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Over the past fifty years, psychologists and educational researchers, building on the pioneering work of Jean Piaget, have come to understand that learning is not a simple matter of information transmission. Teachers cannot simply pour information into the heads of learners; rather, learning is an active process in which people construct new understandings of the world around them through active exploration, experimentation, discussion, and reflection. In short: people don’t get ideas; they make them. As for computers, they are more than simply information machines, despite the common use of the phrase “information technology” or “IT.” Of course, computers are wonderful for transmitting and accessing information, but they are, more broadly, a new medium through which people can create and express. If we use computers simply to deliver information to students, we are missing the revolutionary potential of the new technology for transforming learning and education. Consider the following three things: computers, television, finger paint. Which of the three doesn’t belong? For most people, the answer seems obvious: “finger paint” doesn’t fit. After all, computers and televisions were both invented in the twentieth century, both involve electronic technology, and both can deliver information to large numbers of people. None of that is true for finger paint. But until we start to think of computers more like finger paint and less like television, computers will not live up to their full potential. Like finger paint (and unlike television), computers can be used for designing and creating things. In addition to accessing Web pages, people can create their own Web pages. In addition to downloading MP3 music files, people can compose their own music. In addition to playing SimCity, people can create their own simulated worlds.

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