Drawing on historical epistemology and considerations on the function of scientific modelling, this article investigates how in the mid-twentieth century electronic and programmable animal models became tools for exploring the inaccessible ontology of the human mind. The article examines how machines have informed our understanding of the learning process and, vice versa, how the concept of learning has been used to design new technology. The main focus is on Seymour Papert, an artificial intelligence researcher and advocate of Jean Piaget’s constructivist learning theory, who developed computer software for children based on the animated turtle LOGO. The sources used include archival material from Austria, Switzerland and the United States, as well as several publications and grey literature. The article demonstrates that there were close links between artificial intelligence, constructivism and educational technology, and how these links benefited from the cultural transformation of the late 1960s.