[Olpc-open] Using computers and the web to improve education

Charbax charbax at charbax.com
Sun Dec 2 02:13:47 EST 2007

Are you arguing that computers cannot be useful in school environments?

I think it's been reasonably well documented during the past 15 years of the
web, that computers do provide immense opportunities to the societies that
embrace them. It's not just access to all information anytime, anywhere,
access to all digitalised knowledge, all digitized books, films, audio.. I
mean comon, I think it's quite obvious to anyone that there is a clear
benefit of using computers in society and in education. We wouldn't be
talking about the digital divide if there wasn't a clear benefit of having
those digital technologies.

As for integrating computers to the education curriculum, I think schools
around the world, not only in developping countries, have totally ignored
the latest 15 years of digital web tools. Most schools take very little use
of the computer technologies, not because they are useless for education,
but because established Teacher, School managment and national curriculums
have simply not considered yet how to include the laptop and the web in the
education process.

The goal should be to provide better learning through personalised access to
the worlds information, better use of the time that the students spend in
schools, more meaningful collaboration among students and teachers, better
integration of learning with situations in society so students see more
meaning to the topics they are learning. Access to millions of hours of
documentary videos, access to worldwide libraries, collaboration accross
schools all over the world, collaboration among the worlds best educators,
learning researchers to provide the absolute best personalised learning
program for each student.

On Dec 2, 2007 8:00 AM, tall897 <tall897 at gmail.com> wrote:

> To repeatedly use the term "cheap shot," as you did, is not to argue
> against my basic point: which is that there is no evidence that spending
> huge sums on computers for school children has any positive effect on their
> learning. If I remember correctly from a Washington Post article, I believe
> that one Maryland superintendent of schools removed the computers from his
> schools after concluding this. And who ever determined that school should be
> "fun." Effectance motivation,the natural enjoyment that one gets while
> expanding one's cognitive abilities, is innate and doesn't require a
> computer to foster. And regarding the OLPC laptop's hoped for usefulness in
> fostering collaboration among children: I'm more than a little dubious about
> the current craze for group work rather than fostering and encouraging
> individual achievement.
> On Dec 2, 2007 1:17 AM, M. Edward (Ed) Borasky <znmeb at cesmail.net> wrote:
> > tall897 wrote:
> > > You make a good point (please keep us posted about your experience
> > with
> > > the OLPC laptop) but, as a clinical/child psychologist (Ph.D.), I've
> > > still baffled as to why the assumption has gained traction, despite
> > any
> > > objective proof, that providing children with computer access will in
> > > any way quicken their education.
> >
> > Well ... I'm not a clinical or any kind of psychologist, but I'm of two
> > minds on issues like this:
> >
> > 1. The whole OLPC concept, at least my view of it, is more than
> > "computer access". It is in fact electronic wireless collaborative
> > learning. I don't have an actual hardware unit yet, and I've only spent
> > a few days exploring the software via VMware emulation, but what I've
> > seen so far looks to me like it will have the right mix of fun and
> > challenge.
> >
> > As I noted in a previous post, my interest in the project and technology
> >
> > is primarily in hearing the kinds of music the children will make with
> > these systems when they are deployed in, for want of a better term,
> > "villages." For example, I can imagine a village in Indonesia, and the
> > creative tension between the gamelan, a collection of children recording
> > gamelan music, the capability of sound editing and mixing, and the music
> > that will evolve from that conjunction. If one Bartok, Kodaly, or Vaughn
> >
> > Williams comes out of Indonesia or Africa as a result, the world will be
> > a richer place in my humble opinion.
> >
> > 2. My other mind, however, is concerned that this will turn out to be
> > about "teaching kids to program, so they can grow up to work in IT." I
> > remember the "New Math", Logo, the TI 99/4 and other "educational
> > revolutions" that somehow failed to make things any better. Thankfully
> > they didn't make things any worse, either.
> >
> >  > Far better that parents should read to
> > > their children beginning when they are two years old and, later, that
> > > they do real research from books (which can be e-books) rather than
> > > learn how to produce power point abominations.
> >
> > I think that's a cheap shot. Only some of these children are going to
> > become scientists, only some of them are going to become musicians, only
> > some of them are going to become poets, painters, bricklayers, doctors,
> > clinical psychologists, journalists, software engineers, athletes, etc.
> > Remember, the intended audience for these machines is elementary school
> > -- middle school ages.
> >
> > > Jean Piaget, whose basic
> > > concept, that children think differently than adults, was described by
> > > Albert Einstein as being "so simple that only a genius could have
> > > thought of it," once wrote that whenever you describe to an American
> > the
> > > natural development of the mind their instinctive question is, "How
> > can
> > > we speed up the process?"
> >
> > Again, I think that's a cheap shot. Children develop at different rates
> > -- I was reading at a third grade level when I was five and by the time
> > I was 19, I had an AB in mathematics and was earning a living
> > programming computers. I don't think anybody did anything to "speed up
> > the process". In fact, there are many times when I wish it had been
> > slower.
> >
> > > Which is not to say that the OLPC laptop may
> > > not be valuable in providing books as an e-reader. But apart from this
> > > it will, I fear, have no greater impact on improving education than
> > did
> > > the providing of slide projectors to American teachers in the 1950s,
> > > this being that era's wonder gadget. Though the OLPC is an impressive
> > > gadget which I may buy in its likely soon-to-come second edition.
> >
> > Well ... I did take a long look at the specifications before I decided
> > to give and get one. 256 MB of RAM and 1 GB of flash disk are quite
> > constraining, especially since they are soldered onto the motherboard --
> >
> > it does not look like you can upgrade them. But the XO is a *client* --
> > the "system" includes a server component.
> >
> > In summary, I don't think we can predict how this is going to affect the
> > learning processes of the children who get them. But it's certainly
> > captured my attention and imagination, and I'm finding it very difficult
> > to be cynical about OLPC and even more difficult to understand the
> > cynicism of others.
> >
> >
> > So ... back to VMware emulations until mid-January. :)
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Nicolas Charbonnier
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