seen comparable change in the way we help our children learn (Papert, 1993, p.2).

The rate of change in the workplace is not the only factor giving increase importance to the ability to learn. The global scale of the consequences of human actions makes it even more urgent for us to understand what we are doing. The destruction of the upper atmosphere, the AIDS crisis, the population explosion, the social breakdown in American cities and Russian villages, the plight of the African continent, and all the other issues that make daily headlines are more than desperately urgent problems. They are examples of much worse to come inf human beings cannot bring themselves, on a hitherto unprecedented scale, to learn new ways of thinking (Papert, 1993, viii).

Where Freire throws his faith in social work, communal education and activism, literacy and getting a hold of language as the instrument to politicizing one’s thoughts, Papert believes technology can play a key role in empowering the individual minority group member. Rather than traditional languages and what he calls “letteracy” – written or typed text, there is a universal technical literacy that has tremendous potential for improving the quality of life for individuals and neglected populations.

The central thesis of this book is that powerful contributions of the new technologies in the enhancement of learning is the creation of personal media capable of supporting a wide range of intellectual styles. Women and members of minority cultures have been most articulate in protesting the imposition of a single, uniform way of learning. Most have scarcely begun to use the new media to express and develop their particular voices. But it is children who have most visibly demonstrated the energizing effect of media that

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match their intellectual preferences. They have the most to gain and they have the most to give (Papert, 1993, p. ix).

The nature of these theorists’ analysis is a function of their origin. One loves gadgets so he is going to laud Japan. The other loves literacy and lyricism, so he is going to romanticize Cuba. They would be the first to admit that cultural context and experience affects the way individuals decode and conceptualize reality.

Freire’s is measurably more impatient for change than Papert. Most of his examples along with his pioneering of Logo – the programming language most widely used in schools, deal with children. For his fieldwork, Freire is most of the time working with peasants - young men whose discontent is more immediate. Papert is okay with the slow and subtle revolution that has taken place in Japan – where militants might have been just as heated/humiliated at American takeover of their country, but decided as retribution to strengthen their teaching of math and science. Freire, on the other hand is teaching the impoverished and overworked how to talk back to their oppressors. And everywhere Freire goes in Latin America he is forced to flee from marauding military governments. (McLaren, 2000, p. 144-145)

Now that the origin of Freire and Papert and the nature of the world they operated in has been presented, it is time to look at the methods they proposed.


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Both Freire and Papert were critical of top-heavy approaches to education. Freire believed that education was suffering from “narration sickness.” Students were becoming “lifeless” just listening to their teachers talk on and on about their own world and not that of the students. The process turns them into simple automatons where a certain program is downloaded into them and they are expected to follow rules and procedures to survive. Instead of the mind becoming a reflexive reactive muscle, it atrophies into a receptacle of adult programming.

Freire used the analogy of “the banking” system by which information is deposited in a child’s head like a savings account. For Freire, the monster distorting more obvious and organic settings for learning was capitalism. The race for cash created an excess amount of competitiveness, which resulted in more losers than winners.

Papert notes the uneven distribution of resources, where some schools may have “three or four times the average number of computers” (Papert, 1993, p. 38). Papert is convinced the computer “in all its various manifestations” is offering traditionally disadvantaged groups new ways to “craft alternatives.” But then he asks, “Will public education lead the way or, as in most things, will the change first enhance the lives of the children of the wealthy and powerful and only slowly and with much effort find its way into the lives of the children of the rest of us? (Papert, 1993, p. 6).

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Here in Monroe County, Paychex founder Tom Galisano provides funding to Bishop Kearney – a private Catholic high school. Though the school is located in the suburb of Irondequoit, billboards in the city of Rochester advertise that “Each Bishop Kearney Student Will Receive A Laptop.” At the governmental level, Republicans in the County Legislature block a bill that would have simply allowed research into providing free municipal WiFi for city resident (Orr, 2005, p.5E).

Despite the apparent odds, Papert and Freire offer ways to subvert the system. Freire uses the term “conscientização” meaning consciousness, which refers to “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (Freire, 1970, p. 35). Here is Freire describing his method:

If I teach Portuguese, I must teach the use of accents, subject-verb agreement, the syntax of verbs, noun case, the use of pronouns, the personal infinitive. However, as I teach Portuguese language, I must not postpone dealing with issues of language that relate to social class. I must not avoid the issue of class syntax, grammar, semantics, and spelling (McLaren, 2000, p. 156).

