[sugar] Some discussion on education

Yoshiki Ohshima yoshiki at squeakland.org
Fri Aug 17 13:56:22 EDT 2007

  Hello, Edward,

> Just as videophones have not taken off in industrialized nations, video chat is not a killer app. I have used
> teleconferencing as a business tool, and it will have a place in the XO program. But what we really need is quite
> different.

  Yes.  Since I've read this email
(http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2007-April/002091.html, item
#5 in HIGHLIGHTS), I was sort of looking for the other voices.

> There have been computers in schools for 30 years. But they have never been integrated into the curriculum, because it
> was impossible to make an assumption about how much computer time students would get, and it was impossible to make an
> assumption about what software would be available. Now we can create textbooks containing interactive models of
> phenomena. We can give children real-world datasets to analyze. We will have powerful data acquisition capabilities
> using the camera (including microscopy), and using the sound input port as a high-speed A/D converter feeding a digital
> oscilloscope, and so on.

  Yes, I'd like to make all of these accessible to teachers and
students via a good end-user programming capability.  (Ah, Etoys on
OLPC can take camera and sound input and control them via tiles.)

> This gives us an opportunity and a responsibility to look at the curriculum anew. The time-honored divisions of subjects
> and sequences of ideas that made sense for paper-and-pencil learning do not necessarily make sense when the computer can
> do the heavy lifting. Just as one example, trigonometry used to be a semester course, and no doubt still is in many
> places. That probably made sense when surveyors in training had to learn to solve dozens of triangles a day with no
> greater aid than a book of function and log tables, but it is absurd in the age of scientific calculators and computers.
> The essential mathematical content of trigonometry can be reduced to two or three pages, including proofs. (It's not my
> opinion. Saunders Mac Lane complained about trig in Mathematics: Form and Function, after reducing it to less than three
> pages.)


> Calculus is still treated as a high-level high school subject, but primary school children can grasp the notion of the
> direction of a curve: just put a ruler up to any convex object. They can equally grasp the concept of the area under an
> arbitrary curve. Draw it on paper, cut it out, and weigh it. Leave the formulas and the proofs for later. When we have
> the basic ideas in place, we can use them for many purposes. Then when the students get to the calculations and proofs,
> they know what it's all about, and will grasp it much more readily.

  It is one of Seymour's powerful ideas.

> The Internet gives unequalled opportunities for language learning through online literature, songs, movies, mailing
> lists, chat rooms, voice broadcasts, Voice over IP, and video conferencing. We really have no idea how to take full
> advantage of all this.
> There is much more of this sort of thing. I think we need a separate
> list to discuss it properly.

  Or, these lists are good to remind the ourselves (developers) that
what we are shooting for.

-- Yoshiki

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