Exhilarated from my packing success, I boarded the airplane and buried myself in “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas,” a fascinating book by Seymour Papert about how to revolutionize children's education, from which many ideas in the One Laptop Per Child educational philosophy originated. In the book, Papert begins by recounting how playing with gears, an object with which he became fascinated in his early childhood, shaped his understanding of the world. He describes gears as an object-to-think-with, an educational tool he used as a lens to understand abstract mathematical ideas he was encountering in school. He used gears as a doorway for him to become familiar with concepts which many others around him found too hard to understand.

Fundamental fact of learning: “Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models.” [1]

The laws of learning are about “how intellectual structures grow out of one another and about how, in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.” [2]

Three aspects were important for this kind of experience to take place. First, no one else instructed him to play with gears. Secondly, he formed an emotional relationship with the gears. The gears were not simply a physical object for him- they were special. Third, Papert himself could imagine transforming his body into the gears. For example, he himself could picture his body turning as the gears do when they rotate. He calls an object with these properties a transitional object.

Papert realizes that while gears were a special object for him, different objects could serve the same or similar purpose for others. He thus turns to a computer, an object whose programmability can make it transform into many different objects. Each learner can then turn their attention to the object that speaks to her.

This is exactly what makes Sugar such a special project. Whether it is a Turtle, a TamTam, or geometrical shapes in the Physics activity, each learner can transform the machine into a lens through which the world makes sense to them, so that they can define their own future in it.

[1]: Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic, 1980. 2. Print. [2]: Ibid, 2