It’s impossible to talk of respect for students for the dignity that is in the process of coming to be, for the identities that are in the process of construction, without taking into consideration the conditions in which they are living and the importance of the knowledge derived from life experience, which they bring with them to school. I can in no way underestimate such knowledge. Or what is worse, ridicule it (McLaren, 2000, p. 154).

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Papert echoes this sentiment: “Rather than pushing children to think like adults, we might do better to remember that they are great learners and to try harder to be more like them” (Papert, 1993, p.155).

Both exhibit great admiration for their students and show a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get involved alongside their learning communities. McLaren describes Freire’s immersion tactics:

By living communally with the groups of peasants and workers, the literacy worker was able to help campesinos identify generative words according to their phonetic value, syllabic length, and social meaning and relevance to the workers. These words represented the everyday reality of the workers…Themes were then generated from these words (words such as ‘wages’ or ‘government’), which were then codified and decodified by groups of workers and teachers who participated in groups known as “cultural circles” (McLaren, 2000, p. 143).

Papert along the same lines encourages informal, concrete, “learning-in-use” models: “Learning-in-use liberates the students to learn in a personal way, and this in turn liberates teachers to offer their students something more personal and more rewarding for both sides”(Papert, 1993, p. 65).

He is a huge proponent of video games for their educational potential – figuring out the rules and strategies often involves higher levels of thinking than the student’s homework assignments. Papert also sees computers as a sort of gateway drug into the use of computers.

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Papert is forcefully clear in describing that learning must be tangible:

The construction that takes place ‘in the head’ often happens especially felicitously when it is supported by construction of a more public sort ‘in the world’…where it can be shown, discussed, examined, probed, and admired (Papert, 1993, p. 142).

The concept of highly rigorous and formal scientific method that most of us have been taught in schools is really and ideology proclaimed in books, taught in schools, and argued by philosophers, but widely ignored in the actual practice of science (Papert, 1993, p. 150).

Papert would rather err on the side of allowing “pensee sauvages” or wild thoughts: “The most important principle of mathetics may be the incitement to revolt against accepted wisdom that comes from knowing you can learn without being taught and often learn best when taught least” (Papert, p.141).

Freire, by contrast, did not subscribe to the role of teacher as a ‘guide on the side.’ His pedagogy was more “cobra-like, moving back and forth and striking quickly when the students’ condition was broken down enough so that alternative views could be presented” (McLaren, p. 151).


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Well, not everyone subscribed to the Papert and Freire pedagogy. Here is a summary of how things went down.

In Brazil, Freire’s new literacy programs were enjoying remarkable success. In the town of Angicos, 300 farmers learned to read and write in forty-five days. His program even received funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. In 1963, Freire was invited by the Brazilian President Joao Goulart to initiate a national literacy program, projected to create 24,000 cultural circles and assist two million illiterate workers. But then a CIA backed, AFL-CIO supported, military coup ousted Goulart’s democratically elected government. Freire accused of trying to turn Brazil into a “Bolshevik country” was initially imprisoned and then forced to flee to Bolivia. Where soon upon his arrival, another military coup occurred, and he was forced to leave.(McLaren, 144) Again the CIA was involved, through which $5 million was funneled to the Bolivian military to track down, one Che Guevara (McLaren, p. 124).

Freire, having “no vocation to be a hero” got out of Latin America and was appointed a Harvard University position at the Center of Educational and Developmental Studies.(McLaren, p. 144). But as Donald Macedo points out, this was more of a public relations move for the University, than an authentic incorporation of Freire’s teachings:

On May 2, 1997, Paulo Freire died of heart failure. His death unveiled the hidden ideology that informs the conservative corporate empirical focus that shapes the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which reasserted itself when the school canceled the seminar on liberation pedagogy (McLaren, p. 148).

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Papert identifies the resistance to change from a technological school level angle, but also witnesses the resistance as a national trend:

In the early 1980’s there were few microcomputers in schools, but those few were almost all in the classrooms of visionary teachers, most of whom employed them in a “progressive” spirit, cutting across School’s balkanized curriculum and impersonal rote learning. Thereafter, however, the pattern changed sharply. The initiative and the power of the field of computers were moving from teachers to school administrations – most often at the city or even at the state level…[As the number of computers grew] and became something of a status symbol, the administration moved in. From the administrator’s point of view, it made more sense to put the computers together in one room – misleadingly named “computer lab” – under the control of a specialized computer teacher…By inexorable logic the next step was to introduce a curriculum for the computer…What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation (Papert, 1993, p. 39).

