Can a screen-free robot teach coding—and build character?

By Katherine J. Igoe

Marina Umaschi Bers SM ’97, PhD ’01 was working as a journalist in her native Argentina when an assignment put her in touch with Seymour Papert—the visionary MIT mathematician and computer scientist who co-developed a programming language for kids called Logo. “As a kid, my parents sent me to a Logo camp. I realized I was interviewing the creator,” she recalls. During that pivotal conversation, she says, she found her calling: “I don’t want to write about this. I want to do this.” Shortly afterward, she arrived at MIT as a graduate student to work with Papert.

Now Bers is an educator and visionary herself. At Tufts University, where she has taught since 2001, she leads the DevTech Research Group, chairs the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and directs the graduate certificate program in Early Childhood Technology. She brings to her work a multidisciplinary, tactile sensibility aimed at helping young children develop not only STEAM skills (incorporating science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) but also ethical and character values.

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