Educational activity ideas
OLPC is in the process of developing a system for compiling and exchanging curricula (and other resources) for teachers in our pilot programs.
Use this page to offer ideas and suggestions for activities, lessons, curricula, and other information that could be useful to teachers with XOs in their classrooms.
XO: Special Features
Each XO has "mesh" networking capabilities that allow it to connect to any laptop around it. This makes it easy to kids to collaborate on activities.
Each XO comes with a built-in camera, so taking pictures and making videos are easy to do. The camera can also be used for videoconferencing.
The XO has a "tablet" mode, so that kids can take their laptops out of the classroom and into the real world. In tablet mode, the screen outputs high-resolution black and white graphics that are visible in the brightest of sunlight.
Depending on the deployment location, the XO comes with several pre-installed Activities. OLPC is particularly interested in activities, lessons, and curricula that make use of these applications.
Malleable Games for Learning
A major focus of the OLPC project is designing activities-- games in particular-- that kids can examine and modify as part of the learning process. OLPC is also particularly interested in activities designed with this principle in mind.
I have developed resources for creating meta-games using a variety of technologies. Refer to my paper  - Dr Tom Benjamin, Sydney.
(the paper in question suggests using features of Excel / Powerpoint to make games; without using the advanced scripting feautures. Unfortunately no examples are given, so leaves one unsure how viable this suggestion really is)
Ideas for activities
Many of the activities suggested for teachers at Free-Reading.net are suitable for creating educational activities for the OLPC.
"Free-Reading.net" is a website offering many resources for teaching early readers.[] It has a complete open source curriculum "Intervention A" that has been accepted by the Florida public schools.
"The Sounds of English" is a website that offers rich tools to construct word lists for teaching reading.[]
"SynPhony" is an open-source multi-lingual literacy project. It is a system for introducing the patterns of a language and alphabet systematically and incrementally. At each lesson it offers vocabulary that can be read using the symbol inventory that has been taught up to that point. It can integrate sound, dictionary definitions and natural texts.[]. Sample activity page: []
Also see Leveled_Readers.
Another idea being worked on is a word bank library as an underpinning for other literacy oriented activities. Such a library would provides a word/image/pronunciation bank in a lightweight database, which could reside on the school server or on the child's xo. Ideally the child's copy would be a cache of current words under study. The word banks would be easy to add to and tag by a teacher so that kids using the activities would get an appropriate increasing set of underlying words that take them along a guided path to better reading skills. When available, an effort will be made to persuade the authors of current literacy activities to switch to using this resource and make new activities that are derived from it. As an example the memory game and several gcompris activities use limited sets of words, but could benefit from the flexibility this library (with its teacher configurability) would offer. To discuss this idea please see User_talk:Cafl.
The Exquisite Corpse Will Drink The New Wine
Those were the first words assembled by the art collective known as the Dadaists when they tried a new form of creative idea generation that involved writing a part of a sentence on a piece of paper and then passing it on to the next person. This sounds like a child's game and in fact it has been mutated into one over the ensuing 80 years. However creativity in itself is at the core of this concept and teaching how humans come up with creative ideas is crucial to the development of creative minds. This of course is only one of a number of activities that focus on practicing to be creative, that exploit not only simple rules but crucial "brain-hacks" that lead to better ideas both individually and collectively.
Why don't we develop a creativity activity that leapfrogs OLPC users past the brightest design and business school students so that by the time these children become adults they can change the world?
Design and business schools are singled out because frankly they are failing at teaching the actual tools that leaders need to lead creatively. Why wait until OLPC children are grown, start now.
Examples? Teach them how to brainstorm (not the terribly ineffective, there are no bad ideas or stupid people, methods that encourage loud mouths to shout and shrinking violets to shrink).
Teach them how to develop fractal prototypes.
Teach them how to practice their ideas.
Teach them to think by drawing.
The disposable encyclopedia
Every year thousands (if not millions) of children practice their writing skills with 'template subjects' or themes, like 'my holidays', 'independence day', 'columbus day', 'my pet', etc. Every year. Teachers have to cope with the repetitiveness of their subjects (and hopefully marvell at the freshness of the child discovering the subjects). If teacher can cope, so should technology.
Most of the content ideas proposed seem to center around the children having access to whatever repositories (ie: OEPC and like). But what about the children doing their own encyclopedia?