Papert says this development was not by accident:

The shift from a radically subversive instrument in the classroom to a blunted conservative instrument in the computer lab came neither from a lack of knowledge nor from a lack of software. I explain it by an innate intelligence of School, which acted like any living organism in defending itself against a foreign body. It put into motion an immune reaction whose end result would be to digest and assimilate the intruder (Papert, 1993, p. 40).

As mentioned earlier, Papert is able to distill the “school” from the “teacher”:

The institution of School, with its daily lesson plans, fixed curriculum, standardized tests, and other such paraphernalia tends constantly to reduce learning to a series of technical acts and the teacher to the role of a

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technician. Of course, it never fully succeeds, for teachers resist the role of technician and bring warm, natural human relationships into their classrooms (Papert, 1993, p. 41).

Freire sees this internal struggle inside the peasant still haunted by the oppressor. His reference is again of Che’s situation:

As long as the oppressor “within” the oppressed is stronger than they themselves are, their natural fear of freedom may lead them to denounce the revolutionary leaders instead!..Guevara’s Episodes confirms these risks: not only desertions, but even betrayal of the cause (McLaren, p. 173).

For all this examination of the internal motivations of the teacher and of the peasant, what is lacking in Papert and Freire’s narrative introspection of their own. There is a zealousness to their projects, they believe in the physical construction of political movements and production of some thing that we all can see. And that is all well and exciting but what if that thing they and their students seek to produce contaminates more than it liberates.

Joseph Weizenbaum, a colleague of Papert’s at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and professor of computer science, was not sold on the manic distribution of PCs in the 1980’s.

The fad for home and school computers that is creating such a furor in the United States, as well as Great Britain and France, for example. A new human malady has been invented, just as the makers of patent medicines in the past invented illnesses such as “tired blood” in order to create a market for their products. Now it’s computer illiteracy. The future, we are told, will belong to those familiar with the computer. What

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a joke this would be if only it didn’t victimize so many innocent bystanders. It reminds me of the old encyclopedia fad: “If you buy one,” proclaimed the salesman, “your child will do better in school and succeed in life.” And parents complied. But the encyclopedia was rarely consulted and was soon retired to the shelves.

The infatuation with television, that other “educational” instrument, also comes to mind. Thanks to TV, kids didn’t make as much noise before. And from that people concluded that TV taught them good behavior” (Harper’s, March 1984 p. 22).

Weizenbaum also recognizes the potentially harmful lessons video games might teach.

With television, a kid will watch a fighter pilot shoot down a plane piloted by another human being. With video games, the child “becomes” the fighter pilot. The difference? In both cases, the child inhabits an abstract world in which actions have no consequences, in which violence is truly mindless. Video games are, if anything, more harmful than TV, because they actively teach dissociation between what one does and the consequences of one’s actions (Weizenbaum, March 1984 p. 22).

Here, I am in agreement with Weizenbaum. When I taught at Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, one of the social studies teachers brought in his X-box, and using an LCD projector and surround sound speakers, let his students play some shoot em’ up games with WWII as the setting. There was no reciprocally emotional lesson attached to that. Perhaps a slideshow could have been shown, of images of bullet-riddled bodies to make the violent act of shooting someone with a machine gun sink in. Beyond this anecdotal example, it is widely known that the US Army uses video games to train soldiers. I can only believe that this anesthetizes the act of killing for the soldier, and treats war as a game.

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This is a far cry from Papert’s stated motivations, in inventing Logo, of “stealing programming from the technologically privileged (what I would in those early days in the 1960s have called the military-industrial complex) and giving it to children (Papert, 144).”

Another development that is disturbing is the embracing by “avant garde” educators the on-line computer game Second Life, or more precisely Teen Second Life. This seems to me counter to the ideals Freire and Papert stood for, with regards to making education “real” and less “abstract.” We can’t deal with actual people and real life scenarios, so we are going to escape into fictional worlds and live second lives?

Weizenbaum is not convinced either that the computer revolution will effect social inequity or fulfill that “Robin Hood” vision Papert hoped for:

Right now, the children of the well-to-do are given liberal access to computers. People may very well attribute the success of these children to their computer experience. In reality, these children will have had many other important advantages right from the start. If you want to reduce inequality, the solution is to give the poor money, not computers.

