The LEGO Foundation endows MIT Media Lab Fellowships to honour the legacy of Seymour Papert
26 January, 2017: New graduate student fellowship programme announced at Media Lab event celebrating the life and work of Seymour Papert.
Photo credit: Marie Cosines
The LEGO Foundation, a long-time supporter of the MIT Media Lab, has created a graduate-student fellowship program in honor of founding faculty member Seymour Papert, who died on July 31 last year. At a Media Lab event yesterday, celebrating Papert’s ideas and work, the LEGO Foundation announced that it is creating the LEGO Papert Fellowships, which each year will fund the work of three Media Lab graduate students who are working at the intersection of creativity, play, learning, and new technologies. The first LEGO Papert fellows will be named in September 2017.
Papert was considered one of the world’s leading learning theorists and educational-technology visionaries. His constructionist theory emphasized that children learn most effectively when they are playfully engaged in constructing meaningful projects in the world.
"Seymour showed how programming is a very creative process, similar to building with LEGO bricks. Children put commands or bricks together, reflect and evaluate, modify their creation and try again. They find endless possibilities – and whatever they make, it’s right. Seymour’s strong and timeless ideas about children, play, experimentation and learning are still today at the very core of what we do at the LEGO Group,” says Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, LEGO Group owner and member of the LEGO Foundation board. "Just as Seymour inspired us, it is important that we continue to bring his ideas forward so that others can be inspired by his work."
Papert was among the first to recognise the revolutionary potential of computers in education, believing that computers could provide children with new opportunities for exploring, experimenting, and expressing themselves. In the late 1960s, he came up with the idea for Logo, the first programming language for children. He began collaborating with the Denmark-based LEGO Company in 1985, the year the Media Lab was established. In 1989, Papert became the first LEGO Professor of Learning Research at the Media Lab. The LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics product, launched in 1998, was named in honor of his seminal 1980 book, "Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas."
"It's incredibly rare for a university-industry collaboration to thrive for 30 years," says Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of the Media Lab. “The LEGO Group-Media Lab relationship works because of our shared values and shared commitment to improving the lives of children.
The new LEGO Papert Fellowship program, funded with a $3 million endowment from the LEGO Foundation, will support the work of three Media Lab graduate students each year. The graduate-student Fellows will have regular interaction with the LEGO Foundation, LEGO Group, LEGO Education, and their partner networks. The Media Lab will select fellows from its enrolled graduate students, choosing those whose research builds upon and extends Papert’s ideas. In order to maintain strong cultural diversity, the Lab will select fellows annually from three different continents.
"In today’s fast-changing world, Seymour’s ideas about learning and education are more important and pertinent than ever before," says current LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research Mitchel Resnick, a former student and longtime collaborator of Papert’s. "The new LEGO Papert Fellowships will support the Media Lab’s continuing efforts to build on Seymour’s powerful ideas, opening new learning opportunities for children around the world."