Instead of writing their template subjects on paper (or AbiWord), why not write their own wikipedia?
Teachers can hand out these homeworks, writings and research papers individually, small groups or to the whole class (and know exactly how much content or work each student did—identifying traits like reviewers, editors, idea-generators, etc. and learn the dynamics of the students). Or the work could with deadlines (history and diff-like tools would be handy here).
So what could you do with the 30+ versions of 'columbus day' produced in a particular grade? That depends, but a possibility is to vote on the 'best' and make it the 'official' version (maybe with some kind of 'star' or 'prize' for the author). If curricula is reasonably structured, the 'official' article will then be used as a source, and be continually expanded as the year goes by.
This prize scheme (or mention) could also be applied inter-school (ie: a school district), where the 'school article on columbus day' of each school is pitched against the other schools' articles voting for the 'school disctrict article on columbus day'. Obviously, you want to do this on a per-grade given that a 2nd grader's article will never be a match for say an 8th grader's version.
But why stop at the school district level? You can similarly tackle the 'province article', and the 'national article'. You may even try to go regional on some subjects and why not global... (or at least hemispheric given that school years don't start/end homogeneously in order to have summer holidays at the end of the year)
So the first year was a success. Great! Kudos! Problem is: the encyclopedia is finished. There probably won't be a missing article on 'independence day', nor any of those other 'template subjects'. So what do you do next year?
You do the same: start from scratch. You discard the previous year's encyclopedia very much like the teacher cleans the classroom for 'next year's kids' taking down all those nice pictures and paintings off the wall...
Originally (thus the title of this section) was that the encyclopedia was discarded. Another possibility is to 'graduate' or 'pass' the encyclopedia as it is to the next year in order to follow the child's evolution. This way, the child always has access to his/her encyclopedia throughout school life. When the child goes from 1st grade to 2nd grade, the encyclopedia is not erased, but rather will be the basis to construct the 'new' "Class 2010 Encyclopedia version 2.0"... hopefully with fewer 'bugs'!
Comments?--Xavi 19:13, 24 January 2007 (EST)
- Fine, let's talk about this on Wikis for kids, with 2 existing project of encyclopedia written for and partly by kids (in french and dutch) We just didn't think about erasing it after one year ! I've never heard about on the wikipedia writing process for example. With 440 000 article in french and 1 500 000 in english, there are still things to work on aren't they ? It could be usefull to think about erasing, but one thing is sure, it is intersesting to built it the first time at least ! Astirmays 12:28, 4 February 2007 (EST)
Having access to technology if a fantastic enabler for cross-curicular work and work with multiple intelligences. Some examples could be
- Science/Maths/Languages - if the students are doing science and learning about how plants grow, they can create graphs to plot the development of the seedlings over time. Better still, comparing growth rates for plants grown with compost and without. Or, using the idea of environmental protection (mentioned above), document things which are meaningful to the children - what are the animal/insect populations like in the two different villages; the difference in the number of incidences of mud-slides in a village which is affected by deforestation as opposed to a village which is less affected; is there a difference in water quality/availability. (This can be quite useful in cultures where cause/effect relationships are not commonly explored.) Descriptive texts can be written to include a language compent, either in their own langauge or in a foreign language they are studying at school.
- Science- Make Your Shelter - You can make your own shelter using materials you find in the environment. First you need to think and come up with a building plan. What shape and size should it be? How complicated would it be to set up? Will it be portable or will it be built to stay in the same place? Once you have your ideas you need to open up your Paint program and draw the design. You might want to save a couple of ideas. Next, you need to use your plan to build a scale model. You can use sticks from outside, straws from the lunchroom, any materials you can find. Test the structure. Can it hold weight. Pour water over the top-will it keep whoever is inside dry? Which way does it bend? Can you add support to make it more stable?. Spend some time drawing and designing on your laptop and then building from your designs. When you are done open up the Writer and tells us what you used to make your shelter, and how you constructed it!
- Technological skills/any core subject - for schools with Internet access, students can be taught how to create simple web or wiki pages (using WYSIWYG editors for simplicity). Suitable topics might include some of those already outlined above - community health information, social science projects, recording some of the oral history from the community, etc.