The temptation to send in computers whenever there is a problem is great. There’s hunger in the Third World. So computerize. The schools are in trouble. So bring in computers. The introduction of the computer into any problem area, be it medicine, education, or whatever, usually creates the impression that grievous deficiencies are being corrected, that something is being done. But often its principal effect is to

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push problems even further into obscurity – to avoid confrontation with the need for fundamentally critical thinking.(Harper’s, March 1984, 23-24)

Chet Bowers is critical of Freire and Papert’s constructivist practices, specifically because of their unintended ecological and cultural effects. He believes constructivist theories undermine indigenous cultures by ignoring eco-justice issues, trampling over traditional common spaces, in their embrace of hyper-individualism, which translates into hyper-consumerism (Sher & Flinders, 2006, p. 164-65).

The development of cell phones, iPods, iTunes, MySpace, YouTube, while connecting people with a broader abstract cyber community, have undoubtedly helped to further isolate the individual from their immediate surrounding community. Again the confidant projections by Papert, that personal gadgetry would have straight benefits for educating the young, is called into question.


Papert suggests that the world is passing us by if we don’t immediately give all the children on the earth equal access to computers. But does everyone want them? And will that mean parting with our old technology. I am not so sure we should be divorcing ourselves completely from old-school traditions. They aren’t all bad.

While converting my Aunt Kumu’s audio tapes to digital format, one of the tapes was so old it wouldn’t rewind. I was perplexed for a moment, but then she reminded me that I

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could just rewind the tape manually with my finger. Because my life has been dominated by electronics and the digital world, my knee-jerk reaction was to find an electronic/digital solution. But a simple mechanical one was all that was needed. I still have something to learn from the old way of doing things. That to me is new.

I agree with Bowers’ critique, if it is actually the case that constructivism and computerism is leading to greater consumerism. Then that becomes an ecological concern, which in turn creates another round of economic and political disturbances.

Papert talks about his early fascination with cars. But now as oil prices rise, wars are fought over oil, and carbon emissions continue to exhaust the ozone, it appears the automobile has been a mixed blessing. Technology, just like revolutions, have to be continuously evaluated and adjusted. What do we throw out, what do we keep? At the end of the day, if energy sources runs out, it might be Cuba, with its ancient cars and tons more bikes that is better adjusted for the 21st Century.

So the real important questions; how to distribute resources fairly, how to save the environment, how to stop epidemics; will technology help answer those questions collectively or disperse the dialogue? Will we have more iPods than webcasts? Will we work in separate classrooms with rigid borders between subjects or will we collaborate across disciplines to reach more sustainable solutions?

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The Open Source Movement may have the answer. Open source means that the web page source, workflow, software design, music, film, medicinal drug formulas, basically any creative production, is made free to the public, for manipulation, and use. The Open Source Movement gained momentum with the growth of the Internet in the 1990’s given the ease at which people across the globe could communicate. It is a direct response to the increasingly restrictive intellectual property and copyright laws (Lohr, 2001).

Patent and copyright laws were supposed to reward adventurers and inventors for their toil, but a side effect has been corporations taking advantage of patent protection laws to build locks and monopolies over entire segments of technology markets. This has resulted in a growing digital gap between those who have the gadgets and can pay the fees to enter the digital club, and those who cannot.

Practitioners of the Open Source Movement, following in the footsteps of Freire and Papert, now fight a virtual war so that the tools for democratic expression in the future will remain free. The battle for access rages on.

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References Freire, P. (1970) . Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. Freire, P. (1998) . Teachers as cultural workers. Boulder: Westview Press. Lohr, S. (2001) . Go to. New York: Basic Books. McLaren, P. (2000) . Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the pedagogy of revolution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Orr, S. (2005, March 6). Area echo over WiFi intiative in Philly. The Democrat and Chronicle, pp. 5E. Papert, S. (1980) . Mindstorms: children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books. Papert, S. (1993) . The children’s machine: rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books. Sher, M. & Flinders, D. J. (2006) . Perspectives on pedagogy. Education Studies, 40 (2), 164-165. Weizenbaum, J. & Giesbert, F.O. (1984, March). The computer fallacy. Harper’s Magazine, pp. 22-23.

Battle for Access  

a brief history of the digital divide

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