#CSForAll Tribute to Seymour Papert

At the White House on September 14th, I gave a tribute to Dr. Seymour Papert at the first-ever Summit on Computer Science for All, marking progress on President Obama’s call to action, and announcing new commitments.

The event was live streamed on the the White House website, and the tribute is available to view below.


Hi I’m Joy, a poet of code on a mission to show compassion through computation and the founder of Code4Rights.

Today it is my privilege to Honor Seymour Papert, a visionary thinker and beloved educator, who recently passed.

Seymour’s powerful ideas continue to shape the way we view children, computers, and learning. Seymour introduced the idea of constructionism — the theory that as we build things in the world, we build knowledge in our minds.

Seymour co-created LOGO, the first programming language for children, at a time when computers were assumed to be for experts.

Seymour championed the idea of hard fun — learning doesn’t have to be easy, and kids are willing to work hard when engaged in projects of their own creation.

When Seymour envisioned schools as places infused with joy fueled by building projects, he was speaking of learners like me and educators like Jill Connell — my high school computer science teacher who embodies the Ethos of #CSForAll.

In a hot classroom -

In Memphis, Tennessee -

She taught 3 classes -

At the same time -

Yes, in one room.

You see, Jill prioritized equity over expedience.

She made sure Andres pursuing CS Foundations, Nabil exploring Data Structures,and This One [gestures to self] taking AP Computer Science along with our classmates were fully equipped to excel.

She nourished our creativity when we spent lunch time working on personal robots — hard fun.

These lego Mindstorms robots were influenced by Seymour’s pivotal book Mindstorms.

Jill was the kind of educator described in Mindstorms who created conditions for invention by providing multiple pathways for exploration.

Now, I am the same age as Jill when she took on the one-room code school. My work continues her example and Seymour’s tradition of constructing multiple and diverse pathways for CS education. At the MIT Media Lab, I invite kids from organizations like Black Girls Code to work on impact apps focused on social justice. His legacy of inclusion continues.

We can make sure his ideas live on by making sure that #CSForAll lives up to his vision, enabling all young people, from all backgrounds, to experience the joy and excitement of expressing themselves creatively with new technologies.

We cannot think about #CSForAll without thinking about thinking about Seymour Papert.

Joy Buolamwini is a poet of code on a mission to show compassion through computation. She writes about incoding and creates learning experiences to develop social impact technology. Find her on twitter @jovialjoy and @ajlunited connect on LinkedIn or Facebook.