- Language skills - setting up "Key Pals" (remember we used to have Pen Pals as kids?!?) with students in other countries. These kinds of projects lend themselves very well to learning about the geography or politics of another country, social studies and inter-cultural awareness, etc. .
- The Foxfire Approach - (http://www.foxfire.org/teaching.html) to collaborative teaching and learning has been running successfully in the Appalachian Mountain area of the U.S. since the 1960s. It could be adapted to the cultures of areas with OLPC.
- Digital Foxfire - The Bering Strait School District in Alaska, USA has applied a collaborative curriculum development process, and a "Digital Foxfire" approach to place-based education. The district's Open Content wiki is open to all, and their standards-based curriculum for grades K-12 is Creative Commons licensed. Over 10,000 pages of standards, content and resource uploads have been entered by teachers, students and visitors.
- The Global Tutor Program - for subject matter experts/practitioners who wish to volunteer their time to help individual children who ask for help. This may be a form of social networking that is limited to connecting tutors and students by subject matter (and native language).
- Learn a foreign language
- Learn specific expressions
- Introduction to reading and writing
- Preserve or revive an endangered/extinct language
The general idea is to create some kind image that holds active areas to which words are connected. The words pop up when you mouse over these areas. Imagine a picture of a tree. The kid mouses over the trunk - "trunk" pops up (eventually the kid hears it spoken from a soundfile), over the root - "root" pops up etc. .
It looks like squeak or maybe etoys is capable of doing this, so there would not necessarily be the need to create an extra tool. It would be good if an example implementation could be shown in squeak or etoys. The kids could extend this by adding additional active fields. They could download such a semantic block (like "every part of tree", "everything on a bus", "everything in a computer") and explore this for themselves. You could "zoom" in on parts of the picture (simply changing to a new picture like a "cut" through a machine or a magnified image of cells etc.) to get even more details and more words/expressions.
This could also be an approach to learn abstract expressions in such fields as chemistry, biology, historical figures etc. .
It could also be the basis for a kind of vocabulary test, where the picture is displayed and the kid gets a list of the words in his own language and if it translates them correctly the active area on the picture lights up. An other style could be the task: "Name 20 words connected to "tree" ".
Thousands of the world's languages, the majority of which belong to indigenous cultures, are currently in danger of being lost forever. The key to preserving a language is through children, and technology, as seen by the above proposals, can play a huge role in helping children to learn these languages. By using language learning tools, plus connecting speakers with each other when they are separated by geographic distance, could conceivably allow dying languages to become more robust and more vital in the modern, technological world. Additionally, a user-created and maintained online dictionary can aid linguists in their preservation projects. Conceivably, a wiki-dictionary could also be used in the creation of new words to describe new concepts in the modern world, where users would be able to determine which words best reflect the idea within the cultural context.
Ideas to action
There are networks at all levels for creating and sharing materials, for looking for materials to meet existing needs, and for providing feedback on existing materials. While we develop our Educational activity guidelines, please explore our list of education networks.
Work is starting on an XO laptop guide specifically written for teachers using the XO to guide inquiry-based and constructionist interventions. Your feedback and contributions would be very valuable, so please take a look at Educators guide.
Themes - presentations & Reactives Data Base
I would like to propose a Data bank of themes, classified by Grade (K,1,2,3,...,12,U-1,U-2,...) subject, and Theme (example; grade 3, SUBJECT: Mathematics, THEME: Multiplication tables 1 to 6; OTHER THEME: Multiplications Tables 7 to 9) containing 1 to 3 screens (authored in html), followed by several dozens of "reactives" composed of a figure or text setting a problem, and 4 options to choose, and the right answer code.
Such Themes, might be purchased by the SCHOOLS to be used in games, drills, etc., by their students. lets say at $5 USD per theme or $0.50 if you upload a Reviewed Theme.
Themes might be contributad by diabled, elders (>65 years) jobless persons, who need income; they would get 80% of the income generated by their individual contributions, and 20% would go to the Data Base, for reviewing costs.
--- MEXICO, AGS --- --Dagoflores 17:16, 2 November 2007 (EDT)
As I was playing with the logo activity, the way the blocks locked together made me think:
"How cool would it be to have an activity that could visually model chemical compositions and chemical reactions and equations, and tell the user the properties of the compound on the screen? Very cool. I wonder if anyone would know how to make that?"Then I wrote this.