[Localization] [Educators] Empowering teachers

Yama Ploskonka yama at netoso.com
Thu Jun 19 13:33:24 EDT 2008


Ministry of Education
|         |         |
|         |         |
|         |         |
v         v         v
teacher   teacher   teacher
|   |   | |   |   | |   |   |
|   |   | |   |   | |   |   |
v   v   v v   v   v v   v   v
   kids      kids      kids

OLPC current model

         OLPC Boston <-.-.-- ._-> OLPC
          |||                    Community
          ||L-----------------\     |
          vvv                  |    .
Ministry of Education and/or  | .. +
deployment-specific agency    |   .
|         |         |         |    .
|         |         |         |    .
|         |         |         |   .
v         v         v         |    .
teacher  teacher   teacher  . |.. .
|   |   | |   |   | |   |     |   .
v   v   v v   v   v v   v     |     .
kids < ? > kids < ? > kids <--/ .  .

proposed model for OLPC

OLPC Boston <===> OLPC community <---\
           ||  ↑  /\              \--\|
           \/  |  ||                 ||
  Min  Educ  <===> local community <-++
           ||  |  /\            \\   ++
           \/  ↓  ||            //__/ |
|   |   | |   |   | |   |   |\  \\  /
v   v   v v   v   v v   v   v|  // /
|<=>|<=>| |<=>|<=>| |<=>|<=>|+-<--/
   kids      kids      kids

It is my opinion that the third party Bastien mentions might have to do 
with implementing policies that stress two-way communication, both 
to-from OLPC and end users, and also transversal communication among 
stakeholders including solidly engineered features that *encourage* 
feedback *by default*.

Sorry, but I am totally convinced that is the only way something like 
Constructivism and this whole project has any chance.  I see the current 
OLPC deployment model as being almost sort-of-OK as long as we use 
Instructivist approaches (one-way, no discussion required, thank you, 
keep moving), but not if we want to go further.

Brilliant hardware like the XO, even with Sugar, will not make things 
*happen* if the enforced policies are not actually designed to encourage 
things to happen.

Someone from OLPC Boston trains trainers within the Min of Ed, those 
then train teachers (often in a classroom setting, using training 
techniques hundreds of years old), teachers keep using the same old 
approach, "everybody in the class do the same thing" activities, using 
XOs instead of pen and paper.  (Then they find - with surprise - that 
the mesh doesn't work for that).

No one in this lot is enabled / enabling to conduct transversal 
communication (oh, it is much talked about, how important it is, Web 
2.0, and all the rest).
The OLPC community is somewhere in the shadows, feeling quite unwelcome 
and useless, and getting smaller by the minute.
Also, this justifies OLPC-Boston in refusing to allow small deployments, 
"because they cost too much".  And it "proves" that the community cannot 
be trusted.

Teachers are trained using tools downloaded into the XOs they have been 
handed (the medium is the message) and hopefully connected to a server 
with training materials (Moodle, for example).

While (paid and volunteer) mentors are available, their main role is to 
encourage teachers to submit any doubt or query using interactive tools 
(feedback windows in a Moodle training  (?)).
Only when that is not giving a prompt solution do the mentors give an 
answer, but avoid it if at all possible (the fact they are not highly 
trained - on purpose - should help here).
Again, the point is, we are enabling the teachers (the medium is the 
message) to use the XO as a *tool for learning*.
They do it at their own pace, with some supervision merely to keep them 
motivated and focused, but they can learn from different training modules.
Fringe benefits:  as the training tool is improved by this sort of 
feedback, very soon we have optimal training tools, that can be scaled 
up or down, at no additional expense.
Future cost in training materials to train one more teacher or to train 
10.000 is nearly zero.

Also, teachers learn that there is a different way of doing things in a 
One Laptop Per Person environment:  not everyone needs to be doing the 
same exact thing, friends can band together in a circumstantial group, 
even collaborate using the machine, among themselves, and with others 
connected to the network, in the same school or thousands of miles away.

This gets them to *work together*, maybe for the first time in their 
lives, and is not at all contrary to working together also with Ministry 
people, and OLPC Boston, and the OLPC community, and the local 
community, and, especially, *working together with the kids*, which is 
the ultimate success in re-addressing the school education model toward 
a more fertile approach of the teacher-student interaction.

OLPC Boston and the OLPC community collaborate to prepare these 
materials initially, and lurk and contribute to the feedback process, to 
polish the materials further.
Volunteers feel needed, loved, and then maybe there's more of them...
Being enabled to contribute is the raison d'être of volunteers.
The local community also comes into the picture, because the model is 
encouraging it to.

Since now we have teachers who *know for a fact* that the XO actually 
works as a learning tool, they have incredible buy-in and encouragement 
to help their kids discover and explore those same possibilities, with a 
different approach as to how a class is conducted, away from the "one 
size fits all" mentality.  Even those teachers who had some difficulties 
"getting it" are much more aware of what's what, than by just being *told*.

Now, that is the way I see what was meant to happen(?), and what 
*should* happen.  There is a disconnect in the present tense, at several 
levels (Bastien mentions a couple), but getting to those is beyond this 
post, that is way too long already.

So, let's establish those policies and framework that actually enable 
using the XOs the way they are meant to be used.

Let's play on "the medium is the message".

Let's work on interactive models for teacher training, that encourage 
teacher-to-teacher collaboration, that encourage teachers exploring and 
discovering, that enable teachers to contribute to other teachers learning.

Guess what?  Those teachers might then be prepared to pass on those same 
skills and mindset to the kids, painlessly, because they have learned 
*it works*!


Bastien wrote:
> Yama Ploskonka <yama at netoso.com> writes:
>> Thoughts on this subject, on _how_ to make it happen?
> I agree that empowering teachers is key.  This happens when teachers
> work *together*.  And they better work together when they do not only
> depend on the local Ministry of Education.  Having a third part in the
> loop certainly helps in making them understand that teaching is about
> children, not just about "be a teacher in some educational system".
> XO is the door.  But someone *else* (than the traditional institutional
> interlocutor) has to enter so that teachers might want to breeze a new
> air, and get motivated for experimenting new things.
> As a day-to-day rule: do not only stand by the Ministry of Education, 
> do not only stand by the teachers (because you'll get trapped into their
> natural hate toward the institution), do not only stand by the children
> (that's kind of the easy-and-fake solution) -- just bring something new
> in the middle! 
> PS: sorry I read other contribs on this _after_ I wrote my own rant!

More information about the Localization mailing list