[OLPC Brasil] Why call tools "activities"?

Don Hopkins dhopkins at DonHopkins.com
Thu Apr 5 21:49:16 EDT 2007

José Antonio wrote:
> On 4/5/07, *Don Hopkins* <dhopkins at donhopkins.com 
> <mailto:dhopkins at donhopkins.com>> wrote:
>     Albert Cahalan wrote:
>>     Actually no. Teachers are comfortable with homonyms, at least if
>>     they are already in common use and there is little chance of conflict.
>>     The problem with "activity" is that you're introducing a completely
>>     new meaning for a word that is already used for something else in
>>     the same contexts.
>     In what way is "activity" any more confusing than any other
>     homonym teachers have to deal with when talking about computers,
>     like "desktop"?
> Consider that scene:
> Teatcher: -- "Hi, kids! Today, we'll have a Geography activity with 
> browser activity"...
Do you really think it's that difficult to understand what a sentence 
that uses "activity" twice really means? I disagree.
> Two diferent things called by same word in same context. Children 
> already know this kind of tools (softwares) as "programs" 
> ("programas", in portuguese). Everybody calls software "programa" 
> (just hair-pointed managers calls software "application"). There's no 
> need to call programs "activities", no matter how wonderful would be 
> these programs.
The word "program" is just as confusing as the word "activity", because 
it also applies to things that happen in the real world as well as on 
the computer.
Does the word for "activity" have a drastically different meaning in 
Portuguese as it does in  English?
I don't think that kids and teachers are so easily confused that they 
can't tell from context what's being discussed.
People manage to use other cues, like gestures, tone of voice, eye 
contact, context, synonyms, ruling out nonsensical interpretations, etc, 
to understand and make their meaning understood.
The problem of ambiguity is inherent with any language, and it's not a 
big problem because people have to deal with ambiguity every day.
It's certainly better than inventing a new word for every concept. Or 
re-using a word like "application" that has horrible baggage we want to 
If only this were the hardest problem we had to solve!


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