Heinz Von Foerster

Heinz Von Foerster, one of the pioneers and co-founders of the field of cybernetics, died yesterday in his home on Rattlesnake Hill in Pescadero, CA. Converge magazine recently printed an interview with this wonderful man. Excerpts:


How do you assess someone else's knowledge? We generally think we have a solution to this question: We give tests. However tests don't test the students: Tests test tests. Let me say that again - tests test tests. Many students flunk tests because they are very bad "testees."

we need to completely transform the role of the teacher. The system considers the teacher to know everything and charges the teacher with filling empty brains with knowledge. This concept is idiotic. Consider the learning situation as a research situation. The teacher plays ignorant and poses a problem: How should we solve this problem? Can you help me? The students then interact with the teacher and with each other to explore, and find answers together. When students interact and help each other, astounding things happen.

Without interaction and feedback, there is no learning. I can share information, and technology and the Internet have enabled that, but understanding requires feedback. It is an essential element of cybernetics. Feedback lets you know whether what you have put out was heard as you intended. Remember, the hearer, not the speaker, determines the meaning of an utterance. You have to interact to be a good teacher. You can see in the eyes of a child whether they understand what you are saying. This feedback tells you whether you have made your point understood. It is up to the student, then, to do something

Do not think about the technology first - think about learning first.

You have to focus on the process. Dialogue is the beginning. If you listen, you come to an understanding.

Also see Ted Kahn's commemorative page at Design Worlds.


Posted by Jay Cross at October 3, 2002 08:55 AM | TrackBack
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