Dr. Cynthia Solomon, as a computer scientist and an educator, has helped millions of children discover a love of computer science, and her contributions to education will continue to have an impact on future generations. Her work to make programming concepts accessible to children has furthered the field of educational technology through her research, writing, programming, teaching, consulting, and speaking.
Early in her career, Solomon discovered a passion for introducing children to computer science through activities and metaphors. She collaborated with Seymour Papert and Wally Feurzeig to develop the Logo programming language, which was the first programming language designed specifically for children. As a visual programming language, Logo enables learners to explore procedural thinking through graphical representations, most famously represented as a turtle drawing a line. Logo has been a fundamental predecessor to modern visual programming languages such as Scratch, which has helped over 40 million children explore and understand programming concepts. Logo’s turtle robots have also inspired a whole new generation of procedural programming apps and robots.
Solomon holds a bachelor’s in history from Radcliffe College, a master’s in computer science from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in education from Harvard University. Her first book, Computer Environments for Children, published in 1988, is a prominent piece of early literate on computers in education. Throughout her career, Solomon collaborated closely with Seymour Papert, Marvin Minsky, Margaret Minsky, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Intelligence Lab. While working for MIT, Solomon led the Atari Cambridge Research Laboratory as they designed a “PlayStation of the future” (Infosys Foundation, 2017, para. 13). Solomon’s impact on educational technology continues through speaking engagements and events, such as the inaugural lecture at CrossRoads 2018, as well as through her involvement in the Constructing Modern Knowledge institute and the One Laptop per Child Foundation.
Solomon believes in “transmitting theory into practice” (Solomon, 1988, p. 1). In her career, she not only authored several books and papers while working at eminent research institutes, but she also worked hands-on with students in elementary and secondary schools to teach programming concepts. In an interview about her work with Seymour Papert (Stanford University, 2013), Solomon reminisces about riding unicycles, juggling, and balancing on Bongo Boards. Papert and Solomon sought to spark children’s imagination and understanding by finding procedural activities to help them understand computer science concepts like debugging.
As a newly-minted computer science teacher, I was fascinated to learn about Solomon’s impact on educational technology. I share in her belief that learning complex programming concepts can be a fun, hands-on, and active experience. As I design lessons and learning activities for my classes, Solomon’s passion for teaching computer science inspires me to continuously look for new ways to involve and engage my students.
- Logothings: A blog about Logo by Cynthia Solomon [Blog]
- Stanford University Panel: Cynthia Solomon on Seymour Papert [Video]
- Crossroads 2018: Cynthia Solomon Keynote [Video]
- Constructing Modern Knowledge: Cynthia Solomon, EdTech Heroine [Article]
- FabLearn 2019: Lifetime Achievement Award – Cynthia Solomon [Video]
Infosys Foundation (2017, December 6). Q & A with Dr. Cynthia Solomon [Blog post]. Retrieved September 13, 2019, from http://www.infosys.org/infosys-foundation-usa/media/blog/Pages/cynthia-solomon-qna.aspx
Solomon, C. (1988). Computer environments for children: A reflection on theories of learning and education. MIT press.
Stanford University (2013, June 27). Cynthia Solomon on Seymour Papert [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14gcdiU7-lM