Marvin Minsky & Gary Stager

One great joy of my life has been getting to know and work with so many of my heroes/sheroes. Even greater satisfaction comes from sharing those people with my fellow educators, via books, presentations, and the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute.

Over dinner thirty years ago, one of my mentors, Dan Watt dropped some wisdom on me when he said, “writing is hard.” Writing is hard. I find sitting down to write is even harder. The reward of writing is your work being read by others, especially when readers report thinking differently as a result. Even the “hate mail” I received as a magazine columnist and editor made the agony of writing worthwhile.

While proud of many things I have written, three pieces stand out as enormous honors. Being asked by the science journal of record, Nature, to author the obituary of my friend and mentor, Dr. Seymour Papert, was a difficult challenge and great privilege. Learning later that the great Alan Kay recommended me for the assignment took my breath away. I will remain forever grateful for his confidence in my ability to eulogize our mutual friend in such an august journal.

On two other occasions, I have been invited to contribute to books by my heroes. A few years ago, the prolific progressive author and educator, Herb Kohl, asked me to write a response piece to the great musician, David Amram, for the book, The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education. My fellow contributors include Bill T. Jones, Bill Ayers, Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lisa Delpit, Maxine Greene, and others. Many readers may be unaware of my music studies and the fact that my career began as a public school arts advocate. Sharing anything, let alone a book, with the remarkable Herbert Kohl remains a source of enormous pride. This is an important book that should receive greater attention.

I first met Artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, in the late 1980s. I cannot say that I spent a great deal of time with him over the subsequent decades, but anyone who ever encountered Marvin can testify to the impact that I had on them, perhaps down to the molecular level. The fact that Marvin agreed to spend time leading a fireside chat with any interested educator at the first eight Constructing Modern Knowledge institutes continues to blow my mind. I will forever cherish his wit, wisdom, friendship, and generosity.

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education is a brand new book based on essays by Dr. Marvin Minsky, one of the great scientists, inventors, and intellectuals of the past century. Our mutual friend, Dr. Cynthia Solomon, a hugely important figure in her own right, edited a text in which important essays by Minsky were assembled and responded to by an amazing collection of Marvin’s friends. One of Marvin’s proteges, Xiao Xiao, illustrated the book. The contributors to this book include:

  • Co-inventor of the Logo programming language, Cynthia Solomon
  • Father of the personal computer, Alan Kay
  • Legendary computer science professor, author, and pioneer of the Open Courseware movement, Hal Abelson
  • Former Director the MIT Media Laboratory, Walter Bender
  • Artificial intelligence pioneer and MIT professor, Patrick Henry Winston
  • Software engineer, inventor, and executive, Brian Silverman
  • Software engineer, Mike Travers
  • Haptics engineer and scientist, Margaret Minsky
  • Me

I can’t speak for my contribution, but am confident that Inventive Minds will stimulate a great deal of thought and dialogue among you and your colleagues. Buy the book and enjoy some great summer reading!


Veteran educator Dr. Gary Stager is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Learn more about Gary here.

There is simply no better event or opportunity for educators to reinvent themselves this year!

Marvin Minsky speaks with CMK 2008

In addition to learning with one of the great filmmakers of our time, the inventor of wearable computing construction kits, the godmother of project-based learning, the editor of Make Magazine and Super Awesome Sylvia, the remarkable Constructing Modern Knowledge 2012 faculty supports your learning adventures over four glorious days July 9-12, 2012 in Manchester, NH USA.

For the past four years, Marvin Minsky has generously led impromptu “fireside chats” with CMK attendees. Dr. Minsky is widely considered one of the leading scientists and intellectuals of the past half century and he will be at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2012 over two days! Of course, he will lead his annual “fireside chat” where no question is off-limits and his responses may surprise you!

According to Wikipedia

Isaac Asimov described Minsky as one of only two people he would admit were more intelligent than he was, the other being Carl Sagan.[4] Patrick Winston has also described Minsky as the smartest person he has ever met. Ray Kurzweil has referred to Minsky as his mentor.”

Dr. Minsky chats at CMK 2011

Seriously, where else can teachers play, tinker, chat and learn with an inventor, scientist, raconteur, composer, pianist, author and educator who also happens to be considered one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence?

There is still time to register for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2012! Don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn with expert learners, makers and creators!

Also from Wikipedia…

Minsky won the Turing Award in 1969, the Japan Prize in 1990, the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence in 1991, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute in 2001.[9] In 2006, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. In 2011, Minsky was inducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems‘ AI’s Hall of Fame for the “significant contributions to the field of AI and intelligent systems”.[10][11]

From the TED web site:

Marvin Minsky is one of the great pioneers of artificial intelligence — and using computing metaphors to understand the human mind. His contributions to mathematics, robotics and computational linguistics are legendary and far-reaching.



Constructing Modern Knowledge is back for a 5th year, July 9-12, 2012 in Manchester, NH.

This year’s CMK 2012 promises to be bigger and better than ever before!

Guest speakers include award-winning filmmaker Casey Neistat; MIT Media Lab professor and Lilypad Arudino inventor, Dr. Leah Beuchley; Mark Frauenfelder, Editor-in-Chief of Make Magazine, Founder of BoingBoing.net and author of Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World; Expert educator and advocate for “the project approach,” Dr. Lilian Katz and Web phenom, Super Awesome Sylvia.

The Big Night Out in Boston will begin with a reception at the world-famous MIT Media Lab, hosted by Dr. Leah Buechley.

Fantastic team discounts now available.
Register today! Space is extremely limited!