XP on OLPC - a contrarian view

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Sat May 17 12:04:17 EDT 2008

Martin Langhoff wrote:
> On Sat, May 17, 2008 at 4:08 PM, Albert Cahalan <acahalan at gmail.com> wrote:
>> You don't need computers for constructionism. If pushing educational
>> theories of questionable value is your thing,
> Can we stop beating constructionism for no reason, and without any facts?
> First, a bit of debunking of the concept: constructionism is the
> strategy used in all those courses at university that are called
> "seminars". It is well recognised as a valuable teaching strategy. And
> in general terms, if you've ever figured something out with a friend,
> rather than being taught (as I figured out my first C=64 with my best
> friend at age 9), you've engaged in social constructionism. When kids
> "figure out" the vcr, and show someone else how to do it, that's also
> SC.
> Formal research is widespread into this, and seems to consistently
> show that it works, as can be seen in the work of Martin Dougiamas
> (he's the guy I'm most familiar with, definitely not the only one):
> http://scholar.google.co.nz/scholar?q=dougiamas+constructionism
> In any case, the discussion these days seems to be "how early can
> social constructionism be useful?", and as far as I can see, it is not
> hard to show that fairly young kids respond amazingly well to sc
> approaches. The hole in the wall experiments are part of a long trail
> of work in that direction.
>> I'd rather give the gift of software freedom. Unlike your theories,
> This project has people with different focus from yours Albert. We
> need them all. _You_ care mainly about the sw freedom, others care
> mainly about education. But the overall goal needs both as they are
> complementary.
> cheers,
> m

I think Martin has hit the nail on its head. We have two parts to this
problem: the message (education) and the medium (the XO). What we need
to do is to make the two distinct. Keep the medium free of the message
(like the net neutrality issue). There will be those who would like to
study about the medium and that's fine. I hope that proportion grows
over the years. But there will be those who simply care about the
message only. When we read a paper-based book, many readers don't care
about the book-binding process, printing inks, typesetting, etc. They
just read the story. Moving to a digital domain affords us that
peek-ability under the covers to see the code in action and that needs
to stay - I would be very disappointed if Sugar goes away. However,
there are many cases where that isn't the priority.


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

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