XP on OLPC - a contrarian view

Albert Cahalan acahalan at gmail.com
Sun May 18 14:46:40 EDT 2008

On Sat, May 17, 2008 at 6:28 AM, Martin Langhoff
<martin.langhoff at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, May 17, 2008 at 9:34 PM, Albert Cahalan <acahalan at gmail.com> wrote:

>> Reason: it's not at all related to laptop computers
>> Fact: it's not universally valued by teachers
> This *is* a project pushing the envelope. Waiting for universal
> consensus is aiming for the lowest common denominator.
>> Constructionism might be a great idea. I have doubts, particularly
>> in a classroom with 40 students and a below-average teacher.
>> (remember, about half of the teachers are below-average)
> Stop here, and please _read_ on constructionism. (Hint: most of the
> tricks have to do with what happens _without the teacher around_).

I've tried. I'm not going to go get a degree studying it.

>From what I can tell, constructionism (c13m) is a buzzword that
vaguely refers to an age-old teaching practice: learning by doing.
The idea appears to be extremely old, though not the norm. Ditching
the buzzword would be appreciated; it only serves to obfuscate.

>From what I can tell, c13m is an awful lot like unschooling.
Perhaps you can explain the difference.

FYI, what happens _without the teacher around_ is probably not
what the adults would like. Kids play games, fight, view porn,
vandalize things...

It's been 28 years since the Mindstorms book. If the idea still
hasn't caught on, there must be a reason. The teachers have decided.
Normal teachers will thwart any effort to change teaching.
Tying the success of a laptop program to massive changes in
teacher behavior is not right.

>> In any case, you simply don't need laptop computers for this.
>> It's a matter of teaching style; you need to teach teachers.
> Not focus on the teachers necesarily. Provide the kids with
> interesting, self paced puzzles of increasing complexity. Give them
> tools to explore collaboratively. Give them interesting reading
> materials.
> That's what the XO+Linux+Sugar bring.

Given a choice, most kids will play some far less useful game.
You seem to think kids will teach themselves. The very brightest
ones might do that, driven by their curiosity. Most will not.

>> I'm sure. Researchers tend to get the results they desire.
> And you will brush off evidence you don't like? I have higher
> expectations than that for discussion on devel@

I probably can not verify that the researchers used teachers
who were disinterested or even actively opposed to any change.
I probably can not verify that lots of below-average students
were included in the mix. I probably can not verify that the
classroom sizes were large.

>> Software freedom does however require some kind of hardware.
> Software freedom - also close to my heart - does become interesting
> if we can get kids into learning about the sw. Missing a super-hacker
> as a teacher, they'll have to explore, learn and share.  Social
> constructivism is the name we tend to give these days to that dynamic.

According to wikipedia, "social constructivism" is something else.
I think you mean "constructionist learning". (not that either is
all that clearly defined)

> In other words: play to the kids natural curiosity and share/compete
> instincts and they'll learn on their own.
> Now, if your interest in education goes as far as flashcards, don't
> worry, focus on helping us with the sw, and let others thing about
> education.

I can imagine myself providing content for a math program.
I made a kid go from struggling with multi-digit addition and
subtraction to dealing with simple calculus in 3 months.
Doing math on paper is probably easier than with a keyboard
though, and there is the problem of needing a human to look
over the child's work.

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