PCT foundations for educating kids

[From Chris Cherpas (960226.1842 PT)]
   [re: > Bill Powers (960225) --
       [re: re: >> Chris Cherpas (960222.1042 PT) --]

I want to teach
kids epistemology starting in kindergarten (what does it mean to
know? how do I know? how can I represent knowledge?) and would like
to start with learning about perceptions and how we control them
via actions (aka PCT).


Are you sure that kindergarteners are capable of learning these things?

I don't know, but my company's software is being run daily by over
1.5 million students and we get data directly from their systems;
that's the best way I know of to find out what kids can and can't
learn. It could very well be that kids don't understand a lot of
what we may consider "high level" just because we never had enough
respect for them and the proper tools.


I think that the most important thing may be to teach the principles
to the teachers, to encourage them to take attitudes more consistent
with PCT. It doesn't do much good to tell
children about being self-organizing control systems when the people
doing the telling are coercive, manipulative, and generally determined
to control the children. If I have any advice, it's to start by
the teachers -- and the administrators, and the parents, and everybody
else connected with the school that you can get hold of. That's what
Ed Ford, in his genius, does.

Ed's genius aside, I don't interact with the admins, teachers, and
parents. This is strictly an on-line system with which the students
interact directly. My interest is in adult-proofing a curriculum. In
general, I think adults are too far down the path to change much. In
particular, I don't expect the people who already run the educational
system to help a whole lot -- they're the cause of the problem not the
solution}8^). We've got to get these kids in the driver's seat,
get them _controlling_ like crazy and loving it; _they'll_ change the
culture, not us old farts. Seymour Papert is on record for something
similar, but he didn't get down deep enough into the basics: what
else? ...the control of perceptions -- including our perceptions about
controlling perceptions; that's where the real, untapped power,
and Powers, may reside (I'd really like anybody's comments on
students' meta-controlling).


Perhaps you can do something with this suggestion: organize the whole
teaching program around teaching the kids what to perceive rather than
what to do.

Yes! That's precisely how I'm thinking about it. Related approaches
are "concept analysis" (e.g., Engelmann) or "meaningful" (e.g., Petrie,
a PCT advocate).


You start at the level where controlling perceptions is easy
and natural, like moving a hand. Then you use those controlled
perceptions as a way of controlling other perceptions. If the goal is
always clear, and not too advanced, the details of the means
will almost
develop themselves. Since this is how we learn anyway, a teaching
program that uses the same method ought to work better than one that

That's sounds right to me too. Remember, this is all
computer-based, so lots of exercises can be something like
the PCT demos. A big question I'm trying to resolve now is how far
to go with the PCT hierarchy (e.g., Robertson & Powers, 1990). Should
I actually try starting with controlling intensity (necessarily in
some sensory modality, though), then move gradually up through
sensation, configuration, etc.?

But more my immediate concern is this:
A big commitment for me would be to use your hierarchy for literally
defining the primitives of the (on-line) ontology I am building (using
semantic-net-like structures). In other words, I am _already_
engineering a "school knowledge ontology" to serve as a stable basis
from which to generate courses, tutorials, simulations, exercises,
etc., using a multitude of pedagogical approaches. I've done a lot
of AI work (9 years software/knowledge engineer before this job),
but never considered using PCT concepts as primitives for my
representations (hey, never heard of PCT then);-&.


    ... the first content area I want this "philosophy for kids"
    foundation to serve is the area of mathematics, specifically, the
    areas of probability, data analysis/statistics, and measurement.


It's my job. Our software already teaches probability, data
analysis/statistics, and measurement to K-8 kids, and has been for
over 25 years (the company was started by Patrick Suppes in 1967).
I'm just looking for ways of improving it.


My concern here is that you may be emphasizing a particular adult
interest of your own without determining first whether this is what the
children need (or want, or are able) to know.

Again, I think you may not realize that I'm not starting from scratch.
The curriculum already teaches lots of math, some science, lots of
reading/language arts, etc. I'm not choosing to start with math for
any deep reasons; it just so happens that I'm working on math right
now and want to apply PCT.


I am leery of "one-size-fits-all" education.

Me too. That's why I'm in the business of developing _individualized_
instruction via computers instead of lock-stepped classroom work
(which I believe should be reserved for the learning that is
specifically better done in a group setting).


I think it would be more productive to ask what capacities a child
would need in order to understand the elements of mathematics as well
as other intellectual pursuits, and focus on these more generally
useful skills.

Exactly. That's why I want to spend some time on knowledge which is
really foundational (i.e., "generative"). Again, the math content
is just what I've got on my plate now, but I'm trying to take a step
back and spend some time analyzing what IS, IN FACT, GENERAL (usually
considered the subject of philosophy).


After all, some of the children you are
teaching will be better at music or art or sports or car repair than at
statistics and data analysis. Trying to force them all into one mold
doesn't take individual differences into account. I don't think this
works. What you know about these subjects was built on a base of much
simpler skills and concepts, not to mention your own interests; if you
try to start right in by teaching the high-level perceptions without
first building a base of lower-level perceptions, you will fall into
the same error that we saw in the New Math.

I think I've covered this ground here already, but just to repeat:
The data analysis, etc., is already being taught in the computer-based
curriculum; the question that I'm struggling with is what is the best
_foundation_ on which to build these concepts/skills? I want to
get the students controlling the perceptions "asap" that will help them
learn to control all other perceptions more easily, more quickly,
more completely, etc. The control and individualization which the
computer can provide makes this a golden opportunity to get the
_real_ basics, not the right-wing concepts of basics: bible, babble,
and obedience (sorry, if I'm offending right-wingers; I just mean
that there are basics more basic than what is traditionally called

It's been a while now since Venezuala launched an educational program
to "increase the intelligence" of its citizens with an experimental
curriculum (unfortunately not individualized) -- for some details, see
Perkins' 1995 book, "Outsmarting IQ." The initial results were (1978+)
promising but it just wasn't carried though. Besides working backwards
from IQ tests (};-&), the curriculum emphasized teaching students to
analyze objects, events, etc. (perceptions) in terms of constituent
"dimensions" (controlled variables) among other goodies. With PCT and
the computer, we can do better.

Best regards,